Tuesday, December 4, 2012

O Come, O Come Emmanuel!

Praise God from whom all Blessings flow!

This past weekend I was given an amazing gift - an early Christmas gift from our soon-to-be born Saviour to help me prepare my heart for His coming.

I was blessed to be able to attend an Advent retreat with 169 other mothers/ women who are living their vocation either in marriage or single life with the AMAZING and beautiful Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

The theme running through the retreat was the Love of the Father for each of us as His Chosen and beloved daughter.  The structure was simple - a good mix of delicious food (prepared by the Sisters), fellowship with the Sisters and other mothers, reflective presentations (given by the Sisters, by a mother and a by beautiful and holy priest) and of course and most importantly - Prayer.

Fr. Aaron Kuhn (who preached the retreat) holding Thomas...he offered to hold him for me when he was a bit noisy during one of the talks given by the Sisters.

The retreat takes place in one of the Sister's schools in Ann Arbor, MI.  (The schools are filled with reminders of our beautiful Catholic faith and it is a joy to spend time there!) Those on retreat sleep on the floor of the classrooms and there are no showers and limited bathroom facilities.

Our sleeping space in front of the teacher's desk - Thomas loved the various Coat of Arms
The retreat is only 24 hours long but is amazingly powerful in its simplicity.  The heart of this retreat is the all night Eucharistic adoration.

The door of the 5th grade classroom where we slept had this beautiful stained glass window.
I personally spoke with women from Ohio, Virginia and Minnesota and the retreat itself was filled three weeks prior to the date because there was not enough floor space for more than 170 (and there was a waiting list). 

Among those 170 women were 12 nursing babies (ranging from 10 weeks to 10 months) and at least 9 infants in the womb and it was an Amazing retreat!  As Sister Joseph Andrew said, "Women desire to pray.".. and it is true - why else would so many women sleep on the floor, crowded into classrooms and take turns waking throughout the night to pray a holy hour with our Lord?  Because we desire that time with our Lord and Savior.  We long for that intimate time when we can open our hearts to the One for whom we are meant. 

At the beginning of the retreat each woman chose a title of Mary from an envelope stuffed with her different titles.  Throughout the retreat each woman kept this title to herself and pondered what this could mean in her life - what is it Mary was saying to each of us...in closing the women were invited to come up and share their title and the fruits of their reflections and their stories were profound and moving.  We were each in awe of the Lord's work in the lives of each woman and His great love for each of us in our struggles, joys and sorrows!

 I had been blessed to attend a retreat with the Sisters 10 years ago and the format was very similar.  I had not recently reflected upon my "Title of Mary" from that retreat and in fact could not at first remember it...but now 10 years later, it came back to me.  And I could write a story on how this title of Mary was a true answer to my then discernment of my vocation!  The Title I had chosen was "Mary, Mother of the Eucharist" and though Jesus did not call me to be His spouse in religious life - it was in and through the Eucharist that I came to know my husband and vocation.  So now 10 years later as I drew my next title of Mary "Queen of Martyrs," it is with trepidation as I wonder what more she is calling me to!  And yet again this title speaks to the joys and sufferings, the call to witness and die to self these past months and year have been for Phil and me and I am grateful for the graces of this retreat!

"For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.  For it is God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death is at work in us, but life in you." (2 Cor. 4:5-12)

There is much more I could write about this amazing retreat and the many gifts I was given as well as the beautiful witness of the Sisters but alas, time is not on my side so I will post this little taste of heaven I was given and share it with all of you.

Sr. Maria Guadalupe who held Thomas for me while I went to confession and spent some time in adoration (he slept peacefully in her arms:-)
Know you are in my prayers this Advent season that Christ may truly transform your hearts as He comes to dwell in them this Christmas!

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