Do you ever have moments when you know you are in exactly the right place, doing exactly the right thing, living in the flow of grace and suddenly, gratefully, aware of it? Last weekend I had many of those moments while on retreat with a group of young adults from the Diocese of El Paso. We were at the San Patricio Retreat Center in south-central New Mexico for a “Seekers’ Retreat” (see www.charisministries.org) Having the retreat on the weekend of Pentecost added a special dimension to the reflections on what “charis” or “grace” each participant was seeking in their life.
The team of young adults had been preparing talks, music, liturgies and prayer experiences throughout the Easter season. The energy, enthusiasm and depth of reflection they brought to this ministry for their peers never ceased to amaze me. They not only carved out time from their very busy schedules to come to weekly planning meetings but it was so evident from their sharing that they live their faith every day and are capable of mining their experiences of seeking God’s presence as examples for others. What incredible ministries they provide for the people of God! They serve immigrants, handicapped children, soldiers, and people in need of legal assistance. They serve on parish councils and in Catholic schools. They have given years of volunteer service in the U.S. and abroad. It is no wonder that they would step up to the plate when asked to serve on this retreat team.
My friend, Fr. Bill Morton, also served on the retreat team. A member of the missionary Society of St. Columban, Bill is accustomed to crossing cultures in mission – which is what we Baby-Boomers do when we serve these next generations of Catholics. All of us were grateful for the gift of having a priest with us for the entire weekend (as well as during the preparation of the talks for the retreat). Bill’s sacramental ministry, teaching on the Ignatian examen and availability for spiritual direction really rounded out our retreat experience.
And me? I was able to watch the entire ensemble in action from the vantage point of the kitchen! I had volunteered to prepare meals for the retreat because I enjoy planning menus and cooking for medium-size crowds like this one. The disproportionately large number of men on the retreat made it a bit more challenging but I was up for it. My brother has always said that our family motto is “Until we eat again!” and that was truly the situation during the retreat. I stayed a couple of steps ahead of the hungry “Seekers” and still had time to be available for pastoral counseling and the group activities.
The closing liturgy on Pentecost Sunday included a special blessing in which each participant, team members and retreatants, asked for the gift (charis) they needed to continue moving forward in faith. How many of the young adults asked for the gift of courage! Reflecting on the frequency of that request, I think I understand why it might be so necessary. Like the disciples huddled in the upper room after Jesus had ascended into heaven, these young believers face a world that can feel overwhelming and hostile to the Gospel message. They know that they are called to respond to needs far beyond their capacities. Courage!
I feel blessed to be able to accompany them in my ministry, to en-courage them, to tell them that this seeker’s journey has been amazing. I have had every gift I have ever needed, and I have never traveled alone because the One whom I was seeking was always seeking me.