I spent all day yesterday at my RCIA retreat. It was an OK retreat. We had it at the Mt. Carmel Center in Oak Cliff. The day started out nicely, with tasty homemade treats. We were incredibly blessed to have Father Ramone from the Cathedral as our teacher during all of the morning sessions. We talked a lot about the Mercy of God and the Prodigal Son. We did about a 20-minute session of Lectio Divina, or meditative scripture reading on the story of the Prodigal Son. I went into the chapel to read, but unfortunately we were having a bit of a cold snap, and it was super chilly in there.
I always struggle with the Prodigal Son. The main reason is because my whole life I've felt like the Elder Brother, who did everything he was supposed to do for my parents, and never even got a goat to celebrate with his friends, and yet my druggie loser younger brother got chance after chance after chance. So it's a personal thing. We were supposed to think about the meaning of it being us, and of how we relate to God. I'm very thankful that God gives us chance after chance, or I would have been a totally lost cause at about 19 or so. But when I read those scriptures, I have a much better time relating to the parable of the sheep or the parable of the coin. Maybe that's why Christ gave so many different examples. Maybe it doesn't sink in one way, but it sinks in another.
We also watched this hokey late 70's Christian Flick called 'The Visitor.' It reminded me SO MUCH of those horrid movies we'd have to watch in Young Women's classes. It was this 30-minute short about this bitter man, who is visited by an "old friend" and tells him that Christ will visit him the next day. So there's the angst and the bad music, and then the next day his heart is soft, and he's kind to everyone, and then he realizes his 'visitor' that he was waiting on, Jesus, was really in all of the different people he was kind to today! Oh, and the 'old friend'? Yeah, he was an angel! Huzzah!
For some reason, I was just having a hard time getting into the whole retreat scene. The second half got progressively worse for me. Our teacher played a Christian Rock song about leaving things behind and letting Christ carry our burden, and then we talked about letting Christ carry our burdens. Basically "offering it up". Remember a few days ago when I said I was struggling so hard with that? Yeah, so here I am, listening to Christian Rock (do you remember me saying how much I hate Christian Rock? Cause if not, I'll mention it now ... too "Rah Rah Go Jesus!" for my tastes) and trying even more to figure out how to "offer it up."
We got this little bag with some neat scriptures and symbols (a rock, a nail, etc), and we got this piece of paper. We were instructed to go out and find a quiet place (again), and think about some burden to put on this piece of paper. We were going to give up the paper and leave it at the cross during the Closing Prayer ceremonies. We all went out to find a quiet place, and I went back to the chapel. Unfortunately, the second class (there was an English-speaking class and a Spanish-speaking class) had been let out for a regular break, so they were chit-chatting and it was not a very quiet place at all. I picked up my book and walked around. I found a hallway and I sat there and thought about my biggest burden, if Jesus could carry anything, what would I put? Like I said, I was feeling much less than spiritual, and so I wrote something to the effect of "Please let me not wallow in doubt and let me be satisfied with faith instead of true knowledge for now". Finally I walked around a little more and found this little room. I poked my head in and noticed an altar, a tabernacle, and a red candle.
Deacon L walked by around then, and I asked what the room was. He said it was the room where the nuns held their daily readings and mass. They rarely even used the chapel. "Hmm ..." I thought. When he walked away, I sneaked into this little room, and quietly knelt in front of the tabernacle. It was killing my knees, but I did it. And the peace I had been longing for all day washed over me. And I was reminded of a quote from St. Teresa of Avila:
Let nothing disturb you;
Let nothing make you afraid;
All things pass;
But God is unchanging,
Patience is enough for everything.
You who have God lack nothing.
God alone is sufficient.
(I belive someone brought that one to my attention in one of my comments on my blog).
And I remembered why I wanted so badly, so desparately to be Catholic. I wanted to be here, with the eucharist. When I am there, all is right in the world. When I am not with the eucharist, I look forward to the time that I will be. I said a prayer of Thanks, and made my way to the chapel.
We went to Closing Exercises, and I nailed my piece of paper to this large wooden cross that they had made for us. We all nailed our problem to the cross, as a symbolism of Christ's nails bearing the weight of our sins. But I knew why I was doing what I was doing. And I was reminded of that, and it made the whole retreat worthwhile.