Women’s Annual Retreat
For a while now, especially these last couple of weeks, I was struggling a lot with doubts on these crosses I have to bear. It was hard for me to understand how being bipolar or having ADHD or having anxiety or orthorexia could ever possibly be redeemed. It leads to a downward spiral of despair, that feels impossible to get out of. So then the talk about bearing our crosses came, and God gave me the light that enlightened all of the doubts that I’ve been having. Father Lucas made the point that Jesus was tempted by the devil- it could could have been so much easier for Jesus if He had just given into all of the temptations that the devil was throwing at Him. Then I realized then, that if Jesus didn’t bear His cross- for all of us, for the sake of saving the whole world- He would have never had all of the world redeemed. There would have never been a resurrection. That means we would have never been saved. That means the connection between us and God would not have been made.
That is what I realized with my crosses. Some crosses we have to bear and the fruit(s) at the end is for us, personally, or it’s obvious fruit that we can see. That cross is then redeemed and a new cross comes that we must bear. There is always a redemption at the end of each cross that we bear. I came to realize that the crosses I bear will be for the sake of others. These crosses will be redeemed for the other souls that are suffering similar mental illnesses. I may never even see the resurrection at the end or the fruits that come from the crosses I have to bear- but that’s where I have to have a stronger and deeper faith that they will all be redeemed in the end.
If I don’t bear my crosses, I never even give redemption a chance to happen at all. If I would have ended my life, I would not be able to share my testimony of God’s life
saving love and all of the hope he can bring to an individual's life. Even now, if I didn’t bear my crosses and I went back to my old life and bad coping habits, I would take away any chance to be a witness of God, to speak up and show others, who are suffering in similar ways (or in any way really), that there is hope, that they do have a purpose in life, that salvation is real and possible, and so is being loved by an unconditional and merciful love- I take all that away for anyone who needs it, that I could potentially reach.
I have a new and deeper hope, faith and trust in the Lord that all of my crosses that I have to bear, for the rest of my life, will be redeemed. I have the opportunity, each God given day that I am blessed with, to bear my crosses and be an instrument and light for Christ, and I will now, and until the day that I get to be with Jesus.
Men’s Annual Retreat
I came to this weekend of retreat with a lot on my heart. On tuesday of the same week I had learned that my mom had relapse with cancer, but this time she had stage 4 cancer, meaning it had metastasized and was terminal. When I first heard this news I was filled with distraught because my mom has fought cancer once two years ago but this time it would be 100 times harder and I was very afraid of seeing my family and my mom suffer this time around. In addition to this, earlier in the summer I had a job catering in which I had to work 16 hours a day, five days a week. I felt that with this job, I had put money and work ahead of everything else in my life, including my relationships with others and God. I felt as if my faith life had become dry, because I had neglected it. After I quit my job, I had a hard time recovering my faith life and reorganizing my life. I felt like during this job, I had also made a few discoveries about myself and sin, but I could not deal with these issues due to my busy schedule, so I felt as if I had closed apart of my heart off to God. I ended offering everything to Christ and he redeemed me. I felt as if every talk and meditation was providential and helped me grow greatly.
During the first talk, we talked about the baptism of Jesus. This talk greatly dealt with reaffirming the father’s love and allowed us to reconnect with ourselves to see how we come to this retreat. During this talk, Fr. Lucas said a phrase that stuck with me throughout the retreat, “I am your son and nothing else matter.” At first, I thought that this was obvious, but it wasn’t something that I had fully grasped until I began meditating. I started my meditation and prayer by thinking about all of my struggles, everything that kept me away from God or kept me from bearing a cross and at the end I realized that had a lot more fears and failures than I had thought. I talked to Christ about everything that was going on in my life and I entrusted it to him. Then I began praying about all the joys God has given me this past year, such as the household, Fragua, Spiritual Direction with Fr. JP, George Fox, the volunteer year, Laura, all those affirms the love of the Father, and many other things. I praised the Lord for the many great blessings that he has presented to me in my life and how much I had changed in the last three years after encountering him. I entrusted everything to Christ my joys, fears, expectations, and everything that I could think about so that he may purify them and transform them. I ended the night with a firm resolve to renew my sonship with the Father and renew my motivation to put Christ at my foundation once again.
