Bethany Mom’s Retreat Yet Once Again, Seeing to Believe

Two weekends ago I was privileged to spend a couple of days at the beautiful Bethany Retreat House with a group of moms from St. Cecilia Academy and Overbrook School. We could not be more fortunate to have the Dominican Sisters teach our children as well as allow us the opportunities to spend time at their Retreat House. Since I was there two years ago, they have finished the new Chapel and Dining Room; both lovely, needless to say. It is a peaceful place to pause from our serving and sit at the feet of Jesus and listen.

Now that formalities are over, let’s get to the meat of the subject. I am constantly aware of the “signs” that I believe are sent from above to allow us to draw closer to Christ. Not like weird signs and wonders, but simple occurrences that pop up in front of our faces that make us just say, “Thank you Jesus, I do believe.” Ya know. Like, “walk with eyes wide open and receive all He has to give” type of gifts. Our retreat topic was “The Joy of Love – the Family as Icon of the Holy Trinity” given by Fr. Albert Trudel, O.P. and I have to admit was not what drew me to the weekend. And yet, as with most things those Dominicans pull me into, the talks were awesome. Fr. Trudel gently tied together an icon (a window to the soul), Rublev’s Hospitality of Abraham, also known as the Trinity, with the love we share with our children and our husband and the love of the Trinity. “As the Three Persons of the Trinity mirror the love of one another, so husband and wife and children should mirror love and help one another toward Heaven.” “Love is willing the good of the other as if it is our own.”  (Aquinas)

As I knelt in the Chapel, I noticed the image in the picture above behind the Tabernacle. If we look beyond the cross, to the shadows, we see on the top the clear image of a triangle and behind the corpus the images of three people on crosses. Is this lighting purposeful? The image on the left of the Son is clearer than the image on the right. Could be the good and bad thieves. Could be the Father (whom we see more clearly) and the Holy Spirit (He’s there but more difficult to make out the figure). I meditated on our lives with the Trinity, us two (husband and wife) with God in our lives. And then, us two as one, with our children and God in our lives. The reading this past week explaining, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh…This is a great mystery…” I meditated on Fr.’s words, “we find our life by giving it away.”

Now, I’m just saying, that when we participated in Eucharistic Adoration Saturday night, the shadows behind the crucifix were all gone except for one. For me, in my thoughts, it was clear that in the Eucharist, we are all one, just as the Trinity was joined as One Body inside that Monstrance. There is no separation between the Father and the Son and the Spirit as there should be no separation in the family. We are together in love. And yes, this is a great mystery.

Simply No Coincidence

I  have many Williams in my life, both living and deceased, that I have been praying for with much intensity lately. My nephew and my son of course are always in my prayers but recently these other Williams too have been heavy in my thoughts and prayers. Included are my friend William who made rosaries for the Bookstore (his story) who just recently died, my grandfather William Theodore, my Uncle William and my husband’s good friend William who suffered a terrible stroke and is struggling to recover. My dad William died in November last year and I’d like to share a little lesson he sent me.

I try to go to daily Mass in the small Chapel of our Church after I drop my daughter off for school. (If you know me, you know I need all the help I can get.) As many of us do, I have my “assigned seat” in the Chapel and pretty much get that seat each morning if I am early. About 3 weeks after my dad’s death, I went to my seat and my kneeler was missing. I thought simply it was my dad telling me that I needed to do penance to at least make it up to, if not farther than, where he is in paradise. (I know he loved the idea that there are “many mansions”, perhaps different levels…who really knows, but…) So each morning I’d go in and kneel on the floor as others knelt comfortably on their cushioned kneelers (believe me, these people probably do not need the penance I need). Anyway, many, many weeks later, I was given a message through the homily or through something I read or through a thought that came into my head that my dad was teaching me that sometimes we have to do what is “uncomfortable” in this life to truly do the will of God or to gain a spot in heaven. We need to talk to those who make us uncomfortable or reach out to the man on the street or to those in prison or call a family member who drives us crazy or a coworker who unnerves us or scares us. We need to go to confession and reconcile with others. We have to deal with what God gives us especially if it is out of our comfort zone. I felt good. I felt I understood the message. The next week, my kneeler was back! 

Then, my niece got sick and I felt like since her name is Grace and I (slow as I am) realized while praying the rosary that I say her name as I pray Our Lady’s prayer that I should share that idea. I felt the nudge to share it with my siblings and ask them to pray Hail Mary’s for Grace each day until she heals. Well, I was uncomfortable for some reason to ask them to pray the Hail Mary every day. I don’t know why. I guess I felt like they knew to pray for her and I didn’t need to tell them. But, I’m just sayin…2 days later, I went to the Chapel and my chair was missing. I got right on my phone after Mass and group texted the family that we should pray the Hail Mary for Grace each day and all agreed that it was a good idea. Forget being uncomfortable. God wants us to ask. He wants us to be bold. And, a couple of days later, my chair was back. And please do not get me wrong, I know it’s not my dad coming and moving around furniture in the Chapel, but the timing is uncanny!

