Sharing the Retreat
weeks 15-19

Week 15

Week 15: This week I reflected more on the themes of God's promise and how Mary and Joseph were active in responding to and fulfilling that promise. I'm particularly attracted to the scenes when Jesus is brought to the Temple and also when Joseph decides to move the family to Egypt. I see in these themes that Mary and Joseph both have a deep commitment to fulfilling God's promise. Each act … just the basic concerns about where to stay and where to be safe … are committed with their responsibility clearly in mind. But just because that is the intention -- to do God's Will -- this does not mean that they have certainty or knowledge in everything that they do. Joseph has lot of prayerful discernment about where to stay. He is acutely aware of the political issues and the consequences of power. He needs to move the family even to areas where they are unknown … essentially refugees. So much is also happening for Mary. She is a good model in that she resolves to reflect rather than react or overprotect Jesus.
I think that Jesus must have learned a lot from his earthly parents: Mary's love and practice of reflection; Joseph's practice of discernment and keen sense for what is going on around him. All of these bound together by teaching and community worship.
Then I think of my own family. How well am I bringing God's promises to them? I have a wonderful wife but she rarely comes now to Mass with me (she did when the children were growing up). I see my children as active and concerned in the world … well developed social and political antennae. But they have given up the practice of public worship now that they have grown up and left the house. I keep asking myself what is deficient in my witness. Maybe there is nothing but being more patient … try to model more Joseph and Mary's pattern of trust in God's promise … remembering to be realistic and reflective at the same time.

This is the 15th week. Jesus is born in the stable. The picture seems so nice. Would Jesus have been born into such a nice picture today? Today's stable would probably have been as rough as it was 2000 years ago, but Mary would have been there to love Him. Who is this Jesus? Again I see the Father wrapped up in the birth of Jesus. It was the Father who wanted to send His son. What father would not be there loving his son? I see fathers with their newborns coming to church. They spend most of their time staring at their babies. They sit and stare. Was the Father there in the stable too, staring at Jesus? Maybe even greatfull for Mary's part? Today I heard the Gloria..we said: Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father.....Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God....Are they the same Lord God? This baby is Lord God!
greetings to all of you from Nell on the Tweed. its been a strange week for me and i didnt expect the images to come as they did. what happened to me was that i could feel the stable. i live in a very small cottage which i rent from some lovely people. i have had some real ' no room at the inn" times in my life and recent years have seen me homeless and without possessions. then one day i was blessed enough to be led to this beautiful wee cottage on a fine hill. my little grandaughter said " you can see everything god can see. the whole world. " then we had some wonderful times over the last year with a new baby and my son thriving after some rough times. and then in april they decided to move about 7 hours away to the mountain city where his father lives. im writing all this because i have battled to decide what im going to do and how i will handle life here in ths valley with them gone. and i still dont know. i have been desolate and then hopeful and all manner of things.
now as the week 15 went on - i felt much as i did when our little baby was born. and all the love and joy amidst the battle we have as a family on welfare. there has been so much love and delight in our lives over the last few years with many wonderful things happening. . But - as i imaged the stable - i reached a vision of the little family going to egypt but i was left behind. and i sat in a corner with my cloak over my head . desolate and bereaved. my own cottage seemed like the stable and was all messed up and grubby. and i lacked the wherewithal to do anything about it. then it came to me that i were left behind as an elderwoman to clean the stable up. to make it into a special place and to be there to tell anyone who came that the baby had been born. that i was left behind to bear witness and i brightened up and cleaned up my own home. began to cherish the memories and the love . i dont know what god is asking of me next but i can at this time - keep the stable clean , know how deeply i am loved. know that i have a different role than i did as a young woman. be here if people come . that the poor and the ill of us are loved and precious. jesus came as one of us and doesnt look down on us. not as we wrinkle up , not when we seem to be the failures of this world. it is ok. he doesnt look down on us when we dont have enough food for the week and struggle to cover the rent. he smiles and gives me the love of my children and the rich variety of people i have in my life. so for now. i stay here. i cant seem to write this more succintly or clearly but it has been a great comfort to me . i know i am meant to have a human experience just as jesus did. in all its dimensions and this for now is my season .i sit on the back steps of our meetings place with my people in recovery and i am just fine. i have seen the baby smile with the wisdom from before time. and hes smiling at me .

I started this before Christmas and now it is January 5th. So much going on in my own “stable”…moving my Mom, who is in early to middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease, to our home. She does not understand that the “overnight Christmas Eve stay” is really the final move from her own home. It has been a good transition, so far, but I cry that the easiness of it is because she can no longer remember the simplest things and she speaks to me as if I am her Mother and she is my child. As I was sitting in the stable with Mary, Joseph and Jesus, I offered to hold Him and stay up the rest of the night so they could rest. It was so peaceful, holding Him and kissing His sweet baby cheeks. Giving them this respite reminded me of how, when my children were babies, my own Mom would do this very thing for me. I sometimes wonder if Mary had to take care of her Mother in this way. Like Mary, I treasured all these things in my heart, but because of this new situation in my home and my tiredness, I fell asleep in the stable more times than I’d like to admit. The other morning, my Mom arose a little later than usual and I had time to tell Jesus how sorry I was for that. He held me and told me He understood and I believed He did.
-- June

Imagining the birth of Christ proved difficult for me. Having been in a delivery room four times, it seems impossible to reconcile the messy miracle I witnessed there with the miracle that St. Francis described as “light passing through a stained glass window” (thus preserving Mary’s virginity). However Christ was born, it is too mysterious for me to imagine, for me to be present. So instead, the image that was offered to me was that of an innkeeper who turns Mary and Joseph away. I am that innkeeper and they are at my door, Mary seated on an ass, uncomfortable but resigned. She is, without compare, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. It’s kind of hard to listen to Joseph, she is so dazzling. I cannot take my eyes off of her. I know that he is asking for a room, as hundreds of others have, and my response to him is automatic by now: “No room.” I am not resourceful enough to think of offering them the stable. The smell and confusion of the lodgers literally tripping over each other behind me distracts me from Joseph’s response, until I hear the word, “Adonai”—then I realize that, instead of cursing me as so many people at my door have, he has offered a traditional Jewish blessing. At that word, I notice his eyes: deep brown, young, filling with tears in his fear and confusion. He turns and leads Mary away and I watch them go, wondering, until they are out of sight. Then I shut the door and do not answer it again.In the next few days, I hear of the shepherds’ visit to the stable, and their reports of the heavenly host appearing above the fields outside of town. I cannot get Mary and Joseph off of my mind. Scripture (Matthew 2:11) tells us that by the time the three wise men found Jesus, the Holy Family was living in a house. As an innkeeper, my duties very often prevent me from leaving my house. However, on one day I am walking neither to market nor temple; I am not really sure why I am in this part of town on this sunny day. Perhaps the census is over and for the first time in weeks, my inn is empty for a moment. Perhaps this is the same few poor houses where I grew up, before I shrewdly earned enough to buy my poor inn. The sun is bright today. This date palm I remember with fondness. Then I see her at a doorway. She is turning to go inside and she sees me, sees me staring and quickly I lower my eyes. “Sir? Do you need a drink?” I am astonished by her confidence; to speak to me, a stranger! But she is like a child as she steps inside and returns before I can even reply, a small wooden bowl of water in her hand. She is standing in her doorway with that bowl and I am in the dust of the street. I am embarrassed by her offer, by her beauty, by my own age and ugliness. I notice the smell of my sweat and the heat of the day, hotter in the face of her lintel’s shade and her bowl of water. She extends the bowl a little more toward me and sunlight strikes the rocking surface of the water, but not a drop spills. I step. She smiles. I feel like she is taming me, like the cats I offer scraps in the alley. I hang my head, conquered, and close the distance to her bowl. I empty it, breathing the fragrance of her youth. I hand her the bowl and she is looking at me with indescribable tenderness. Her incomparable eyes! Immodestly, I steal a glance through the door. A boy, his bare skin the color of the earthen floor, sleeps on a reed mat. After all I have heard, he appears to be just another poor child. She smiles at my seeing. I bow my head in gratitude and scuttle away.For the rest of my life, I keep my eyes open for this marvelous woman and her ordinary-seeming child, but soon, I hear, they have left town. I wander down that way again and, sure enough, that house had different tenants—ugly cries filled the air, the kind I would more expect here among the poor, the kind I remember well. Though I never see them again, though I turned them away, I feel, oddly, that they came for me. Their love penetrated me. When I bathe my feet, my feet remind me of the baby’s feet—as if they were mine, as if HE were mine. I laugh at myself. But I kept these things, reflecting on them in my heart.Tom, Pennsylvania
I am thankful for the shepherds and wise persons in my life who have brought me to the stable where the significance is clear: God is alive in all the messiness around us ... in our own lives and in the world at large. At our family Christmas gathering the center attraction was my 3 week old great-nephew. We all took turns passing him around and so imagining the real baby Jesus was not hard. I also got to thinking about my sons (now grown up) when they were babies. I think at the very earliest stages I could sense something that was each one's unique essence (despite how everyone tries to tell you how much they look like you). I actually cannot name that essence but I can feel it. I think that this is what happens in the encounters at the manger. I imagined the shepherds as some of the real poor I have encountered in out-reach ministries. I am reminded that often they have been the most grace filled people ... sometimes caring a lot more about me than I deserved. I can see them naming the essence of Jesus. I sense their transformation ... as Luke recounts they tell everyone what they found. Simeon also sees the essence and can name it. I think it is also significant that Jesus' essence is named not by Mary and Joseph... they are faithful to naming Jesus as they had learned from the angel's proclamation. God chooses unusual messengers for all of our lives. Mary and Joseph are witnesses as to how to respond. Mary reflects and Joseph is willing to take action even if it is personally hard to do so.This week I also found one of light and darkness. I enjoyed deepening my reflection ... particularly seeing Mary in a fuller, more human terms and not the flatness of the Madonna portraits. Of course, it was also great being with my family at Christmas.Then the darker spots ... I got also to thinking about how neither of my sons seems too interested in the Church or spiritual life. Have I been an inadequate witness?I also got more anxious about going back to work this week, which is somewhat irrational ... I have a meeting this week which I would rather avoid as well as feeling there is a too much I need to be doing. Then I realized that this was what the season is really about. I need to face up to the dark spots in my life but give them over to God because the reality of the Incarnation is that's precisely where Jesus is born ... not in the pleasant places in our lives but in the uncomfortable places sometimes in the midst of serious conflict.
When I started this retreat, I had no idea that weeks 15 & 15a would be right in the middle of Advent. Oh, how it helped me to prepare for the birth of Our Savior in a way I have never done before. I know that God was guiding me to this revelation and I thank Him for the understanding of Christmas that I received.

