Hello! Glad you’re back, or if you’re new here, welcome! Grab a glass of iced tea or cuppa something hot, and get comfy. I want to tell you about when God turned the lights back on.
I know, I’m mixing metaphors. But it was pretty dark in that spiritual desert for those eight years. When God brought me out, it was pretty dramatic.
I’d been on several retreats, but they’d been little help. Desperate and pretty much completely humbled, I signed up for a directed retreat – where they suggest areas of reading, meditation and prayer. If they’d told me to stand on my head and say a Hail Mary, I would have. (Although in my prior visits, no one had even hinted that I should do anything in a Catholic manner. The place is truly ecumenical.) I was comfortable with the priest who ran the place to direct me, but he was not available. Instead, they put me with a nun to guide the retreat. “Just a nun”. Oh, boy, did God have my number.
Sister Antonella was a retired music teacher, and an experienced spiritual director. We chatted a bit to get acquainted. Then she handed me a paperback Bible in a modern version I would never have touched. She asked me to turn to Psalm 25. How many times had I read the Psalms? But I turned. She said we would read it responsively in sections. Easy enough. So, I began to read…
“I offer You my heart, Lord God, and I trust You…”
What happened at that point is difficult to explain. Genesis 1 couldn’t have been any more dramatic when God said, “Let there be light!” I literally experienced a blinding flash of brilliant white-hot light, and began to weep. The sense of His presence was overwhelming, I barely managed to pull myself back together and we finished the Psalm. She suggested that I go back to my room and re-read it, and another passage. She also told me to get outside for a while, as it was a beautiful day.
I went back and did as she suggested; then I put on my windbreaker and hit the trails. As I walked, I sang songs I’d forgotten I ever knew. Prayer was pouring out of me, both in English and in Charismatic tongues. His presence intensified as I prayed. I let it all go – praise, confession, thanksgiving. Pain, anger, bitterness, confusion, it all just flowed out. I’d be thanking Him, then remember something to confess. I’d drop to my knees right there in the bark and mud, and pray until I was finished. Then I’d get up and walk and sing some more. Awesome!
Instinctively, without any thought whatsoever, I found myself using many ‘Catholic’ devotional forms. (I actually had to go home and look up some things to see what I had been doing.) I prayed the sign of the cross, in a peculiarly Hispanic style, as I learned later. I prayed the Our Father, the Glory Be. Then there was the statue of Jesus. I had the distinct impression of all of me – good, bad, indifferent, being taken completely into His Sacred Heart aflame with love for me just as I was. I’d never felt love and acceptance like that, even though I’d been a Christian for 40 years. Seeing the marks on the hands and feet overwhelmed me again. Like the sinful woman in the Gospels, I wept and kissed His feet; I kissed the wounds in His hands. Now, I knew then and still know, that piece of metal is not my savior. It was merely a tangible representation that allowed my physical humanity to express love and devotion to the God I cannot see. Intuitively, I somehow understood that Catholics don’t worship statues; they worship the Christ the statue represents. They don’t worship Mary or the saints. They worship the God these saints exemplify in their own character. Sometime during the day, ‘the Divine Mercy’, was revealed in my heart with a new level of trust in Him. I was experiencing a new dawn in my spiritual life.
Late that night, I found myself in the chapel, prostrate on the floor before the altar in wordless adoration. According to my wristwatch, that time of adoration lasted over an hour. Glorious!
The retreat center is called “Sanctuary of Hope”. You can get to their website here. If you’ve been struggling to connect with God, or if you’ve wondered how you can know Him, find a pastor or a priest and ask. Or make a retreat. It can be as simple as an afternoon with your Bible, or as long as you like at a retreat center. As the commercial says, ‘Just do it’. He’s there, waiting to show His love for you.