Saturday, October 22, 2011


So last post I wrote about ALL of the things. This seems as the appropriate follow-up, then, to talk about having NONE of the things...right?

This past Wednesday I helped to lead a retreat for the seniors at school. I spoke to my sister on the phone later that night and pondered that I couldn't believe I've been attending high school retreats since I was 15- oh, 15 years ago. And the formats and themes of these retreats don't really change. But that's part of what makes them successful.

This past week was a successful senior retreat, I believe, and I pray that the students took their experience and messages to heart.

As I sat at the retreat, though, in small group with the kids or on my own as they got to have Confession and reflection time, I took the experience in- an experience and format I've witnessed SO. MANY. times before- and longed for a "first feeling" like (hopefully) some of the kids were having. You know, the kind of feeling of something NEW. The "Ah-ha!" moment where the light bulb goes off. I knew some of the students were having such an experience for the first time and I longed for one myself.

Even though the experience for me of retreat (particularly a high school one!) has become rote for me in many ways (I've given some of the same talks and testimonies for 8 years now...scary!) I KNOW that God still works through them and I am so grateful. The retreat this week- though pretty basic and familiar- was I know still blessed because we were prayerful and many kids were so open to the Spirit.

Enter the key: Openness.

I talked about this with many of the students in my small group, and this has also been a theme in some of my classes that I teach lately. Kids always want to know why they don't FEEL or SEE God. Many times the answer is: we aren't open to Him.

Some pics from the retreat:

Students in small groups presenting images of blessing (above) and my colleague giving a talk (below):

I my Paschal Mystery class, we've been focusing on the humanity of Christ and why he had to been born into poverty. This brings up the issue of money, the story of the Rich Man in the Gospel (Matt. 19:16-24), and spiritual poverty. We read a quote from Mother Teresa that says SOMETHING along the lines of (though I am paraphrasing): "I think it is more difficult for the wealthy to make room for God." And I asked the kids to agree or disagree with that statement. I got answers on both sides, of course.

But it brought up the issue of spiritual poverty and that no matter what- rich or poor- spiritual poverty asks us to make enough room in our hearts for God. If we are consuming our lives with ALL of the other things, that doesn't leave much room for Him. Spiritual poverty is emptying ourselves out for God and recognizing He IS God and we are not.

Hearing my students talk about emptying ourselves out to make room for God and being open to things God might be revealing to us convicted me this week. As I said at the beginning, I have been praying for one of those "Aha" moments, which I know will look different at 30 than it did at 16, 22, 26, etc...I have already experienced many of the things! But I can always approach these ideas in new OR familiar ways (the beauty of getting older- experience ;)

Am I even being open or empty enough for God to enter my life in new ways? Last week, I wrote about ALL of the things and they weren't bad things, but what are my priorities right now, even if they are good ones? And does it include making time for God and being open to His designs?

This leads, then, to detachment. For so long, I've longed for that feeling I felt when I was discerning religious life and much of that feeling came from the detachment and letting go of various parts of my life. I've even spoken more recently about feeling like I want to sacrifice something because of this.
But as my spiritual director pointed out then, we don't just go around making sacrifices for no reason. They are things we bring to prayer and are well thought out.

Detachment, however, is something we can practice more regularly, I think, and is similar to sacrifice. We just remove ourselves a little from some of the things we might love or desire in order to make more room for the Lord. We let go of ideas or thoughts that keep us from being open to Him.

St. Teresa of Avila- from whom I'm still reading pieces of "The Way of Perfection"- also convicted me on this idea of detachment this week.

She was talking about how in religious life, detachment is easy to an extent because many of the things are removed already for them. This is something, perhaps, that I miss ( at times. let's not get too crazy ;)

"With regard to small things, we must be very careful, as soon as we grow fond of them, to withdraw our thoughts from them and turn to God. His Majesty will help us do this. He has granted us that great favor of providing that, in this house, most of it is done already, but it remains for us to become detached from our own selves, and it is a hard thing to withdraw from ourselves and oppose ourselves because we are very close to ourselves and love ourselves very dearly. It is here that humility can enter, for this virtue and that of detachment from self, I think, always go together."

"For this body of ours has one fault: the more you indulge it, the more things it discovers to be essential to it. It is extraordinary how it likes being indulged; and, if there is any reasonable pretext for indulgence, however little necessity for it there may be, the poor soul is taken in and prevented from making progress..."

These truth-isms struck me this week and I've begun to think and pray about some thoughts and behaviors I can detach from- with the goal of making more room for an 'Aha' moment, or close moment with God.

Today is one of my dear friends from my women's group birthday today! She points out on her blog that this year she is sharing her day with the NEWLY "Blessed" John Paul II! It's his new feast day!

You may know him as the Pope we had from 1978-2005, I know him as the only Pope I ever had (until 6 years ago) and also as the guy my Babci has in a frame hanging in her kitchen (and in practically every corner of her house...only Polish pope! Holler!)

While I actually (surprisingly) enjoy reading Benedict's encyclicals more, John Paul II was very prolific and gave us many documents on ecumenism (traveling and other religions/cultures were so important to him- he was the most traveled pope!) as well as the Theology of the Body which we are starting to see the fruits of now.

Blessed John Paul II, pray for us! That we may be OPEN and empty ourselves out to receive all God has for you did.

Yeah, for Slavs! ha! ;)


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