God Bless you all,

i just began week 15. its christmas day, and most of my family is together to go to mass. one of my sons is a recovering alcoholic who has stopped going to meetings, and although not raging in his addiction, still drinks and exhibits many addictive attitudes. to his credit, he also has a steady and good job, lives on his own, and tries his hardest to do the right thing. but there is still much between us that triggers resentment.

today he came for mass dressed in old jeans, a long sleeve t-shirt that looked like he slept in it, and a couple days growth of beard. i sort of busted his chops about it because he can never seem to get himself together to be presentable like an adult (he's 23) but always seems to have money for stupid stuff. this has been a source of tension between us and a reminder of times when things were totally out of control. in any case, he was really hurt by my chiding...and he said something hurtful to me later. even though we got past it ,it lingered with me the whole day. ours is a family that has endured much lately...addiction and recovery, abuse, separation., infidelity, so the tension was high to begin with, as everyone hoped we could "do it right".

my wife and i talked later, and she said "how must he feel about himself if he lets himself go like that?" i realized that he must be feeling pretty bad about himself. then i read the letter of paul from the readings for the day after christmas, where he says that sons should honor their fathers, but that fathers should not provoke their children, lest they become discouraged. it struck me that i had it all wrong. no requirement of a dress code existed at bethlehem. the circumstances were humble. christ's life was then spent among the thieves, tax collectors, prostitutes, and lepers, the ones who were hurting or unbelievers. he didnt chide them because of how they looked or smelled or acted. he invited them in to his kingdom. he healed them. that ticked off a lot of folks who thought things should be different.

years earlier, at a mass at a rehab center where my sons had been, a visitor commented that the mass was a disgrace, because the sharing was often raw and uncensored. i responded "who should really be in church...those who are believers, or those who need to be ?" i found it entirely appropriate that addicts could express themselves frankly to god in crying out for his aid. i doubted that a merciful god would be offended half as much as uptight "believers". i understood at that moment, but flashing forward to this christmas, it's obvious i forgot completely and became just like the fellow who complained.

i realized today that my son had become my teacher...he reminded me that what was really important was that he chose to be there, with his family, to share with us, even if his faith is challenged or his resources few. everything else was unimportant. i now feel silly and a bit ashamed about my self serving complaints, but blessed that i learned the lesson i needed to learn. my son showed up...he was with me and his family. that was a gift, a gift i overlooked because of the packaging., and because of my own thick-headedness and expectations of what "ought to be".

isnt that exactly how the world missed the gift of jesus?

I am starting the 15th week of retreatI.  I am a little afraid of my human ineptness.   But I want so to experience what I suddenly experiened during my prayer after communion twice last week.  My own thoughts were suddenly and completely interrupted by an intense,  powerful, and very warm presence.  I had to struggle to let go.
Using my imagination to contemplate the birth of Jesus and the events that surrounded it during week fifteen was not as easy as it initially seemed it should be.  This was partly because I would stop and wonder if what I was picturing would be accurate to the time and place when the events occurred.  However, I did pray before I began and did let my imagination work to create the scenes.  The most special grace would have to be that of imagining holding Mary's hand while she was giving birth.  At one point I was just focused on her hand in mine without seeing her, Joseph, or the coming baby.  It was strangely special.  It was a human moment.  A moment that became more special as I contemplated it later.  It was a connection on a human level between two people.  As I am writing now and thinking it seems as though at that point in my imagination it was her wanting my support as she went through the human process of giving birth.  But in reality, it is probably more me needing her support as I seek to live my human life in concert with her Son.
I was reading through the section "in these or similar words" and was suddenly struck by this thought: the writer of this section was praying and thinking with the traditional understandings about Jesus' "humble" birth. Jesus was born in a stable, smelly, cold, rough. As the song goes, "the little Lord, Jesus, no crib for his bed." We usually think of Jesus' birth in this way-Jesus came to poor humble people as a sign that he would be savior to those in need. He came into poverty.

But, here's what occurred to me-the baby, Jesus, was born with everything he needed! He had loving parents who warmed him with their love; He had Mary and her breast and her mother's milk. It's our perspective that more comfortable surroundings would make a difference. A palace without love is a cold scary place, but a rough stable filled with love had everything that the baby needed.
If we can agree that love is the meaning of life, then Jesus was born with everything he needed. Maybe he was born this way to show us this truth. Where there is love we have everything we need too. When we love God and each other we are that loving place filled with everything God needs to be with us. Despite our faults, our weakness, our sinfulness, when we have love God has everything God needs to work in and through us. Jesus' birth wasn't humble, it was glorious because of love! Week 15

It is difficult for me to "get into" the family scenes to better understand those that were early influences on Jesus.  I have had too much; I have doubted too much.  However, I am trying each day to enter into and become a part of this blessed family's circle.  I cannot imagine that Week 15 will only last seven days for me.  Each day I walk with a good friend, and I am turning the part of the journey when I am alone into that long and arduous walk to Bethlehem.  I am calming the donkey that carries Mary; I am touching her hands; I am feeling the back pain that must attend her pregnancy and the jolting of the donkey's footsteps; I am walking beside Joseph, worrying about the consequences of this trip at such a time.  Beloved God, allow me to feel some of the pain, the anxiety, and the fear of this journey.  At the same time let me taste some of the joyful anticipation that must also be there.
Reflecting on the nativity, I sense the magnificence of being part of a family with children. It is the vocation of Mary and Joseph. And for the first time, I noticed that the nativity involves the only instance in my recollection of scripture where an unnamed, average person sees and speaks with an angel. This happens with the shepherds. It seems relevant that this event occurs with the birth of Christ. With the coming of Christ into our lives, it is like we are visited by a angel who brings us an unbelievable message that seems to go unnoticed in history and to most of those around us.  Lord, let me know your presence through your angels. I wait in the fields of my labor, just an average person doing an average job. Be born unto me again. Week 15
At the beginning of the week, I found myself having trouble entering the scenes of Jesus birth and infancy. Today, during my hour of adoration and with the help of the “In these or similar words” section (Thank you, whoever wrote those words), I held the babe in my arms. I smelled the manure and the urine in the hay, and even imagined burping the infant Jesus after Mary fed him (I could almost feel Him spitting up just a little). As I knelt there in this scene, it occurred to me that if one focuses on the filth of the barn-like surroundings one misses the beauty of the gift that is present. In a similar way, if one focuses on all the ‘evil’ in the world, one misses the beauty of life. It was for me a moment of awakening. Again, thank you to whoever wrote the beautiful ‘words’ section for this week. It truly opened a door for me. 

Thank you very  much for all the special on-line helps around Christmas. I loved week 15 and 15A - I guess it is because I love Christmas.  I followed your prodding "to find a bit of straw in the stable and to sit." As I tried to be unobtrusive and quiet I was astonished at the beauty of Mary as she cradled her baby.  She signed to me that I could hold him.  I did and gazed into those unseeing eyes - but were they really unseeing like other babies of a few days?  I was not sure.  I felt the warmth of his tiny body  permeate me as he waved his little arms and wriggled against me.  He was so like other babies and yet he wasn't - I wanted to protect him and yet he was protecting me and at the same time reaching out to the whole world.  I stayed a long time in the stable...and have visited often...and been gifted beyond measure.

I have been so wrapped up with myself, my husband, and our families that it seems that there has not been time to get to my retreat material.  I just printed the most necessary parts to see what I have been missing.  I stopped reading during my Week 15.  While I can justify doing this: perhaps I am grieving the attachment of losing my husband, who is gravely ill (I have him at home and I am the sole caregiver), my grandson who went to court this past week to plead guilty for drunken driving in which three of his friends were killed (all were drunk) (he has not been sentenced yet) but it doesn't sound good.  My grandson is only 30 years old with lots of potential.  I am sure God will see that that potential is realized.  But the pain of it all is almost more than I can see for myself.  I really am not looking for material riches and I thought I have been trying to find the spiritual poverty in my life, but during these past weeks it has been hard to find much peace.  Last Sunday is the first Sunday I have been able to attend Mass.  A caregiver helper which I met by accident at the WalMart asked me what I needed. I needed someone to relieve me of some of my duties and she suggested coming on Sunday morning so that I could go to Mass.  A miracle for this to happen.  Father Mancini came and gave John the last rites within minutes when I though he was dying last week. Another miracle.  Other Holy Spirit things happening that same afternoon.  It would take pages to describe it all.  Only until tonight when I was guided to my computer which has not been on all of that time.  I have been praying but how much I have needed the guidance of this retreat to help me.  It would be good if I could have someone to discuss some of the things with, but I guess God want just me and Him to figure it all out.  Sometimes I see myself as being too old to have much life left after He takes my husband but I guessed tonight that that has been corrected very gently by Him.  The first response of the Outline for Week 18, I am guilty; The second response, I have been guilty for many years, always justifying what I want and translating it to what "I know" God wants.  My desire is becoming purer.  I can recognize a little of what He is doing.  I only want what will be of greater service to God.  Perhaps peace will come as my husband still clamors to hang on to life.  I pray that God would take him peacefully.  I have only been married to him for 11 years yesterday and today during the Week 16 Online introduction I wished I had all the answers to my John that the writer was asking asking questions on what do we know about Jesus.  I am so sorry for my failures.  Thanks for your internet intercessions on behalf of all of us who need to know ourselves better only as we can know Jesus better.  God Bless. 

What a refreshing study this week (15) is turning out to be.  During the actual Christmas season, life is too complicated and rushed to really meditate on the birth of Christ as this week suggests we do. The Christ is delighted to have me come and visit His birthplace, His mother and Joseph and all the rest of the characters so real and beloved. God continues to enrich our spirits with new ideas.  Thank you for your contribution with this retreat to this senior citizen's spiritual growth.

Week 15 and focusing  in on Jesus'  "hidden years."  I mean, what did He do for 18 years-12 to 30?  What did I do?  I grew up.  He did too.  My father divorced my mother when I was 14 and it was devestating.  Did Joseph pass when Jesus was about 14 and did He say to Himself, "I'll have to be the man of the family and take care of Mother."  Did He spend His time carpentering and studying?  He was growing, learning, loving and did His duty to His mother until it was His Time to show His Light to those outside His immediate family.  Jesus at 14 is much to ponder.  Don't you know He had a great smile!

During the past year, I have struggled mightily with my mental health.  I was involved in what proved to be a disastrous romantic relationship.  There is an ugly and deep-seated hostility festering between a once close family member and me.  I am wondering just where I can wedge a light for the Christ Child in my tattered and frantic heart.  After much prayer and soul searching, I know now that I do not have to be the perfect receptacle as I await the coming of our Emmanuel.  I need only hollow out a small place of watchfulness and anticipation and peace. Mary and Joseph could not have fully understood the bone-deep changes their newborn would bring to their lives.  During this holy time in the dark of December, may I give birth to an unexpected me.