The next morning, we reflected on how God uses the Holy Spirit to chizel hearts. Fr. Lucas opened the talk by showing us a video that really moved me (God's Chisel by the skit guys). I realized that lately when I had looked in the mirror I could not see the image of God or even too much of myself. I realized that in that talk I closed my heart to God and my heart of flesh had started to become more of a heart of stone. In the meditation I asked God to chisel away everything in my heart that kept me from him and to transform my heart. I offered everything in my life to Christ and began to praise Christ for everyone and everything that he had used to chisel and form my heart previously.
After this, we talk about our own crosses and we were told to meditate on Mt 16:13-25. In this passage, Peter doesn’t want Jesus to suffer the cross and Jesus rebukes him. Meditating on this passage, I could totally understand where Peter was coming from because there are some people that I don’t want to see suffer even though I know what is at the end of the cross, like my mom. For my mom’s case, I told the Lord how afraid I was to see her suffer so much. I knew that if the Lord called her that she would happy enter into the kingdom of heaven being the holy woman that she is, but I was still afraid. In prayer, I had this realization that suffering can help us lead to a greater joy and love. That we only suffer in the moment, but eventually our sufferings are redeemed and transformed to something greater, because at the end of every cross there is a resurrection. I ended the prayer no longer afraid, but with the desire to want to help bear the burden of the crosses of people in my life by being there for them or simply just being there to listen. During this meditation, I also had a discussion with Fr. Lucas, who helped me with many things. I talked to him about being afraid of suffering or seeing others suffer before the meditation. Fr. Lucas affirmed many things that I meditated on and prayed about. I also ended up talking to him about my sin of pride and how I tend to compare myself to others or others to me. He told me that I needed to recenter my foundation in God and to remember the phrase “I am your son and nothing else matters.” God has made each of unique and loves us all equally. I received a lot of clarity and affirmation by talking to Fr. Lucas.
Next we discussed how the holy spirit will convict the world concerning sin. I realized over the course of the morning that I had a lot to confess about. That over the course of a few months I had greatly hurt Christ. During the penance service I was praying greatly for a perfect repentance. I realize that I no longer wanted to fall into the same sins and wanted to more actively fight them. I no longer wanted to hurt my relationship with Christ and I want to glorify him the rest of my life.
After confession we discussed how the Holy Spirit lead us to a deeper relationship with Christ. In this talk we talked about how we must side with either the army of Christ or the army of the world. Everything in the day had lead me to a strong resolve to fight for the army of Christ to. I want to follow him out of love for him and at this point I was no longer afraid of carry my crosses. I wanted to spend the rest of my life glorify God in everything I do.
After this we had an effusion of the Holy Spirit and a heroic night. At the effusion we were told to ask the Holy Spirit for a charism. I could truly feel the presence of the holy spirit. The charism that I thought would help me with my ministries and help with with a couple of my crosses was leadership and prayer. I prayed desperately during the effusion and after being prayed over I felt a great warmth and peace. The phrase “I am your son and nothing else matters” came into my head and I began the cry and praise the Lord. After the effusion, I almost could not sleep because I was excited to speak to Christ at the heroic night. I was so excited for the heroic night, that I got up 40 minutes early to fully wake myself up and prepare myself. At the heroic night we had the 3 am shift and 5 of us from pdx were apart of the shift together. I prayed about God’s love and was almost instantly overwhelmed by how much he loves me. I began to praise him for everything he did for me throughout my life. I concluded by saying that I want to live a life of greatness glorifying and loving him.
The next day we discussed how we could take advantage of the opportunities the Holy Spirit provides. I left this talk excited and ready to discern the opportunities the Holy Spirit has presented me and to glorify the Lord! I left this meditating desiring greatness and wanting to Glorify the Lord by my light.
Entering this retreat, I felt like I had been a piece of metal that has rusted and chipped through sin and being focused on the world. I felt that throughout this retreat I was to being reforged and reshaped into an instrument of the Lord by the Holy Spirit. I desire greatness and want to glorify the Lord in my life!