So, I am sitting in a book group several weeks ago with a Dominican Sister who tells us about the graces she has received from reading some of the writings of one of their former Mother Superiors, Mother Marie William, O.P. She says she’s probably a saint for all she had to struggle through for their order during her time as Superior and we should feel free to pray to her for our intentions. She had no idea when she shared that that I had Williams on my mind. The idea of praying to Mother Marie William, who I knew, for my Williams, simply gave me goosebumps. Actually, tears filled my eyes. And then…. I got on their website and found the quote below. It is simply No Coincidence. Go. Venture out of your comfort zone. Be bold. Follow Him.

Because God chose us and we were willing to make our pilgrimage along a narrow road, the travel is bound to be less comfortable and more demanding of us than of other Christian pilgrims. …Our perseverance in faith and vocation depends on the depth of our prayer life and our fidelity to our vows. So does our happiness. Whatever we do, Sisters, let us do it for one purpose—God’s greater honor and glory. Be faithful to your prayers—lead the common life, practice regular observance with freedom and love. (Mother Marie William MacGregor, May 26, 1971)

Fr. Jacques Philippe – When I am Weak, I am Strong

One week ago yesterday, I attended a talk by Fr. Jacques Philippe offered at the St. Thomas Aquinas Forum through the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. The topic Father worked with was the paradox “When I am Weak, I am Strong” and he used several examples from Scripture along with examples from the lives of St. Therese of Lisieux and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He spoke in French as his interpreter beautifully relayed his message in English.

I found it no consequence that on the following Sunday, the meditation in the Magnificat reinforced Fr. Philippe’s message. The Scripture reading Sunday centered around temptation and the meditation by Fr. Peter Semenenko read:

“In our present condition, virtue cannot take root without the help of temptation…

Faith, hope, charity, chastity, patience, and every virtue must be tried. Otherwise there would be no virtue, a reasonable, considered act, freely willed and directed toward good. Growth in virtue is conditioned by temptation…

Therefore we can distinguish…two reasons or purposes for temptation: [one is] to become more perfect, for strength is made perfect in weakness, so that virtue becomes something that is definitely ours… “

This French priest from 2016 and this Polish priest from 1886…together in thought, pertinent for today, all about virtue, gift of the Holy Spirit.

Think of how often this happens in our lives! Godincidence. What’s yours?

Weekend Retreat – Bethany

Bethany Retreat is run by the
St. Cecilia Dominican Sisters and is located in Dickson, TN and every chance I get, I go. Bethany has been a true blessing, hosting weekend retreats for many of the moms and dads who have children in the Dominican run schools. Since I have a daughter at St. Cecilia Academy and two children at St. Henry School and I am an alumnae of both schools, this past weekend was my 4th time to participate. Some people need to sit and to listen and to pray more than others to “get it”. (But let’s not point fingers.)
The first time I visited the Retreat House, I spent time in one of the rooms (sister kept referring to them as cells over the weekend, which made us all laugh), snuggling in a glider, covered in a warm, brown, fuzzy blanket, watching the snow fall and listening. The picture on the wall was of  Blessed Imelda, patroness of First Communion. At age 9 she went to live with the Dominican Sisters and longed to receive Jesus in the Eucharist but was still too young. She prayed and learned to chant the office and became friends with the saints, preparing for the day she could receive Communion. “And so Imelda continued, with the intensity of a child, to get to know Jesus more deeply, and to desire Him all the more.” Since my first visit, I mentioned my desire to be in the “Blessed Imelda” room. The second visit, I was with Our Lady and than the San Damiano Crucifix. Both rooms had meaning for me at the time. But this time, as I walked up the sidewalk, Sr. Mary Ellen greeted me with a smile and “you are in the Blessed Imelda room this time, we made sure.” We both laughed. As it was mentioned by the sisters in front of a few other women, I shared a little of the story and asked who was in their rooms. Little by little, reports came in of the beautiful images, reminders, on the walls in the “cells” and the devotions. (I should have asked everyone.)
The weekend was incredible. Spending time with 18 women who share the same community and similar vocations was time well spent. I did nothing but learn from moms who had as many as 8 children to moms who had 1 child. I learned from wives about relationships. Most importantly I learned about mountaintop experiences, about the scene of the Transfiguration, when Peter tells Jesus he’d like to make three tents so that they can stay. And the truth is, we all felt like we would like to stay here at Bethany, with this mountaintop experience. But we were given the tools, and we were being told we needed to go and to spread the good news to our husbands and to our family and to our community, more in the way of example, less in the way of preaching. We must get back to reality and take what we had been given and share it with others. We had spent time listening at the feet of Jesus, we hoped we had “chosen the better part” and now it was time to get back to reality.
When I arrived home, one of the first emails I opened was from a salesperson and it read:

Hi, Julie!
The guys at Tiny Saints are rolling out a “special edition” Bl. Imelda Lambertini charm for 1st Communion season.
Now I ask you, what does this mean? I’m taking it as a sign that my weekend was something I need to seriously review and take to heart, deepening my desire for Jesus. (Or, am I to leave this crazy life and run to the convent?) 
Blessed Imelda, pray for us.