Gracious God, most loving, generous One -- thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus, whom you gave to us so that we might begin to understand how beloved we are.  As a mother, and a grandmother, I have often pondered this gift.  Today, I realize that in giving us Jesus, you give us yourself -- your very self.  We can never really understand this.  We can only bow with wonder and humble gratitude.  Our only response can be to give back  what you have given us -- Love -- and to do so to each one we encounter, as best we can, murmuring our prayers as we go.  Thank you, Holy One.

Thank you for the deep communion I feel with my Catholic brothers and sisters.  I am a protestant pastor and have been so nurtured and nourished by this retreat.   Christ is so very Large, and yet as tiny as a new born.   God Bless and Thank you!

Week 15 and getting into  and being with the relatives of Jesus-Uncle Zechy and Aunt Lizzy we'd say down South.  Last night in our parish we celebrated a Mass for the unborn and said a rosary prior to Mass.  I live in the Baptist bible belt and I sometimes joke with my Baptist friends, "You don't like Mary?"  The rosary sounds like it's all about Mary when really it's all about her Boy-the focus is on Him.  How can we get to know somebody unless we know his kinfolks?  I had not said the rosary for several months and had forgotten the special "calming" graces of all those Hail Marys.  At times last night I would just sit and listen to the soothing hum of my fellow parishioners, "Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for..."  Last night I awoke and felt that same calmness and serenity as I drifted back to delicious sleep.  "Forgive us our tresspass as we forgive..."  just will calm your soul my dear brothers and sisters.  The Saints are smiling at us - can you see 'em?

Week 15a

Week 15a: I liked the opportunity to stop and reflect. Going back to work after the holiday it was hard to keep in mind the scenes of Christmas. But maybe that was the point: I revisit the theme of promise … God's promise comes alive in a humble environment and certainly not in splendid circumstances. So I pause to give thanks … to consider that like the Magi I might offer my gifts and trust that the life embodied in that promise will grow and continue to contribute and like Mary and Joseph to spend time in thankful reflection.
Imagining the Details of Jesus’ Birth. Week 15a. Not easy to get into the scene, because the images have become so set over the years in the culture and mindset. They have become somewhat static, but the story itself never ceases to communicate truth. The shepherds, the wise men, the stable birth, no room at the inn. The flight into Egypt. Many scholars tell us there are embellishments in this story. Do these add or subtract? Also for me the fundamental issue of Mary’s “innocence.” If Christ is human, he must have had a father, yet we have the mystery of the virgin birth. Do I really believe this? And if so, how can Joseph go along with this? Enter the angel. Enter the dream. The story is full of meaning on many levels. Even if parts of the story seem far fetched, it is part of our cultural tradition and Christian folklore. Yet the historical Jesus did exist as man and there was a birth. So entering into the scenes is a personal challenge for me. I am exploring the historical versus the mystical Jesus. My renewed faith pulls me toward the mystical. My sense of truth accepts the embellishments though unreal, as expressing a deeper truth. I must enter the scene as a real, extremely flawed person, subject to the same tempest of faith, factuality, reason and doubt. Where do I fit in among this world of images, stories? What character am I in the journey into the birth process? I am reminded of my own saying. Humility before the truth is needed to work with the truth. I discussed this contemplative prayer technique with other friends in a weekly prayer breakfast. Some people asked “What is the point?” Others thought this was an extremely useful form of mediation and exploration. Others talked in general terms about the meaning of Christmas and its importance. One special friend talked about the importance of “intention,” for example, by comparing the wise men’s purpose to Herod’s, who had cynical motives and a selfish, tyrannical interest in the outcome. The wise men have yet another dream and they return home without advising Herod. We are with the wise men in our desire to follow the star. And the importance of poverty. We are with shepherds in solidarity and humility. So the interwoven images of the poor child and redeemer king draw me in but make it difficult to come close. Am I a wise man or a shepherd? Do I follow dreams and angels? For me Christmas is full of symbolism and happy family memories. I am drawn to my father and my grandfather, one aging the other a distant memory from my childhood. I love to be with my sons during this time. I pledge to share my faith in meaningful ways and not lay any heavy judgment or guilt trip on anyone in the family who may not embrace or see the same meaning. My life however, draws me toward the circumstances of my own marriage and the parallels with Joseph. My entry point into the story is therefore as Joseph’s close friend. I compare my life with his predicament. When I am cynical, I am saying to Joseph not to marry her. But I myself did marry my sweetheart when I was young and so I change my mind and tell Joseph to go ahead, to believe his dream. We were outcasts, our families looked askance, be we remained a team, two people in love, a couple struggling to acquire some basic things - and it all culminated in a humble birth for our dear son. St. Elizabeth’s hospital did make room for us with their free care program. We did thrive as a simple family unit in the following years. I am the one who put all of this in danger with my egotism and pursuit of selfish desires. It is time to heal and make whole. I have faith and trust for everyone in my family and there is no need to put any divisions into our tight little family unit. We need to treasure these bonds and nurture them. And extend them some day as individuals and community members when we are ready. Multiply our love with others. So I am Joseph’s friend, maybe brother or uncle, and I can say, put your trust in the Lord and even in man. Follow your dreams. If someone lets you down, stand up and try again. The Lord will never let you down. Don’t let selfishness or cynicism stop you from reaching your better self. There, in the humility of the stable, you will find and hold Him.
I’m on week 15a of this great adventure. To anybody looking in at my life nothing has changed, yet I know everything has changed forever. The last 5 weeks have moved me profoundly. Initially I found it difficult to say yes because of the implication namely accepting God’s Presence in my life. I’m also beginning to appreciate that God is present in everything. I feel so privileged to be given the opportunity to meet and fall in love with Jesus and through him the Almighty. Country of origin’ language, culture seems less important than Trust hope faith as we are all connected by LoveDivine inspiration has obviously been the bedrock of this site I’m very grateful for thisBest wishes,Ger, Dublin Ireland
The special grace I came back to this week was the grace of silence … not trying to talk my way through my uncertainties but letting them rest with God as modeled by Zechariah. The central piece of my imagination being present in the stable revolves around the conversation with Joseph and Mary when Joseph tells me that they have decided to move forward to Egypt. I have just been holding the baby Jesus and even though the stable can be cold, smelly and murky I like being here. Joseph tells me that they will be packing up soon and moving to Egypt. I have a hard time taking this in. I look at the baby and wonder how anyone could harm a life-form that seems to bring so much happiness at all levels – the very poorest and the rich and wise foreigners. I want to continue to hold Him. Joseph tells me it will be fine. I’m welcome to journey with them. “To Egypt?”, I ask. Joseph reminds me that his namesake in history lived there not because that was where he wanted to go but where he found himself and demonstrated how openness to where we are now can be done in faithfulness and hope and demonstrates how God can be active in our lives. Mary now is cuddling the baby and reinforces Joseph’s invitation. She reminds me that all one has to do is to have faith in God. I see that this is real for me. I began the week not wanting to go back to work. I wanted to remain at least in the stable. “After all this is still the Christmas season, why do I have to deal with either mundane issues or issues where there is no simple solution?”, I tell myself. But this is where I am. I may well already be in my Egypt. I certainly want now to travel with the same faith as Mary and Joseph and to nurture Jesus I any place I find myself.Thank you for the opportunity to journey with you on this retreat.
I started this retreat to help me through a divorce and the changes in my life. From the beginning I have chosen to look at the miracles that have blessed me during this difficult time. As I looked at the divorce papers I found on the kitchen table after getting home from work – At the bottom I envisioned they were signed “love, Jesus”. I have trusted that this is where I am meant to be at this time in my life. At times of loneliness or sadness I literally have raised my right hand and taken hold of the Lord’s hand and felt his support. My friends, church and family have all been an overwhelming support to me and I count my blessings daily for this experience that has filled me with so much love as humbling as it is. This week has brought all these things together – the baby Jesus grasping a finger as I have reached for God’s hand so often the past 10 months; finding such peace in the humility of my new surroundings like the Holy Family in the stable; and the last line of “In these or similar words” it says “Thank you for coming to me, to all of us, as we are in our own stables, standing in the darkness, wondering what comes next.” Everyday I have wondered what will come next and each day it has been something wonderful or wonderfully challenging to immerse me even more completely into this new, deeper commitment to Jesus.
As I read this week, I could not help think of the many times when I have left Jesus standing outside of my stable of life, saying Jesus wait until I finish this task or another task, then I take time for you. Each week I am becoming more aware of the love of Jesus for me, the many graces I have received and a deeper desire to do the work of God. May God forgive me for the times, when for some menial task, I have left Jesus waiting.
week 15a: I haven't shared for a few weeks, I feel very disconected from the retreat. I did have very strong feelings reading the "helps" this week.
Part of my problem is same old stuff, I didn;t feel as I was "good enough" to be with the Baby Jesus and his family in the stable. Still very sad over that. Will continue to move forward. I would like to share I felt just a hint of closeness to Jesus as I recieved Holy Comumion this past week. First time ever in my life. Thank you Jesus.

Looking back over the weeks of retreat, especially the last six weeks I pondered the questions that this week asked...""How much more do we understand who he is? How is our love growing?" Last week I was very much apart of the nativity scene. As a child I viewed this as the coziest scene in the world. There was a mother, a father and animals all aglow looking down lovingly at Baby Jesus. The love I felt for Baby Jesus was the love my mother and father reflected onto me. Next I reflected on the years of being a mother of small children and seeing the baby Jesus through the eyes of Mary and Joseph because I knew how much love my husband and I have for our children. These were touching scenes of love and warmth.Something interesting happened this week as I entered the scene along with the three wise men. I felt for the baby Jesus and all he would have to go through in this life. His crib became the cross and I felt such a sense of disappointment for all of the suffering Jesus entered into and for all the painful circumstances.God chose to put His Son in poverty to suffer, to be misunderstood, to serve and encourage. I find myself disappointed like the other Jews who wanted a savior more like Cesaer or Superman. I realize for the nativity scene to not be a disappointment for me at this present time a shift in vision is needed which requires greater trust and faith. For this fruit, I am grateful.
Week 15a. This week serves as a review for the the past weeks. Several thoughts came and went. God's love for me that Jesus, son of God, was born to save me. Mary's faith in accepting the mission.

This morning, a very strong feeling came. My anger towards my mother was so great. My reason told me that I did not not want to be troubled with my old memory but in reality I still feel the anger inside me. I think that's where I need to ask for God's help and grace. I need God's salvation in this area. Lord, have mercy on me.

