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 Retreat notes from 2013 Retreat presented by Fr. Gerard at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, GA.



Conference talk 1, Lectio Divina, Father Gerard

 

“Mary, Seat of Wisdom, Pray for us.” Father Gerard mentioned that he had been a Redemptorist priest, whose life was changed when he read the books, I Want To See God and I am a Daughter of the Church by P. Marie-Eugene, OCD, and decided to join a contemplative order, the Trappist Order.

 

The preparation to pray Lectio Divina should be an emptying of our self. Particularly when on retreat, we should ensure the emptying is as complete as possible so that we can concentrate on God. We should take about 20 minutes for this exercise. 5 minutes should be spent on all the concerns and worries that distract us. Then we should take another 15 minutes to write all of our dreams, hopes and aspirations. Be extravagant in these choices and write of your best longings and desires, those things for which we would be willing to die. Then we should put everything we have written in God’s hands and leave them there. We can’t hold on to them if we want God to speak to us. God wants all of us to be in the 7th Mansion. Why aren’t we there now? God speaks to the deepest longings of our hearts, but we hang on to things that stand in our way of being closer to God. Very few people ever get past the 3rd Mansion.

 

Our next preparation for Lectio should be prayer that God will pour out his spirit upon us.

 

Father spoke about two forms of Lectio: the Ignatian and the Cistercian. St. Ignatius tells us to put ourselves into the story being told in the Scripture chosen. Let the Spirit tell you which person in the story you should be. Are you Jesus? The prodigal son? The older brother? The Father? Look thru that person’s eyes at everyone else and at everything that is happening. Employ all of your senses. Use your imagination. Listen to the quality of Jesus’ voice. ..the look of the countryside…what are you wearing? Others wearing? Ignatius suggests spending an hour doing this. Put yourself into each of the characters in the story to understand the entire passage. When you become bored, when you feel that the passage is no longer speaking to you, don’t immediately give up; spend another five minutes or more with the passage. God may still speak to you.

 

The Cistercian method of Lectio is simpler. Read the text very slowly. Personalize it. Try out different roles in the story.

 

In both techniques, if you feel God is saying something to me today, stay with the passage. Don’t push it away and insist on reading the rest of the verses.

 

He spoke about the old movie Johnny Lingo, about a wealthy and gifted islander who is able to select any woman on his island as his wife. The islanders are amazed when Johnny selects a plain woman, who seems to be as ugly within as she is plain without. They are amazed when he offers her father eight cows, an enormous sum, for her hand in marriage. Johnny and his new bride leave on a trading trip, and when they return, the islanders are amazed to see how beautiful the woman is. Our true worth is not what others see or think; our true worth is seen through the eyes of God.   So God takes us and even takes our wounds and makes us beautiful.

 

Conference Talk 2, Discernment, Father Gerard

 

“Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.” –John 12: 31-32.

 

“Lord, my heart is not proud; nor are my eyes haughty. I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me.”- Psalm 131: 1

 

John of the Cross advised us not to seek for visions and revelations and not to trust them. The Devil can enter even into visions sent by God. “Beware of false prophets,  who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but are underneath are ravenous wolves.”- Matthew 7:15 The consolations of Love, Joy, Peace may not always be from the Holy Spirit. Know that we can be fooled.

 

Father gave the example of a suicide victim who thought he had been told to kill himself. Father said the man became very peaceful, because he thought he would be thus able to escape this painful world. Soon afterwards, he killed himself. When his friends had seen that he had become calm, they thought he had been cured of his depression. They were wrong. Remember, we can be fooled.

 

Father mentioned an example of someone engaged to marry the exact wrong person for them. Everyone knew that the match was wrong, but the couple refused to believe anyone else. Remember, we can be fooled.  

 

“By their fruits you will know them.” Matthew 7: 16

 

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” –Matthew 7:24

 

Look for the fruits of the Spirit in your life. Only real love, joy and peace empowers other people. Do our lives show patient endurance? Kindness? Generosity and faithfulness to all of the duties of our lives…?

 

Father gave an example of a woman who spent many hours in church and in church activities; however, during those hours, the babysitter had molested her daughter. Remember the expression ‘street angel’ and ‘house devil’.

 

Are we tending to our duties? Are we tending to them well? Is there self-control/chastity in our life? Humility?

 

Father spoke of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church , which shows all justice issues as a Seamless Garment of Truth. The book starts with teachings on the family. The Church teaches us how we need to treat people, all people. The church is concerned with warfare, with the bombing of cities. Pope John XXIII wrote a great encyclical, Pacem in Terris. Many Catholics disliked this encyclical. They said Mater- Yes, but Magister-No. These social teachings form us in truth; they help us to discern.

 

Let your adoration never cease.  We need to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Father uses the full Trappist bow, which he feels better expresses adoration than does a genuflection. We need to have the mind of Christ, and we need to find that in the Church.

 

If something in Scripture disturbs you, stay with it. You may realize you have been wrong about that teaching/passage.

 

If our thoughts are critical, excited, irritated, we must be careful and watch those thoughts. They probably do not come from God. Guard your thoughts and let go of them all. If they are really from God, God will make it clear to you and will help you to understand them.

 

Consolation without cause is usually from the Spirit.

 

We must test the spirits. If we are defensive when we explain an idea to a spiritual friend or spiritual director and they do not like the idea, we must test our spirit. If we are angry, this should be a red flag. We cannot trust sloppy discernment. Even the Devil can help us to know a part of the truth. Yet remember that even good revelations can be mixed with some untruth from the Devil.

 

If we feel desolation, we should not give up. God chooses the weak and makes them strong. He found St. Paul when Paul was a terrorist and transformed him into the Apostle of Love.

 

St. Teresa gave advice about handling someone who states they had a vision. The person should not be told that they are not believed.  She encouraged giving that person a lot of work to do. This way, the person will not have too much time to pray and will have a more balanced mind.

 

A question was asked about how we should react to the scary predictions of the horrors of the end times coming close. Father advised that we must turn to Jesus, and he advised praying a constant Jesus Prayer. The devil wants us to be scared and to focus on ourselves. Instead, we must focus on Jesus and do whatever duty we should be doing at that moment.

 

When we are tempted to anger or impurity, we must turn away and look at Jesus instead. St. Bernard wrote beautifully of the power of the names of Jesus and Mary.

 

Bad thoughts or bad feelings are not an impairment even in the 7th mansion.

 

Our will needs cleansing. We need to stay ‘in the Spirit’ if we want to enable good. We must not give up. God can work even in our weakness.

 

We have an incurable wound, but St. John tells us we need to keep it clean. (source?)

 

When God speaks to us…touches us…we will find the fruits of the Spirit in our lives.

 

“Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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