One of the gifts of religious life is the opportunity to go on yearly retreats. A friend once asked me, “Do you realize how lucky you are to have the opportunity to just go away and pray for a week?” I could respond honestly that I do. Retreat time is a blessing that I don’t take for granted. Retreats can be enriching, fulfilling, relaxing, challenging, life-giving – and they can be work! At the core, a retreat is a time of being open to spending time with the God who loves you unconditionally and whom you love.
I have been blessed to have had several opportunities throughout the years of my religious life to embark on various retreats and each one has been different. This is only natural, because each year I am on retreat I am in a different place in my life.
One of my most treasured experiences was a 30-day retreat, during which I encountered the love of Christ like never before. I arrived unsure about where God was calling me to minister. At the end of my retreat, I knew God had a purpose for me. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew without a doubt God had a plan. I just needed to be patient and open to whatever it was. As I left that retreat I had such a deep sense of peace, comfort and knowledge that God was with me and would call me to a ministry where I was needed. And God did.
Now, I am blessed to be accompanying immigrants and refugees. I never imagined this for myself, but God knew best. It truly has been a life-giving ministry – challenging, yes, but oh so life-giving. I am right where God wants me to be. I’m so grateful that I was able to trust in God even when my ministry path seemed unclear. When the ministry presented itself, I was able to say ‘yes’ because I knew God was with me and would guide and walk beside me. I had to be open, and God did the rest.
As you contemplate your own discernment journey, how are you giving yourself space to simply be with our God of love and to be open to where God is nudging you? From experience, I can assure you that being open will not lead you astray. Being open is key to following Christ and living a life dedicated to God and serving God’s people.