The main grace that I believe I received in the review of Week 15a was to look back over all of my past sharings.  I am trying to share at the end of each week so this was a nice review of the last fifteen weeks of my journey.  There were many special graces that the Lord has blessed me with.  In our fast-paced multi-tasked world, it is easy to let some special moments slip into the background when they could bear much more fruit in the foreground of life.  This week enabled me to pull from the background some of those special moments of grace that have occurred in the last fifteen weeks.  It was nice!
I am grateful for this time to reflect back on the graces I  have received and to revisit areas that I need to delve a little deeper. Thank you for building this into the retreat.  This has been a rough week, many challenges, the in between time has been sparse.  During  a lunch break this week, I asked a mother who brings her young infant into my work almost every day, if  I could hold the baby.  She allowed me to, and there I was in the quiet of the room.  I sat quietly with the infant and kept thinking how Jesus became so vulnerable as a baby.   How  can I even grasp this?  God becoming so small, for us.  I feel small at times, weak, and when I looked at this infant  I  realized what a gift it is to be small and dependent on the One who made us. (Week 15A)
What a relief to have a week of review.  I have been keeping an online journal in bits and pieces throughout this retreat, but the further I get into the retreat the less time it seems that I have to write down my thoughts and feelings. Perhaps there is an element of fear there.  If I write down my reflections, that makes them more real in one sense.  Thoughts running around inside my head can be as wild as I like, but words on paper - or even on a screen - seem to acquire some weight which makes them more significant.
As I review the graces so far, I have to admit that I have come farther on the road to Jesus than I could ever have imagined by such a seemingly simple method as an online retreat.  And I am grateful that the journey continues and keeps going.  For while God might be an odd travel director by conventional standards, I find myself wanting nothing more than to continue this journey. Week 15a.

I wondered last week whether I was supposed to do weeks 15 and 15a at the same time, but decided to go the long way and do them separately (without looking ahead, that is). It is good that I did, for two reasons. First, it is clear that they are meant to be done one at a time, and second, I needed this time to look back over the first 15 weeks. The pictures helped, but what really did it for me was reading the sharing notes for those weeks. Some were recognizable as my own, but all brought back the images of the weeks. All also helped me see my progress. It amazes me to realize how much more at peace I am with myself and with Jesus. I have been praying all along for the grace of perseverance to finish all 34 weeks of this retreat, and now feel energized to continue and to stick with it. Lord, help me, I cannot do it without You. And thank You for the blessings You have bestowed on me.

For a couple of weeks my retreat stayed the 15th-a week. Just remained there and savored what I have received last weeks as the help said. And this week's retreat lead me to the deep contemplation. Especially I often contemplated the meaning of Jesus' poverty. I tried to find His coming into the poverty of my lives. As the time passed, My everyday's lives seem to make more connection with the graces that I have received through the journey.

Day 215 (review week - 15a)  I have been visiting Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the stable at Bethlehem. I have sat in awe of this Infant, a sign of God’s Love, (as all infants are, or should be), and thought of His life, together with Mary and Joseph. I tried not to think in terms of His Godliness (and their Saintliness), but rather of their humanity. I saw in Jesus a human being, who gradually came to know who He truly was, and His destiny. I saw in Mary and Joseph loving parents who surrendered themselves to the Holy Spirit, although they too were not sure of where It would lead them. I saw the Holy Spirit revealing to them what their lives were all about as day followed day, as event followed event, until that Last Day, when Jesus was crucified. "After this, aware that everything was finished, and in order that the scripture might be fulfilled", Jesus said, "I thirst". I thought of the moments just before His death, when he gave his mother Mary to his disciple John as her son, and to John, his mother Mary. I saw in this act Jesus’ love and concern for Mary. The future of a childless widow was not very promising in those times, and so Jesus, as his last act, ensured the safety of Mary, as he placed her in the care of John. Having followed the human Jesus from his birth to his death, I will, like his disciples, now glory in His resurrection, and adore and worship Him as God, the Second Person in the Blessed Trinity. I’m not sure if my thoughts are theologically correct, and hope they offend no one. It’s just my way of trying to understand, and distinguish the two natures of Jesus, and what it means to be "fully human" and "fully divine". 

Week 16

Week 16: This week as I reflected on Jesus growing up I thought about the incidents in his early ministry after he took up his calling. I asked … "what especially prepared you, Jesus, to heal … to anticipate the murmurings of the religious authorities … to see the fundamental goodness in disciples like Levi and the other disciples as well?" I think it broadened my view of Jesus. Somehow I always had thought of the miracles as having just occurred through some miraculous intervention of God working through and in Jesus. Similarly, in calling the disciples it was almost as if God the Father had "text messaged" Jesus with the signal … "that's the one". But looking at it from a developmental point of view, I see Jesus' "incarnated" much clearer.
Maybe he hung out with healers who knew the power of touch together with understanding the overall person's needs. Maybe he experimented with their theories. I also see Jesus following after Joseph and building a big barn for the landowner. "Why does he need so much space? He pays us with a small amount so we can bake bread but what will happen to all that wheat if he dies tonight?" they discuss on the way back. Then as Joseph sets out around the village and surrounding area … making repairs here and there Jesus accompanies him and talks to people. He finds that he listens and often he can get to the root of what their issues are and they appreciate this. They find they know themselves a lot more after talking with him. He sees family members missing when he returns to their homes and finds they have leprosy and so have departed and left the family. He feels the separation and knows instinctively that these are also fundamentally good people. Of course, we get a glimpse early in the Temple when Mary and Joseph go up to Jerusalem and we can imagine as he progresses he reads and discusses more. But he has a gift for understanding that Scripture is more than an intellectual exercise. He relates it to a burning sensation that he has about what God wants him to do and he sees that somehow it is and should be relevant to the people he meets in his travels around the village.
So I feel I see Jesus in more dimensions now and I ask for the grace that God will similarly use the developmental experiences in my life to manifest his kingdom and that I can help others find their gifts.

Week 16: I find entering into Jesus' "hidden years" particularly fruitful. Because the Gospels tell us so little, my imagination has freer rein. However, I've hit a snag that has set me wondering. I see Mary not as she appears in much medieval and current church art -- blond, serene, virginal -- but rather as a thin, wiry, dark-haired Hebrew girl, someone who matures into a strong, perhaps muscular young woman. A person who can haul water, carry firewood for the hearth. Someone who laughs easily, perhaps raises her voice now and then in irritation. And -- here comes the "snag" part -- I want to see her as the mother of many children, not just the mother of Jesus. Family life is complicated, hard, and I want Jesus to have siblings that he argues with, bumps up against. In other words, I want a "holy family" more like my own (I'm from a family of five children, had three children of my own, and am
grandmother to four). But if my imagining goes against orthodoxy, does that matter? I'm not sure. Mary IS the mother of many, Jesus IS the brother of us all. So I'll rest in that thought for a while.

I think of Mary holding and handling Jesus's "divine trust fund" for the early part of his life. She observed so many extraordinary things and what she did'nt see first hand Jesus told her about. Being w/o sin must of made Jesus different in many sublte ways. I see this making him feeling confused and alienated at times . So who else but mom would he talk to about his feelings. I see her being an ordinary mom but intelligent and ever growing in wisdom. Much of what she knew I see her keeping to herself when Jesus was a child. How could she burden a child with such wisdom. He need to play and explore so she held her own counsel and let Jesus be a child. While she confided in Joseph some she didn't want to burden him as well. My awe for Mary grew with this exercise. "Jesus I love your mom too. Thank you for giving me a little glimps of why You made her queen"
This type of imaginary sharing with Jesus is making me feel closer to Him. It's happening!

greetings to all of you . Week 16 remained rather hidden for me. and seemed to pass very quickly.i was at home a good deal alone . I think i was a little misled by reading too many other peoples ideas on Jesus life in those first formative years. esp as an adult. It took me a little from the images that were coming to me and i found a good deal of resistance to seeing him as a compliant carpenter and son in those times. i imagine he was always seen as a little odd. and i prefer to see him drifting off into ideas and thoughts and conversations than obeying social norms . it seems more likely to me. The time alone helped me to consider the work god does in the hidden times. like a volcano forming unseen by others really.
i was also seeing images which helped me greatly in my own life of a spirit come to earth in the babys body and learning all that was wonderful and terrible and ordinary about being human.
on one day i could almost see jesus saying to his father in heaven - well this looked like a good idea when we planned it - but FEELING and LIVING it is quite something else.
and i could sense the decisions made along the way. as to which way he would go. what pain and love he could handle. what foods he wanted to eat. Like a rolls royce come to earth in a mini minors body .
i have never quite been able to see god as human before. i could see god in a human body but this week i could see that he actually BECAME with all the crossroads we reach. Love to you all.
-- Nell from Tweed

