In mid-April I started planning the EWTN retreat . Originally my sister Norma was to accompany me but God had other plans. There is always an attack right before a great blessing, so as the trip was unraveling and I was praying about canceling, the Lord brought Pat into the picture.
Pat and I go back a long way; missionary travels to Nepal, the Holy Land, Patmos, Turkey and other parts of this small world. Pat has been my roommate on several occasions, and she is my dear friend. She makes me laugh a lot too. She’s been going through changes in her life, so she welcomed the opportunity to get away and spend time with the Lord.
Our flight was departing from LAX, so she needed to be at our home no later than 5:15 a.m. in order to catch the flight. “I bought three different alarm clocks to be sure to wake up on time,” she said. These alarm clocks would later become hilariously problematic. As we were in line ready to board our second flight, Pat was looking through her duffle bag. “Do you hear that ticking?” she asked me. I responded “Pat, we’re at the airport, you can’t say things like that.” . Sure enough it was one of her alarm clocks ticking away. Later that night, after we settled into our hotel, that alarm went off at 4:00 a.m.
Fr. Leonard Mary
I met Fr. Leonard in the mid-90’s because we were attending the same Catholic lay group. At that time he was Anthony, the young man who accompanied me to feed the homeless on Skid Row in Los Angeles. We have remained friends since then. Mike always makes dinner for Fr. Leonard when he’s in town; he loves chile relllenos and he gets home cooked, authentic, Mexican food when he visits us. Father was recently elected to the office of Community Servant (Superior). This is a three-year position that comes with a lot of responsibility, which includes overseeing the Friars from EWTN as well as the cloistered nuns in Hanceville, Alabama, where the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament is located.
The most important part of the trip was prayer and that we did. We drove with Father Leonard and Peter (Fr. Leonard’s brother) to Hanceville to attend the 12 o’clock Mass. While Father met with the Mother Superior, we kneeled before the Blessed Sacrament and prayed. There was a peaceful calm in the Shrine and I could almost sense that God was answering my every prayer. Prayer always brings me peace. We had dinner in Cullman, a small town outside of Hanceville, and visited with Ann. Ann and her family are very close to Father.
Our retreat was centered around loving. Loving everyone, including those who are continually causing strife in our lives. Those difficult people who bring you down at every opportunity; and the passive/aggressive behavior that sneaks up on you when you’re ready to forgive them. Personally I have always struggled with this type of behavior in others. As soon as I want to set myself free of these individuals, the Lord tugs at my heart. I go back in only to discover more challenges. What I learned this time was something that I’ve always known but now I can put it into action. We are the Christians and we are to lead others to God. When the Lord places these people in our lives, it is because He is refining us to grow in love. We must always consider the troubled person’s background and take into consideration that their journey to spiritual freedom is taking many detours. What I wanted to hear was, “Walk away, they’re never going to change.” But what I heard was, “Be the example; be who God called you to be and never give up on who God has called them to be.” Honestly, it’s so much easier to wash your hands of this than to take the road of forgiveness because you know that until these difficult people start their journey to healing, you’re going to weather a continual battle. Let’s face it, we all have our battles: some are with our health; some with our children; or our husband, wife, brothers, sisters, etc. It’s never going to be easy serving God, the closer you get to Him, the more intense the battles. But what you must always take into account is that you are never alone! God is with you every step of the way!
Retreat Lesson Taken from Romans Chapter Twelve
From a young age we are conditioned to believe in what we were taught. Not all parents are good teachers, not all parents are good role models. So we need to look at the big spiritual picture.
Compassion – Dying on the Cross Jesus was willing to die for all of us, not just the ones who serve Him. Jesus sees their broken backgrounds and understands why they hate. Jesus moves in compassion and empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.
Mercy – Mercy, understanding, truth and firmness are part of the recovery that allows us to become whole. We, ourselves, must be whole to fully understand the needs of others. In wholeness I am referring to spiritual wholeness, always striving to become more Christ-like.
When loving others, the starting point is Jesus Who loves us. When you truly understand the love our Father has for us, you can help others. We give what is given to us, so if you have the love of God, you give it to others. If you have hardened hearts, you are unable to give love. When we receive the Sacraments of Communion, you are united with Him in order to grow. We ask for the intercession of Mary for help in expressing the love of God because she always points to her Son for direction. The bond that Mary shared with Jesus can never be broken.
Pat and I were able to attend two additional 7:00 a.m. Masses at the EWTN chapel.
Dear Lord, thank You for allowing Pat and me to travel to Alabama. I pray for Fr. Leonard as he enters into a new chapter of leadership in his life. Give him all the special graces necessary to fulfill this calling. Lord, I continue to pray for all those You have put in my heart: heal those who are suffering from cancer; heal the broken hearted and teach us to love as You love. Amen.