With the retreat over and the car packed, I pulled out onto the road and turned south for a half-mile. On St. Michael Drive I turned east into the Broom Tree youth and family camp. It was deserted on this day but I could see why some of the men had said they brought their families here a few times each year. It looks like a wonderful place with a lot of things to do. You can read more about it here. After taking a few minutes to look around I proceeded south a little further to drive around Lake Marindahl. I would have loved to have stayed longer as it was a gorgeous late afternoon with leaves starting to turn color and I just knew the sunset would be glorious. But it was time to return home and so as I turned towards Highway 81 which would take me south and deep into Nebraska I dialed my family to let them know I was on the way back. Other than “cheating” with a text or two we had not spoken. It was good to hear their voices.
As I’ve written about this journey over the past few weeks I’ve struggled to come up with an approach to this, the final post. First of all, I must thank you that have read or even commented on any of this series. I’ve not held much back and have bared more of my soul than I set out to do. Yes, there are things obviously that did not make it from journal to blog, but that’s to be expected. I have continued to pray for poverty, contempt and humility. I have employed lessons I learned as well as continuing to meditate on those exercises that are now bearing fruit. And I still haven’t made up my mind whether to continue to blog or not. As I wrote here, we have three priorities as Christians: our prayer life, our spiritual reading, and our “going out into the world”. I don’t think I can do the first two without being compelled to do the third. While I’ve absolutely no idea what I’ll blog out going forward or how often I’ll do so, I am confident that I will want to invite others into the joy I know in my heart at some point. Or the desolations as well as the consolations. See? I’m getting ideas already.
And so here it is, almost a full month later. I’m writing this on the feast day of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a 17th century French nun who was especially devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and was responsible for spreading that devotion thoughout the Church. I was going to write that I don’t know if she found me or I found her during my retreat, but that would be wrong. I believe that Jesus found me Himself and has been trying to reach me at the heart level for a very long time. Perhaps some extra prayers of intercession from St. Margaret Mary helped. Whatever the case I’m very grateful that I finally responded to that call.
Lord, pour out on us the riches of the Spirit which you bestowed on Saint Margaret Mary. May we come to know the love of Christ, which surpasses all human understanding, and be filled with the fullness of God. – Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours on the feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. (October 16)
That about says it all, really. Coming to know the love of Christ not just with feeble attempts at intellectually understanding that which is beyond our understanding, but also allowing ourselves…our hearts…to be filled with the “fullness of God.”
In a small way I have been a pilgrim. A lot of water has crossed under the bridge since Thursday. Along the way I’ve been able to do some long overdue forgiving of others, and I’ve been forgiven. I’ve sat alone on benches in a dark church, before a grotto, along the Stations of the Cross and in a secluded spot surrounded by trees where I listened to the wind. The wind spoke to me while I leaned against a hay bale in the middle of the prairie, and I heard whispers in a chapel. Yes, I was a pilgrim, and of the pilgrim Albert-Marie Besnard said:
The day when the Lord calls him, he will be neither disturbed nor surprised. He will have known this departure, he will have loved it—this manner of going and leaving all things, ready to take them up again or never again to find them, as God wills. Renunciation will be familiar to him, he has rehearsed it and drilled it, he is ready. For one day, having taken the pilgrimage seriously, he finds death sweet and promising, and this fatherland which he has searched for on earth in parable, he is ready at last to find in eternity.
In the stars as they danced above me on a cold night I saw eternity. It is not scary. I welcome and even embrace it.
Tonight, while sitting on my backyard patio at home where I can be found in all but the coldest winter days praying Evening Prayer I also read this paragraph in my Divine Intimacy book. It is one of the most beautiful and for this post appropriate things I’ve ever read.
Anyone who has tasted, even in a slight degree, the infinite beauty and goodness of God, cannot fail to experience an overwhelming longing and need for Him. This is a good sign: it means that the apostle has not permitted himself to be pervaded and distracted by exterior occupations, and that, although living in the world, he is not of the world, but really tends toward God. – Divine Intimacy, #331
I’ve had a small taste long before I made my retreat. I suspect most if not all of you reading this have as well. It’s just that we forget. Or we overlook. Because we’re busy, you see. And the world is loud and demands all our attention in an increasingly round-the-clock fashion. And so we miss the still, small voice by succumbing to what Catholic speaker/author Matthew Kelly calls the “tyranny of the urgent.” Yeah, I wish God would just grab the microphone now and then and shout at me when I need to be held accountable or be reminded of Him. But He doesn’t work that way. (Whew!)
I’ll close with a reading from this evening’s Evening Prayer. I chose it because out on the prairie I rediscovered the song of my heart, and how to sing grateful praises.
Let the word of Christ, rich as it is, dwell in you. In wisdom made perfect, instruct and admonish one another. Sing gratefully to God from your hearts in psalms, hymns, and inspired songs. – Colossians 3:16
And at long last I’ve let the word of Christ dwell in me…and enter into my heart. His heart.
It was a great drive home.
I have participated in Holy Adoration service in which we sang this song in three- or four-part harmony by candlelight. It is beyond beautiful, holy and sacred and the eyes tend to glisten. Before I turned my CD player to Beethoven (I had more music to conduct) I hummed this in silence until I crossed the Missouri and into Nebraska.
Adoramus Te Domine
(Lord, we worship You)
With the angels and archangels
(Adoramus Te Domine)
With the partriachs and prophets
(Adoramus Te Domine)
With all who witness to the Gospel of the Lord
(Adoramus Te Domine)
With all Your people of the church throughout the world
(Adoramus Te Domine)