Starting this week trying to reflect on Jesus’ hidden 30 years, I focus much on Jesus as a baby, probably because my daughter and her husband are expecting their first in June! It has been a long time since a baby has been in our lives for longer than a week or so; just a visit from family or friends who live far away. Imagining Jesus as a 3 or 4 month old baby brings a smile to my face! My own memories of my children as babies flow in and, then, I imagine Mary and Joseph laughing and treasuring each new and wonderful thing their baby, Jesus, does or learns…the “sweet baby cheeks” and hands and feet! Did Mary ever think ahead while kissing those sweet parts of Jesus…it’s a good thing that God only gives us what we are able to bear and reminds us not to worry about tomorrow…As I think of Jesus’ chubby baby hands, I am brought back to memories of my middle son, Steven, at the age I am imagining Jesus. Steven is preparing for the priesthood and one day while at Mass as our priest raised the Body of Christ during the Consecration, I pictured Steven’s baby hands that will someday be graced to do the same…tears flowed…tears of missing him so very far away, but, also, tears of joy and thanks for that vision. Then I imagined kissing baby Jesus’ sweet hands…His palms that would bear the nails one day, and the tears flow again…sorrow, sadness, then, joy and thanks for what this Holy Child did for me…for us. Prayers for you all. June
As much as I desired otherwise, Christ’s “hidden life” remains hidden for me. My imagination, usually active, yielded but two brief glimpses: a boy running, bare-chested, grinning broadly at me as I tried to keep up; the writing hand of same youth hovering over the “chai”, the Hebrew symbol for the word “life”. The only other fruit of this week came from watching some of my children’s best friends suffer under the advances of a bully. The school’s administration, cowed somehow by the bully’s parents, refused to do anything. So my children’s friends, under constant threat, had to leave the school. I kept thinking of how Christ grew up in the shadow of Roman occupation, how tax collectors and even temple leaders collaborated with the occupiers out of fear. Of course, even Christ had to flee them, living in Egypt—surely no welcoming refuge for a poor Jewish family. No images of Christ in exile came to me, though. Just the tears of my friends.-- Tom, Pennsylvania
Lord Jesus, This week I contemplated your life between birth and the recorded beginning of your ministry. What was your life like? How did you develop? I thought of the early days. I imagine that for 5 years or so you were a refugee in Egypt.Your memories of that time were probably vague as you developed. You would have remembered certainly that it was not a comfortable time. Your family met up with others in the desert. Yet you also remember it as a time of faithfulness. Joseph and Mary would tell you then and remind you so many times thereafter that this exile … this wandering … was an essential part of your faith history … God had been faithful in days past to the exiles and would continue to be today. You also remember how as a community of exiles you came together and shared. And the desert wasn’t such a bad place itself. Yes it could be bitterly cold … when the winds whipped up you remember how dusty it became and quite sore too … like hailstones … but when it was calm you remember the night sky and the vividness of the stars. You can’t remember what the wandering sapiential mystics of the time said but you could remember that you could see how they found God in the roughness and beauty of that place. When you returned to Nazareth you sometimes missed the vast quietness of the desert and later often sought out the hills to recover some of the prayerful beauty of quiet places.And when did you start to discover who was your ‘real’ Father? I imagine you in the years leading up to your 12th year. Now in Nazareth, you are surrounded by family … making new friends. These are also days when your religious education is more formal. You enjoy both the formal religious gatherings as well as demonstrations of your own parents worship at home. These are times when you feel a special “tug” of inspiration as you learn about scripture and even memorize Psalms and prophetic writings. Then there is the trip to Jerusalem. Many years afterwards as you talk to friends who have children you realize what worry you must have caused your parents. Yet you found the interaction in the Temple so stimulating you had lost track of time. You found that the learning and reflection that you had done in Nazareth resonated even with some of the more learned teachers of your day. You also knew that the “tug” that you felt when discussing scripture was something more exceptional. You felt a deep relationship to God your Father and you were now committing yourself to following that call.Nonetheless, you went back to Nazareth and for the next 5 years you worked and continued learning. You were certainly a leader as you matured. But you also enjoyed relating to people. Later you reached back to these experiences as you met people from all levels in your society. You remembered one of your friends who contacted leprosy and you remember feeling for him and his shame and isolation as well as the devastation on his family. You recalled later your friend Levi who took the easy route and became a tax collector. He had everything he needed with the exception of respect. But you remembered how he was fundamentally good and he was overjoyed when you accepted him back and you transformed his life. You also observed Joseph’s patient faithfulness. Through this you could more easily understand God as a God of Love and not a God of rules as some of the more pretentious religious leaders made Him out to be when they passed through.Then in your later adolescence you started to explore more of the wisdom movements that abounded at that time. Your cousin John was deeply involved in one by this time and sometimes you would visit and debate with the teachers around him. Your simplicity and willingness to get to the heart of the issue often made people call you”Teacher”, a label which you found hard to accept. Around this time you had a special conflict because Joseph passed away and you felt an obligation to look after your mother which you did. You continued the family business but you would find time to continue to explore the wisdom movements. Your mother appreciated your love for her and she also recognized that you had special gifts in making the scriptures come alive for people where they were and she encouraged you to continue to study with others, which you did. You were especially drawn to some Psalms … “In the written scroll it is prescribed for me, to do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart! I announce your justice in the vast assembly; and did not restrain my lips, as you, my Lord, know.” You thought of the scriptures that you carried in your heart and you imagined yourself speaking of them to your local assembly.At this time, you became more involved in the running debate about what kind of Messiah God would send. You found ironic that people would mix up their earthly hope … a Messiah who would free them from oppression … and maybe make them richer … with your reading of the God of Love. That “tug” that pulled you when you were 12 became more of a beckoning call. You discussed this with John and he recognized this was no normal call. The voice of God was indeed inside you because You are the Christ.Praise be to God.
I am in week 16 and reflectng on the hidden life of Jesus. While I was out walking this morning I was drawn to reflect on what Mary and Joseph must have felt as they searched for Jesus after the time in the temple. I work as a campus minister on a college campus and I was dealing with a student who was very depressed over his girlfriend's break-up with him. I had been working with him and having regular conversations with him trying to help him through it all. Something he said raised a concern and when I was not able to connect with him for over a day, I really panicked. I likened this experience to what May and Joseph must have felt when Jesus was missing. I was able to ask Mary to share what she went through with her son. I felt some of the same helplessness and worry, fear and concern that she did. The prayer experience brought me in touch with this whole time in Jesus' life.
-- Mary

Week 16: Six months ago my mother died after a short but traumatic illness. During her illness, and then grieving my loss, I knew Jesus so close to me, comforting me. I knew this too with each of my three miscarriages. But contemplating Christ's hidden years, especially his family life, I now understand how he could so comfort me. Before we hear of his cousin John's execution, and of his friend Lazarus' death, Jesus has already watched his beloved father grow old, become more and more dependent. He held his dying father. He buried his dead father and held his heartbroken mother. There is no pain he cannot touch because it has first touched him. Hallelujah.
Week 16 This is the first time I have been moved to share thoughts in the Retreat. What has caught my imagination is the period between the finding of Jesus in the Temple, "Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business" and the Baptism, "This is my Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased."One insight is that God's time and ours operate on a very different scale.
It could not have been that Jesus was not prepared to begin His ministry to us. It could only have been that we were not ready to accept His teaching.I constructed a scene in which John the Baptist and Jesus discuss the timing of the beginning of His public life. In today's vernacular, the time spent to make sure John was "on message" as he prepared the way. Fascinating to me if a bit secular.I was also able to reflect on conversations between Jesus and Mary about the coming events of the public life and the tests of endurance Mary would have to face as Jesus fulfilled His mission to redeem our souls.Thank you for the wonderful preparation for this wonderful week. I think I'll stay here a while and enjoy the fruits.

week 16 I have been thinking of Jesus growing up, wondering if he felt the responsibility of caring for his parents especially his earthly father Joseph. I imagine that he felt compelled to take care of Joseph in his old age. Keeping the business going when his father became to stiff with age to continue. Jesus respected Joseph, he couldn't abandoned him in his old age, it would be humiliating for Joseph to accept help from others except his family. Mary would accept care from others, women did. I imagine that Jesus understanding of his mission was a gradual process. That his Heavenly Father revealed it to him as needed. I too am gaining so much from this retreat, learning about myself, Jesus and my relationship with God. Thank you
It was interesting to contemplate the life that Jesus led before his public ministry in week sixteen of the Retreat.  One of the images that really stuck in my mind through the week was of a Jesus as a toddler running around the family dwelling just screaming in fun.  As I imagined Jesus maturing, I needed to keep in focus that Jesus was like us in everything except sin.  Therefore, since Jesus had many human experiences, he never did anything that would be sinful.  Another image that stood out to me was Jesus as a young adult as his friends were getting married.  He celebrated with them and rejoiced with them but somewhere deep inside himself he knew that having a wife was not something that he was called to do.  I sensed as he matured that he would get in touch with this place deep inside of Him where he could find his true self. Week 16
Getting closer to Jesus, the adult, is a chore for me.  I can feel close to God, but not to this older brother…maybe because I never had, or was, an older brother.  The exercise of trying to know and feel these things is the important part, though I can never know the Truth of it all this side of death, and maybe not ever. 

I have always loved the story of the birth, the bravery of the parents, their ability to be “pioneers” and camp outside, even while He was being born – the closeness to the Earth of that birth – the animals and shepherds.  As a child (and sometimes now) I always wanted to find the star on Christmas Eve – to know that it was The Star, and to have the level of understanding of the physical cosmos, and belief in the mysteries of heaven that seemed to be there in the Wise Men.

The part of Jesus, the boy, to which I relate, is that part that resembles Samuel – the part that wants to be in the temple, “about my Father’s business”.  I know what it is to be the oldest child - the pros and cons of caring for the younger siblings, having special responsibility.  Needing to learn my father’s craft would be such a gift – that wonderful smell of new-cut wood and of things coming together, as well as the comaraderie.  I can feel that close relationship with my mother, so close that some people would say boys shouldn’t be that gentle, that caring.  Being a boy is difficult for me to relate to, but in these things I can.

I can understand wanting to get away to learn more, to follow what is laid out for me, even though I am not quite sure yet what that may be – both excited by the possibilities and frightened of the danger. I know what it is to have people think I am wise, or brave, and to know for myself that I am anything but that. Week 16

One begins to do what one is to do in this life at age 30.  At least that's what we were told many years ago.  Of course that isn't always true.  It is sometimes, though.  It was true of Jesus.  Or was it?  A person with a "Doctorate" and I were talking.  I pointed out another possible interpretation of something this person saw in one way only.  The "Doctor" said, "I am right.  After all, I've been teaching this for more that 20 years."  We are always learning and doing, teaching and showing, aren't we?  Babies are wonderful learning experiences for parents.  I dare you to deny that!  People who are in their eighties sometimes change their minds, don't they?  It's true Mary and Joseph - and many others - taught Jesus.  It's also true He brought to the learning His abilities.  It's rather obvious both are needed: learning experiences and ability to learn and do.  Our environments, experiences and what we do, both, combine to "make" us what we are.  And, yet, there is somehow more to us than that.  There is a kind of unlimited thing, part of us, spirit, soul.  That's why thirty years or three years or even 30 minutes (or even three minutes?) are enough!  That spirit part exists in time and eternity.  God made us and supplies the experiences, gives us the example of Jesus.  We can do as He does.  We can rise again.  Thank God!
What a wonderful exercise this has been.  I found myself in the background of my day, thinking about Jesus in a new way .  The hidden life of Christ is so fascinating , I have often wondered about Jesus, but never used this imaginative exercise before so I did as best I could. The few graces I did receive while contemplating Jesus as a toddler, young boy , and very young adolescent make me love him even more.

I envisioned the inquisitive toddler , wide eyed and getting into everything, touching Joseph's tools, playing at Marys'' feet and being under foot.  I loved thinking of Him exploring this world . I then had a wonderful scene with Jesus as a young child  playing outside and taking giddy pleasure in watching a frog jump... then looking up close at a flower and loving all of nature.... playing and chasing a puppy or a sheep.  I saw a curly haired boy with dirt on his face, getting into everything that was available... so bright and inquisitive about everything.

I thought about Jesus being wide eyed, studying people, but in particular , Mary and Joseph ; watching them do their daily chores, how they responded  to family and friends with love and learning.  He must have loved being at Joseph's side as a young boy, wanted to help in the shop, and as most little boys do feel that Joseph was the smartest man in the world.

He was very bright, but not overly aggressive as a young child, that may have come as he needed to compete with the other young boys. He learned his prayers, the scriptures at his fathers side, Joseph took him to synagogue, what did he feel inside when he listened to the psalms? Did it strike a chord of deep familiarity, this is something in his very much apart of him?

I wondered how adolescence must have been like for Jesus, did he feel his oats a bit and rebel as most adolescences do... remember the temple? Did he feel a temptation to want boast or show how well he could do everything... He did everything well.

I was wondering how did he notice young women, did he compete for attention like the other boys?

I need more time... so much to meditate on...thank you for giving me this beautiful experience.

It would be great to continue to think on this and remember that Mary, Joseph helped form him and that he was delighted, frustrated, inquisitive, contemplative, sullen, and joyful in His hidden years and remained faithful and obedient always. 

