Saturday, March 06, 2010

My parish held its first-ever women's retreat today in the "parish hall," a.k.a., the cold church cellar. Turnout was decent, about 40 women. Lights were dimmed, candle centerpieces flickered on the tables, music played softly. I'm no fan of cultivating "ambience" but I appreciated the effort and tried to loosen up for others' sake.

I don't think we made good use of the time. The first 45 minutes was spent eating breakfast and socializing. I was pretty sure I should have tarried at home and got more housework done. The retreat leader, an SSJ, introduced herself and led us on a guided mediation.

I thought it would start like this:
"Imagine you are walking alone on a beach and you see Jesus walking towards you ..."
But it wasn't that. It was like this, and God was impersonal:
"Think back to when you were 19-24 years old. What's your life like?"
and so on until, get this:
"Think back to your experience of God before your conception!"
I had already drawn a blank at remembering kindergarten.

After the guided mediation, a lady spoke up and said, "How come you are asking us to think things that are against Catholic doctrine? Are you pedaling reincarnation as well?" I was cheering from the back row. The pastoral associate intervened rather quickly to tell Li'l Miss Catechism to settle down and the retreat leader said we are space dust.1 She asked us to jot down any free-association answers that come to us from pondering the question, "Why are you here?" Among my responses, I put "to mourn my sister-in-law."

Right before lunch, ladies had the option of trying yoga and/or Tai-chi. Those things aren't for me, so even though the church was in the midst of being cleaned by confirmation kids, I went upstairs to pray. I came back for lunch which was all from Wegman's and very good. I sat at the end of a table, the same spot as for breakfast, but some people shifted so it was just me and the deacon's wife. I asked her how the men's retreat that her husband ran had gone, how RCIA is going this year, and told her about our recent family loss. She ended up having to run home because her husband isn't used to being home all day without her. So after sitting at the end of a table by myself for five minutes, waiting to see whether anyone else would sit down to talk, I left for the sanctuary again. This time the cleaners were done and it was peaceful.

We ate lunch so late ... and for so long ... that things would have to wrap up pretty quickly after that. The retreat director gave us Ps. 139 to pore over and ponder some pointed questions. I was pretty much already mentally spent and began thinking about getting home and making dinner. So, after ten minutes of reading and meditating, I excused myself and drove home. There's just no sense in forcing some things beyond what has already been delivered.

1 Carl Sagan said this, as well, I think.


Barb Schoeneberger said...

I don't know how you could have stood the situation as long as you did. Any time somebody announces we're going on a "guided meditation" it spells trouble in my experience. No thanks. Give me "Divine Intimacy" by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, OCD any day instead. My litmus test is: Is this activity getting me closer to God, loving Him more? God bless you and may the Holy Spirit continue to enlighten you.

Moonshadow said...

I could tell it was a "sampler" day - an opportunity to get a taste of different spiritual techniques and approaches. I just had to wait all day for one of my favorites, lectio divina!

I overheard the pastoral associate refer to the parish as "a baby parish," I suppose spiritually-speaking. I'm not really sure what she based that assessment on but such an opinion explains the introductory nature of the retreat.

Is this activity getting me closer to God,

Yes, true, but how immediately does an activity bring one closer to God? Do we toss out a practice, like the rosary for instance, if it doesn't deliver within a few attempts or inconsistently? How does one know they've given a technique a fair shake?

I say we are dependent, then, upon the advice of those with more spiritual experience.

Thank you for your words of blessing. I really, really need them. Peace of Christ to you.