Sharing: Annual Retreat 09

As part of Orientation program, I attended a directed retreat on Jul 25 – Aug 1, 2009 at Carmelite Retreat Center, Mahwah – New Jersey. Here are my experiences during the retreat.

First Day
I walked around chapel before opening prayer and I said “God, I don’t know what kind of surprise will You give me during this retreat.”
Fr. Michael J. Wastag, O. Carm called me “Anastasia” on our first meeting. All my sisters called me “Linda.” I decided to introduce myself as “Anastasia” since my profession of vows is coming.

Second Day
After meeting with Fr. Michael, I just realized that I should pray with Psalm 139, Mat 11: 28-30, and 1 Kings 19: 8-14a. I only prayed with Psalm 139 and I wasn’t moved by it.
The menu for supper was pasta so I decided to eat fried rice which I brought from home. I asked God “why should I become a sister in the place where I don’t really like the food?” And I couldn’t hold my tears.
I prayed about Prayer using with Luk 6: 12 and Mat 6: 5-15.

Third Day
I woke up in morning because I cried and felt powerless. I continued to pray about Prayer using Mark 14; 32-42 and Eph 6: 18-19. I prayed in tongue and my hands were trembling.
I know exactly that I attended the retreat to have deeper relationship with God.
I prayed about Community using Acts 2: 42-47 and Acts 4:32-35. I prayed in tongue continuously.

Forth Day
I woke up and remembered that Fr. Armand M. Nigro, SJ said “If…nothing seems to happen, … do not be discouraged or judge this as a sign of failure.”
During breakfast I thought that I knew God’s long loving looked at me even though I was not moved during formal prayer. My eyes were in tears. I know that people who fall in love will look at each others and that’s enough. I prayed formal prayer and I know God loves me, it’s enough. I have so many experiences of God’s love in my daily life. My heart beat was faster than usual for quiet a long time. I know that people who fall in love may have faster heart beat too.
I continue to pray about Community using Eph 4: 1-6 (“…live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.”). One of my challenges is loving my brothers and sisters as they are.
Here is my prayer regarding Community: Thank you Lord for the gift of life of my sisters and our journey together in Maryknoll. Thank you for all the blessings upon our community. You know how different each one of us. We follow our own star to be in service to the universal mission of the Church. Give us the grace to live out our commitment to lve one another as a celibate woman in community and to be a witness of Christian’s life by sharing resources. May we remain faithful to the Sacraments and the teaching of the Church. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.
I prayed about Poverty using Luk 2: 1-21 (“Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”), and Mat 5: 42 (“Give to the one who asks of you…”).
The supper was yellow rice, pork and Irish Soda Bread. It’s the best meal during retreat.

Fifth Day
I continued to pray about Poverty using 2 Cor 8: 1-15 (“Your surplus at the present time should supply their need, so that their surplus may also supply your needs, that there may be equality.”).
The first reading was 1 John 4: 7-16 which will be the second reading on our first profession ceremony. What’s a holy coincidence!
I prayed about Chastity using Mat 5:8.
During supper, I thought that God’s love never changes and I started to cry. Then the quotation from “Letter to Contemplatives” by William Johnston popped up in my mind “I am loved therefore I am.” I cried again. I looked through the window because I didn’t want to make eye contact with anybody. I continued to eat because I wanted to stay with the experience even though I felt inconvinience because everybody was in silence. Sr. Vilma stood up and then she said “God loves you. You have beautiful face.” I cried again when she said “God loves you.” I say “thank you” to her. Fr. Brice said “Cheer up. Everything will be all right.” One of my sisters tapped my shoulder twice and looked at me. The kitchen’s staff asked me “Are you ok?” I said “I am ok, thank you,” then she said “sometimes I experience the same.” My body was warmer so I decided to lay down.
I prayed about Chastity using Mat 19: 10-12 and listened to the talk at Inter-Community Novitiate (ICN) about “Theology of Celibacy” by Fr. Keith Clark, OFM.Cap

Sixth Day
I continued to pray about Chastity using 1 John 4: 11-16 and 1 Cor 7: 23-35.
The first reading for the Holy Spirit mass was Is 61: 1-3abcd, 6ab, 8c-9.
I prayed about Obedience using Mat 7: 21-27 and John 14: 20-26. My stomach was tense during the prayer. I still felt the tension even though I prayed the Jesus prayer.
I listened to the talks at ICN about Obedience by Fr. Ed Peklo, SVD and Sr. Joyce Shanabarger, OSF.

Seventh Day
I continued to pray about Obedience using Luk 1: 26-38 and I felt tense again. Fr. Michael helped me to look for the reason of my tension. Finally on the last minutes of spiritual direction he asked me that do I think that obedience will be my struggle in religious life. At that moment I knew that the insight of my retreat. I know from Sr. Sandra Sneider, IHM that vow of obedience is the most difficult for women religious and vow of chastity is the most difficult for men religious. But at that time, I could really feel the tension even though I was not in a real encounter.
I prayed using Eph 4: 22-24 and Eph 5: 1-2 as closing reflection and still felt in tension.
I listened to the talks at ICN about Poverty by Fr. Lawrence Jadgfeld, OFM and Fr. Anthony Gittins, CSsP.

Eighth Day
I prayed using John 21: 15-19 as closing reflection. I thanked very much to Fr. Michael for his patience, insight and clarification during the retreat. I know it’s not easy for him to accompany me during the retreat.

I experienced again that I got the insight of the retreat on the last days of retreat.

I got “Letter to Contemplatives” from free shelves of Rogers library during the break of “Reign of God and or Church: Tasks and Methods by Fr. Peter Phan, Ph.D at Maryknoll Mission Institute. I think it’s God’s providence because there is a quotation “…I put my roots more and more deeply in the Bible and the Christian tradition while remaining open to the dharma and wisdom of eastern teachers. And at the same time I wish to share the treasures of the Gospel with anyone who is willing to listen.” On the second day of retreat, I found this book in the library so I borrowed it. I really enjoyed reading it.

After Retreat
I try to reflect on all my experiences during retreat. Complaining about food, felt powerless, being loved by God, and being in tension about Obedience. And it brings me back to the question “Why do I want to be a Maryknoll Sister?”
Sr. Sue Moore, MM-President of Maryknoll Sisters- asked all the candidates during the welcome ceremony on Aug 11, 2007, “Why is it that you want to become a Maryknoll Sister?” I prepared a short answer so I will not stop in the middle of my answer. I replied “I want to save my soul according to the Constitutions of Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic.”
I never thought that I will have the same question on preparing my first profession of vows. The answer of the question is “being a Maryknoll Sister will not be easy so I should surrender to God who loves me. Since God’s love will never change, I get a conviction to continue this journey because I believe that it’s God’s will.” On November 2005, I told my friend that I would follow God’s will whatever my vocation, but I didn’t know my vocation yet. It’s a reminder that I am doing God’s will. I wrote “Closing sermon of Fr. Bob Galbert, MM at main chapel on Aug 22, 2007 was an affirmation for me that God’s will finally is our will because God put the desire in our heart.” (Please read “Sharing: Summer 07 in New York”).
As Fr. Michael said on his homily that “We are not the same as the day we arrived at Carmel. God’s Spirit has been active and what God has done is never undone.” I am grateful for all the experiences: the tears, the tension, the insight, and the clarification because I found “the pearl” of my 2009 annual retreat.

Ossining-New York, Aug 25, 2009

Sr. Anastasia B. Lindawati, M.M.
Let’s do simple things with simple love to make God’s love visible