Week 16. I did not feel too compelled to probe Christ’s hidden life this week, but maybe I did despite myself. I kept feeling content with the few snapshots of the flight to Egypt and the finding of Christ in the temple. For me these fragments did fit well with this week’s photograph of the dark-skinned, poor boy of about 11 years of age. It was truly a picture of the child Jesus. The picture gave a beautiful image to the fragments in scripture about the hidden life. This image did not allow me to enter a scene of the hidden life, but I did find a grace from the Holy Spirit. I recalled how often Jesus identified with children when he described the basics of faith, love, relationships and fidelity with God. I think he turned to children to pass-on his message because it was such a strong image for him. I am sure that it had to do with Mary’s ability to love. I am sure he experience the most perfect love any human has ever had for God in the way his mother loved him. Maybe, it became the perfect image of love for him: the love his mother gave to God in caring for him. Maybe that love was the example that allowed him to understand the importance of the cross.
When I imagined the scene of Mary and Joseph coming back to the temple to find Jesus, I could not help but think that I saw, after the initial worry and relief, Mary recognized in her Son a glimpse of coming of age and maturity.  Mary possibly even seemed somewhat pleased to find Jesus in these circumstances  instead of say playing with the other children His age in the market square.  I reasoned that Mary was not that much older than Jesus when she brought Him into this world.  Also by our present day standards Mary is still a young woman at this point. Admittedly I was reluctant about trying to image myself in the moments of the last few weeks.  I do not consider myself to have a free flowing imagination.  However, by accepting to go with the suggestions, the last few weeks exercises have been surprisingly insightful.

I am trying again.  I am beginning week 16 after several weeks of being "stuck ".  I have found other wonderful resources to fill the void during this time however, and praise God for the abundance of resources available in this country.  I thank God for the wonderful Christian friends in our Bible study, the obedient priests in our city and the opportunity to serve which allows me to see Christ in others. Praise God!

This is my 16th week of this wonderful retreat. What an incredible experience of exploring  and deepening my relationship with Jesus. It is so heartening to have so many people on this journey and so many people praying for me. I am praying for you also. God Bless and keep all of us.

I will be on retreat from January 3 to January 10 at a Trappist Monastery and will use week 16. I will not have internet access but would ask those making this week of retreat to remember me in their prayers and I promise to share upon my return. I will also pray each day for those who are praying for me.  Thank you, Maureen 

Week 17

Week 17: I recently made the decision to leave my job and organization that I've been part of for nearly 30 years and change my career. I feel I have battled for the last 5 years at least with the concrete challenge of "how do I define myself?" I was disappointed when I did not get selected as CEO 5 years ago. It felt like utter rejection and I was determined to find something that would equal the status. It was really only through going through this process that I discerned that leadership itself is a charism and so I needed to be guided by God as to where to deploy it. When I first told my boss about my decision I experienced first-hand the temptation of the "Evil One" (I'm not suggesting that he is the Evil One!). He told me that I should wait it out … there are more prestigious places where I could get a job … he would even help me … or if I remained with the firm I could make even more money and then use it for whatever purposes I wanted. I seriously thought about this for 24 hours. It was quite attractive. I hope I did make the right decision … certainly I made it resisting the temptation to hold out for more possessions or more prestige. Thank you for this Retreat.
Week 17: This is my third try at doing the on-line retreat and the attempt has been easier than the previous ones. That is, until now. I suspected I would hit a bumpy spot and week 17 is definitely it. It is so very hard for me to think of giving up "riches and honor," for they represent security -- and for some reason, security is very important to me. I am 70 years old, a widow, comfortably well off: good health, enough income, family and supportive community close by. I am intensely grateful for those blessings, but also fearful of losing them. What if health or money were to disappear? Would I still be able to praise God, thank Him for His many gifts, accept the life I would suddenly face? I don't know. Perhaps my faith is wispy, a product of overall good fortune. I recall vividly an incident from 20 years ago when I found myself in a local pharmacy. I was there to have my blood pressure tested and, standing in a long line, realized that almost everyone in the line was old (that is, older than I), and also a bit shabby looking. My immediate reaction was, "But I don't WANT to be old and poor. To be old and poor is to be looked down upon." What a revelation of my real values, as opposed to the values I professed! So now, I'm struggling with the "poverty, dishonor, humiliation" mantra. As some sharers have indicated, I don't see those three things as active goods to be pursued. Who wants to be poor, dishonored, humiliated? Rather, I see riches, honor, and pride as worldly "goods" that I must try to put aside, dampen down, trim back as far as I can in order to make room for the Lord and for the work that He wants me to do during the time that remains. Intellectually, I know that this process can be freeing. I never
felt lighter or less burdened than when I gave away what were, for me, significant amounts of money -- and did so with "no strings attached." Now, some years later, I can only pray for help in working toward the freedom that will allow me to truly follow Him.

Week 17: I am repeating this Retreat which I first did three years ago. This time in week 17, I see very clearly how much my desire for riches, pride and honor dictates my choices. It isn't about money or possessions for me, although I have more than enough, of these things. It is all about the approval and leadership status that I receive from doing the work that I do. It's so much about the recognition and affirmation that I consistently receive. It's about being seen by others as gifted and effective in my work. I see in this week of the Retreat, the strong hold that this desire has on me, because I can't easily bring myself to pray that God change this for me.
I am resisting spiritual poverty. Here is where the world has its hold on me. This is the place where I hold on to control in my life, and it must be the desire that has kept me from trusting God, more completely. I am humbled to understand this and I wonder if I will be given the grace to change. Maybe I will be able to pray about it after all.
-- Linda

Week 17: There is a Balm – a balm of Gilead – and so this retreat is a balm for my soul. After downloading week 17 – I realized I am walking with and through week 17 readings. I thought I was finally making it in life. I had finally accumulated 4 ½ years at one job ( I am in my 50’s) benefits, tuition reimbursement, started to actually finish my Master’s Degree, was a candidate for job promotion then…life changed. My mother was not doing well at assisted living anymore and we decided that it would be best to move her in with us. I don’t have blood relatives to help but managed to find community resources that can help me with my mother who has some dementia and long standing mental illness(chronic depression). My job did away with part time flex time hours and so I had to quit and recently took a part time job with less than half pay and no benefits – so that I could be close to home. This truly is a walk of faith and trust in God-I have been humbled. You see I am an ego maniac with low self esteem and I do believe that got finally got through to me that it isn’t what I do but what I am my character is what counts. I work with a young lady that is 30 years younger and she somehow got the life manual. She is able to do what I have finally learned this past month about human character and humility and simplicity. I am a very slowwwww learner.
greeting to you all. this week has touched me deeply. i was moved by the sharings and pleased to encounter others whose lives are seeming failures in the normal world. my own life through the series of decisions since i came into recovery has led me not to wealth , lovers or success - but to pension and humiliation and a very simple life. these were not the result of my greed or poor choices but it seems to me - the result of 18 years of consciously trying best as i have been able to follow the golden thread of gods leading. so i was pleased to hear of others who in the 'affluent' countries face the challenges of being amongst the almost unseen otherworld. the ones who often count for very little in the eyes of society - even their ' spiritual' society which for me is amongst recovering addicts .
" i have learned to be satisified with all that i have." was the saying which touched me the most. what an exciting life . wear the shoes of peace i read as well this week and for a non peaceful woman i was pleased tor realise that i do at least know what that means. dayenu. this is enough. this is good. yours with love.
-- nell from tweed

I am still in week 17 and it is as if I am paalyzed. Something I read stopped me dead in my tracks. I literally walked away from the retreat until this morning. It was then that I decided to write about my paralysis.
Up to this point the retreat has gone rather smoothly with new insights and new challenges, but when I reached this week, it was as if God was asking too much and I couldn't face it. (I know now that it wasn't God; it was my own pride and selfishness that was getting in the way of handing everything over to the Lord.)
Once I sat and prayed with all of that today, I had a renewed sense of beginning where I left off. With God on my side, I cannot go astray.
This was a powerful reminder to me of the presence of the evil one who desires to sidetrack me from what I know I want and desire--a deeper relationship with the Lord.
With all of that said, I feel I can pick up where I left off. It has been good to have a place to write about what is happening. I don't do it often but I do it when I know there has been something holding me back or there has been some breakthrough.
-- Mary

 Two ways of desiring? Actually, neither of your ways appeals to me. Riches, honor, pride? Don’t even speak to me of those things. I have voluntarily earned no income for the past ten years. My social status is somewhere between “invisible” and “disdained”. As for pride—who am I? I don’t even maintain a sense of identity solid enough on which to hang the trappings of pride. Am I conversely to desire poverty, dishonor, humiliation? No! Resoundingly no! That would be to desire injustice! If you do not believe me, then shall I bless you by offering to do unto you such as would impoverish you, dishonor you, humiliate you? Should I desire to impoverish, dishonor, humiliate Christ? Are we not members of his body? Is he not poor, dishonored, humiliated enough? While we accept our crosses to join with him and be like him and love through him, should we not also accept the riches of his creation, the honor of being heirs to the kingdom of heaven, the pride of knowing that in him, we are already seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven, loved and cherished by Mary, the angels and all the saints, and depended upon by the souls in purgatory for our prayers? This is the way I choose.
-- Tom, Pennsylvania

I found this week’s exercises challenging as I have when previously I used them. My temptation when I get to the part of the prayer “and physical poverty if that will advance God’s kingdom” is to add “but if you’ve got anyone else in mind maybe they would do a better job!” I need to sit longer with St Paul’s reflection, “I have learned to be satisfied with everything I have. I know what it is to be poor or to have plenty, and I have lived under all kind of conditions”. But I think I can get over that particular struggle. I think I can also get over the big battles over “How do I know who I am?” I can clearly relate to the forces of the world that have won over me at various times. In St Paul’s list of things in which the world wins in his letter to Galatians I think I can apply that list to me at some point in my life … maybe with the exception of witchcraft!But where I found the challenge this week is in the more subtle parts of responding to the various voices of the world that call me. The most subtle call is the call to busyness and goal achievement. Now I’m sure that I still hear my mother telling me that “idle hands are the devil’s plaything”. As we know having goals are good and keep one focused. But often for me they become an obsession that defines me. Then taking on more tasks becomes more important. Often these are good in themselves but taking on more for the sake of recognition and feedback creates an environment where I build up more anxiety … more impatience … and move further from God.Then there are the subtle pulls of wealth creation. It’s relatively easy to respond to the call to be generous but sometimes I think that response is closer to Saul’s response to Samuel (from Monday’s reading) when Samuel tells him he has been unjust in battle; “But we sacrificed to God the first spoils of our capture”. I think of my call to Leadership. I get depressed sometimes because I think I should have the top leadership role in my company or I could do a different, bigger role in another organization. Sometimes I even believe I deserve this. Of course, I can discipline myself and be very focused on what I have to do now for my colleagues. But I wonder about the more subtle aspects of this. Have I omitted chances to further God’s Kingdom and to respond to this call by ignoring opportunities purely because I wanted to preserve my economic interest? Of course, I can justify this and think of “what my family needs”. So pray that when that pull becomes especially tough I take the call of Jesus … stripped of arrogance or pride … maybe even foolish in some people’s eyes … but humbly placed behind his banner.
This, the 17th week, and only half way through it, has yeilded fruit. Up to this point, I have read most of the readings and engaged my imagination, my reason, and sometimes my memory, and its been OK but no real breakthroughs. But this week's opening summary, "Two Ways of Desiring," hit me right between the eyes. Giving up status based on material wealth, other people's opinions, and selfish impulses, and coming to rest in the reality of being God's beloved helped me to "see the light." Yesterday I experienced a long moment of peace and content, and I had a revelation that, in my past, Christ had manifested his goodness during a period of time when I was very far from the Church--such patience and incredible generosity! Anyhow, I just wanted to share that.


I have just started week 17 and realize how God is answering my desire to know him on a deeper level. When I first made this retreat in 2002, I prayed for actual poverty so that I could be more like Jesus who was born in the humble surroundings in Bethlehem. Today I realize how graciously God has answered my prayer. In May of 2004, my teaching job ended and my husband's salary was cut almost in half. This fall, my husband's salary was cut again. We now have exactly enough money to pay our bills from month to month barring any unexpected monetary expenses. For the past year I have been working actively as a counselor at a Pregnancy Crisis Center, and will be going to my first Right To Life march in Washington D.C. January 20. The fruits that have come from my desire to grow in my relation with Jesus has led to an authentic poverty of spirit and material wealth, which has been extremely humiliating for my husband and me. This has led both of us to a deeper sense of true humility and a greater love for the Lord and each other. We have to work together for financial survival. We have had to downsize all of our spending habits. This Christmas, for the first time in our lives, we adopted a poor family and brought a little joy into their lives. On January 6, we sent another load of supplies to them in honor of the Epiphany. This has brought deep satisfaction and grace into our lives. Each day has become an adventure as we continue to "Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus". Thank you again for making this retreat possible.
-- Sandy

After just chugging along for several weeks, this week hit like a brick wall. I read the readings on All Saints--funny that the Beatitudes was the Gospel reading for that day. A "God-incident" as my priest would call it?
At any rate, I think we need to be a bit careful here. Poverty and poverty in spirit are very different concepts. Although I know advertising media promotes the affluent lifestyle, on the flip side, I don't think anyone would argue that poverty itself is ennobling. Being in want often makes people mean and little. It's also a very different thing to choose, to voluntarily embrace poverty, versus it being forced on you. Lots to think about here.

week 17: I have been very empty the last few weeks, I have not been able to do the exercises as discribed. Maybe I am just too lazy. I want Jesus to be bigger than me always, I don't want to picture him as a baby very much.
It is hard to say that.
This weeks lesson is very interesting to me and seems to hit me right where I live. I am retired and living on just my social security check.
I don't manage it very well. I have spent long hours wishing for "more"
and tying to scheme ways to "get more".
I have things that I do, but don't get to seem important to others. I can see how I can feel very rewarded by just doing it now.
I have been invited to vacation in another state with some friends and have no cash to spend buying them thank you gifts or taking them out, that type of thing. It has put me in a very sad mood, to the point I didn;t want to go, along with my fear of flying. I have been just wanting it to be done and over with. I have a feeling now, that I can just go, put my trust in the Lord, and see how things will be just fine.
Just be grateful , just "be".
I think I am still very young in growing in this retreat. I will continue on and trust it is okay if I do that without "getting it perfect"
Peace to all who are also traveling this retreat.

Sometimes I think I am doing all the right things, I pray everyday, I ask the Lord to guide me, to help me make the right decisions etc. I tell him I want to do his will. Then I get hit with a curve ball. A problem that doesn't have an easy answer, one that involves enabling. Enabling seems so Christlike yet it doesn't solve any problems. You think you are being compassionate and helping yet the problem continues. And when you stop helping you feel so guilty. I have two such problems right now and I pray that God leads me and I hear and see the way he wants me to go. Week 17
Somewhere along the way I have stumbled. I have pulled back and tried to control. I guess it is because I feared where the retreat was leading me. This idea of independence is so strong yet I know the end result is so distructive. Why am I afraid to say yes and cross over? My faith is not strong enough to walk this walk, yet my yearning and searching is carrying me along. I simply don't feel worthy of God's love. Week 17
Week 17 This week's retreat seems over the top when it calls for an ". . . incredible desire for dishonor, humiliation, and contempt" in order to place oneself with Jesus. Ridding myself of arrogance, of pride, and preoccupation with material things okay -- but must I seek punishment to become humble? I'm either missing the point or simply not ready . . .

Early in the retreat there were some prayers from "Guerillas of Grace" (Ted Loder). There's one excerpt from the prayer "Gather Me to Be with You" that somehow helps this week:

"Oh Lord, release me
from the fears and guilts
which grip me so tightly;
from the expectations and opinions
which I so tightly grip,
that I may be open
to receiving what you give,
to risking something genuinely new,
to learning something refreshingly different."

I find myself stumbling on the retreat as I enter week 17. I understand what is being asked of me, and I understand my stopping place. For spiritual poverty I do pray and will continue to work. I understand that friendship with Jesus leads in that direction...always. I cannot pray for actual poverty, however. I have been there, and to that insecurity of the next meal, and the humiliation of asking for help. Voluntary, protected poverty is one thing, and I think the church did well in establishing a workable model of voluntary poverty in its orders. But not actual poverty. I don't think that anyone should pray for that.

So, I know where I am stopping on this retreat, at least this time, this year.
But wait, I am not stopping. There is plenty enough for me to work for in terms of spiritual poverty, that I am not actually at that crossroads, if there ever is again such a crossroad in my life. I may not get anywhere close to where other people get...let alone the ignatiuses of this life, but I am continuing....with God and me knowing I cannot pray for what I think is not good for me. Some of us have already lived more risks than what are healthy for us.

Through a difficult set of circumstances, I found the place in me that I call arrogance. That is what I am asked to give up for the Lord.

Week seventeen of the retreat caused me to look at my life and the desires that are part of it.  I knew that I too often act on my desire to achieve the recognition of others.  However, I was surprised to find throughout the week the multitude of my behaviors and responses that were part of my life in order to look good in the eyes of others.  I can feel the yearning in my heart for a detachment from all of this and the freedom that I can find only in God.  However, I am further away from this freedom and the desire for this freedom than  I thought I was.  I pray that God will help me to desire and ultimately live in the freedom that can come only from God.
During this week (17) ,  I have seen myself in a light that I do not always take the time to see, that is a quietly prideful person.  Pride as bragging has not been my style, but this week, I noticed times when I felt superior, or smug in my mind .  This week has really made me aware of a subtle sin, a sin that is very damaging to me and in my relationships.  I want to be more like Christ, and be more humble , and by that I mean open to God.

There is always a choice to be made day by day, moment by moment , and the seduction of pride, comforts, and putting myself first is there.  The choice of looking at Jesus's patterns of living and imitating these are my desire.

I love to meditate on Mary and I know that she will lead me closer to her Son .  She was humble and trusting in so many situations, she chose the good, never the easy.

Please give me the grace to choose  good over evil. Thank you for this week.

Week 17  Lord, take what I don’t need which is everything but you. More importantly Lord, remind me every day that I need nothing but you. Especially take those items of self-infatuation. Let me lean towards humility where peace is abound.
The 16th week of retreat lasted so long . At that time almost everyday I was so tired with my work and was always so busy. So I thought maybe I couldn't continue this retreat. But the 17th week's retreat gave me a chance to reflect on myself in everyday life. Then I realized that my busy works resulted from having something outside me affirm myself. they surely  must root in my desires-especially riches, pride- unlike the way of Jesues' desires. Now I'd like to newly start my retreat and live the way of Jesus' desires differently from my life before.

I'm on week 17 - two ways of desiring. I realise how much of my life, particularly in my work, is based on wanting honour, so that I fret and worry terribly when facing even mild failures and am envious of other people's successes. I don't know where I'm heading at the moment. Please pray for me.

The first full week of January (17) this retreat challenged us to think and pray about poverty, dishonor, and humility.  What a direct hit that was for me.  Through my mistakes (humiliation) I am possibly facing bankruptcy. Right now I am not able to keep up with the payments I owe to my creditors (poverty).  If indeed, after meeting with a counselor, I find out I will have to file for bankruptcy (dishonor), my spirits will be very low.  Some people might say I won't have any problems then, my debts will be wiped out.  However, it is something that will stay on my credit report for 10 years.  It will keep me from purchasing anything on time, particularly a car or house.  I have kicked myself enough, now I turn to God.  I thank God the Catholic Church has the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  It gives us a chance to start over and awakens God's Spirit within us.  I hope society will forgive me for not being able to pay my debts.  I feel broken, humiliated, and an outcast because of my problems. This week I respond to God.  I talk to Him and tell Him I want whatever will bring Him honor and glory.  I know my financial troubles have been the center of my life for a long time.  Now it is time to place God in the center.  All gifts come from Him.  I need only to place my total trust in Him. Most Gracious God, I beg your forgiveness for my failures in this life. Strengthen my resolve to trust in Your faithfulness to me.  May all that I do, all the lives I touch today, bring honor and glory to Your Sovereign Majesty.   Remind me often, You are near especially when my fears overwhelm me.  Thank You for loving me and for choosing me to be one of Your followers.  May I never forsake my promise to remain close to You.  Amen.
Although some parts of this retreat have been a blessing, many parts have been difficult.   The Annunciation stayed with me for over two weeks as I considered the greatness of Mary in her response --  and whether I am saying "yes" in accepting God's love in my life. As this new year begins, I pray to follow Mary's example of trust -- her trust in the Annunciation, in going to
Egypt, in letting Jesus go on His mission as a young man, and in standing at the cross.  None of these were easy things to do -- and would have been impossible if she didn't trust God.
As I considered "pride, honor, riches," (17) it came to me that Mary rejected all of them at the annunciation -- and her "yes" continued faithfully throughout her life.  She lived with humility, dishonor and poverty.  Actually desiring these things still seems alien to me, but it is becoming obvious that that is where dependence on God leads. 

Week 17a

This week (week 17 a) hasn’t seemed to go too well. There was so much going on at work that I didn’t have much background time to review. And I certainly did not find myself able to “smile inwardly with joy.” And I fell too often into my old patterns. I did keep trying to pull back into focus, but without too much success. Even my structured prayer was so distracted. But I realize the necessity to keep trying & to keep to my schedule of spiritual exercises even if they are not perfect. Then on Friday, something happened to remind me that God DOES take care of things, even the material ones related to everyday work. I think this was to show me that I do need to trust in God & He will provide. But, sadly, even though I recognized this, by the evening I was back in the rut of being overwhelmed & repeating the scenarios that overwhelmed me…my pride & desire for perfection, I have to do it all…the opposing forces!! I do not know if I am ready to go on to the next week.But wait…practical helps remind us that when we are moving toward the Lord & desiring to know Jesus, love Him, & follow Him we can expect that we will have conflicting desires & old habits that will become unreasonably more powerful just now. Although, I couldn’t “chase them away easily with a smile” I do recognize them as the devil’s work & ask Mary, Jesus, God our Father, & the Holy Spirit to help me to resist these patterns that are pulling me away from the poverty of spirit (humility, trust in God) that is Jesus’ way. Also, the other thought to remember is that our progress is by God’s gift. I just have to stay open & trusting that He who has brought me this far & given me so many graces in this retreat, will continue to help me move along this journey…at the pace He sees best for me. The inner joy that will come eventually is not dependent upon my successes, but upon my life being placed with Jesus, in God’s hands. So it is time to move to the next week & trust in God’s perfect & on-going love.A heartfelt thank you to those you make this retreat possible and to the fellow retreatants who remember each other in their prayers. Please continue to pray for me, as will do for you.
I have been praying for my 41 year old sister who has been spiraling down for sometime. She lives in a different state and removed from me physically but not spiritually. I have been praying for her and her daughter who are both in trouble again... but I know praying is not enough she needs some action on my part. This week I place all my sinful actions in responding to her before God and I ask his forgiveness but I also pray for his direction in the best way to help without enabling her further and without making my husband angry. She is such a lost soul and has taken her daughter down with her. Please pray for her as well Week 17a.
In the "For the Journey" section of Week 17a, there were a few powerful lines that stood out for me.  "Most of the great saints of history have had to live in the presence of their pasts.  They had to face how fragile their sense of fidelity might be."  What a comfort to be reminded of this.  I need to be able to live with all aspects of my past -- the good as well as the sinful.  I also need to be able to live with the possibility that I may not always make the right decisions and fall in to sin in the future.  There is a sense of freedom in realizing that.  Eight weeks ago I prayed for the strength, faith, and courage to live out my 'yes' to the Lord.  I know that I can not let past failures nor the possibility of future ones hold be prisoner.  I must always move forward and always try to do the right.  I have to trust that the Lord guides me and is pleased in my goodness and picks me up in my failures.
As our Lord faced the temptaions of this world, he also showed us how to overcome them because God is all powerful, and all power comes from Him for his glory and through Him through Jesus Our Lord, and empowerment of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. the evil ones continue to test God's followers by testing us as in the gospel of Mathew, to want power, fame, fortune, prestige of the world.

To OVERCOME these temptations, We focus on our all powerful Lord God, by trusting in God, that God will provide for all our temporal and well as spiritual needs and to keep in mind that things of this world do not last. To overcome the wants for worldly desires we, focus on service to others for by loving others we are loving God and doing His will. Thank you Blessed Trinity for guiding us in this journey. Amen  Week 17a

My state of life.  Sometimes I just don't see that "I have all I need." I can list things I don't have, that others have, and start down the road to desolation (are the ninth and tenth commandments meant to help us not go down this road?)  Wish I had more money, friendship, excitement...but I know I have good health, family, and an established career, one that was chosen wisely and carefully invested in over the years.  (You must have been guiding me, Lord!). I fight a daily panic to accomplish more, head off worries, and flee desolation...

But as I reflect I see the many comforts.  My desire now is to see the goodness of my daily life, and be thankful each day.  But since this has been a struggle for me on my own, Lord, I will need your help.

Week 17a, another ‘twofer’, and I can’t help but observe how few comments are found in this transition week. The week has been difficult for me, too, in that I have had less time than in other weeks to concentrate on the theme(s) of the week. It is another invitation to look back at our experience of the retreat so far. In many ways, I see that I have traveled far. At the same time, there is a sense in which I remain where I was at the start. Still a little reluctant to completely ‘let go and let God,’ yet much more aware of His presence and of His call to become what I was created to be. I struggle with my worldly life and its demands. I want to be more attentive to Christ but, like St. Paul, I continue to do the things I don’t want to do rather than the things I intend. I cannot do it alone as I have tried to do for so long. I need Christ. I pray for an ever-growing love for Him and His people, and for the grace to ‘do whatever He tells me.’

I'm stalled out here at week 17 review.  This retreat has been an awesome experience for my spiritual life.  It has really helped me become closer with God to the point that I may be afraid to go deeper, that he may tell me things I don't want to hear.  The graces that I have experienced are overwhelming.  I have and continue to receive more than I deserve.  Part of the problem is that I over commit myself and then everything I try to accomplish suffers.   I need to simplify things and re-prioritize my work tasks with I Am Third.   Reading the other sharing's has helped and I know that I need to spend more time sharing my faith with others in person.  I try to attend Mass on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 am and unfortunately missed both last week and this has compounded my problems. I know how important it is to keep with my prayer schedule and 'm committed to sticking with it and actually increasing prayer when things seem the most hectic.   Some of the Graces that I received just this last weekend; my three year old son sang me the first song that he has learned (I see Blue Skies), I spent some real quality time with my father, my wife was off on retreat for the weekend and she came home Sunday night aglow with the Lord, I went on a fantastic bike ride with my seven year old daughter and one of my best friends and his son on a warm sunny day and our Priest blessed my daughter at communion with the Eucharist, he has only done this one other time, she makes her first communion this May. 

Week 18

week 18. I have seen how lax I can get with prayer committments. God is so good to be with me but I don't always keep the door open. Fear of what could be expected, of losing control is a big part. At first I believed I could say this is wrong, take it, or I have this problem, take it. But lately, I need to let God dig into the pit of my soul and clean it out. I can't see what is there. Being totally open is hard in actuality, but at least I can say I want to be and ask God to continue to empty me, so I have room for Him. At times all I have left is to say continue, and trust that He will. This retreat allows me to do that and I am really grateful. 
greetings to you all. what a nice week this has given me . i stopped trying to get out of situations or to fix them this week and somehow was able to stand free in the unfreedom of the attachments. nothing outwardly has changed as yet but i have good deal more peace. waiting to move as god moves in me.
i can feel the anchor dragging me on the mud at the bottom of my life - nothing very sinister now - but still isolating me from god and you . this week i am able to trust that the master knows what to do about it.
-- yours Nell. from the Tweed

I thought that I was moving along rather nicely spiritually speaking until this week. I feel like the young man in the Gospel who simply had too much to give up in order to follow Christ. It is not material goods that are the problem for me. The thought of placing such complete trust in God's hands is terrifying, I know that I have trust issues in relationships...and they extend to all relationships. If you see this posting, say a little prayer with me that I have the grace to choose Christ and not trying to be in control.


Cast from me every evil
that stands in the way of my seeing you,
hearing, tasting, savoring, and touching you;
fearing and being mindful of you;
knowing, trusting, loving, and possessing you;
being conscious of your presence and, as far as may be, enjoying you.
As I read this portion of the prayer of detachment it occurred to me how difficult it is to use our five God-given senses to in turn experience God in sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. So much of my spirituality is in my "head." Is my "head" my hindrance? Lord, help me to explore other paths to a fuller experience of You.
Detachment can also be an attachment! I can be so busy shunning the world that I shun the Christ who lives in the heart of my neighbor. But to do all for the glory and honor of God, to live at the hand of the Lord—then I can approach even my enemies and do so with courage and peace. Not easy, but possible. I thank God for the grace to trust in him, be confident of his presence and act humbly in his will. -- Tom, Pennsylvania
Week 18: I continued reflecting on the tension between wealth and responding to God's call this week.Of the three ways of responding I am a master at procrastination. I think in my relationship to wealth it is easy to reach into a sense that wealth can be rationalized. Most of my rationalizations are self-serving. On the other hand, it is extremely hard to make some radical transformations in our communities without wealth creation. What I found more useful was reflecting on the third way of responding and making a plain statement, "My own wealth is not really mine; it's God's. I offer it up for His use in furthering His Kingdom". This leads to the question, "Is this the right way to invest for God?"; "By buying this am I spending God's money wisely?" Does this prevent me from being self-serving. No ... I'm certainly not there yet. But with God's grace I'm interested to see how this develops.

I also reflected on "busyness". What's going on with my attachment to getting things done? When I promise I'll do something about this I usually take on more ... maybe a new self-improvement scheme ... a new tape to listen to in the car. Then again, I can justify that I have to be busy to further God's Kingdom ... usually in this mode no one else is available ... and He has to be served .... or maybe I need the satisfaction of convincing myself that I'm worth something if I take on this responsibility and get one more thing done or one more goal achieved. In the third way of responding, I give my busyness to God ... maybe there are times when I need to be busy and times when I do not. Like my reflection on wealth ... "Time is not my time ... but God's time ... to be used in His service". .

Thank you for this exercise. Pray that I may find ways to further my detachment from whatever keeps me from God.

Another hard week. Hard not to inventory my failings, just to hold things up to God and say here it is, change it as/if you see fit for your glory.
I have not shared in a few weeks, I simply felt the need to view the thoughts of others and pray. This week I realized that since I began this retreat, many thoughts from my past which I had buried have surfaced - some painful, joyful, and sad. The most vivid thought recently was that of having to take total responsibility for my two little children from a painful marriage, since this was more than 30 years ago, I could not understand why this thought surfaced. I began to discern that it is all part of the cleansing, healing process of this retreat. Continuing the journey successfully means opening up and allowing the Holy Spirit to cleanse our mind, heart, and very soul of all that has held us captive. My 18 week and continuing.
Week 18... This was an awesome week for me. . . and Phillippians says it best "Christ has taken hold of me".
The three kinds of responses in week 18 made me look at the way that I handle certain things in my life.  I have many good intentions and desire to do many good and right things and to cease the behaviors that are not what they should be.  However, all too often I procrastinate beginning or fail to follow through.  They are quite often a part of my thoughts but the actions just do not materialize.  I plan and even desire to do them and just never seem to start or follow through with the good intentions.  This is the response I have to way too many things.  This response tends to lead to a sense of uneasiness.  I also sometimes rationalize as the second kind of response indicates.  But, in far too few instances I totally let go and hand it over to God's will.  This is by far the response that ends up bringing about the most happiness and peace.  The other two responses leave a sense of longing or a continued need for rationalization and these take away the sense of peace and happiness that can be found only when the situations are placed totally in God's hands.
The Prayer For Detachment stopped me.  It was a little like hitting a brick wall.

"Remove anything that makes me unworthy of your sight, your control, your reprehension, of your speech and conversation, of your benevolence and love."

That translates into: Remove anything that makes me not worth looking at, not worth taking charge of, not worth punishing or speaking to or speaking with, not worth your good wishes and not worth knowing, understanding, accepting and being involved with in any way at all.

"not worth looking at" means I want my God to remove whatever would make me completely disgusting.

"not worth taking charge of" means I want God to remove whatever would prevent God from saving me from destruction - as God so often does.

"not worth punishing" means I want God to remove what makes me God's child

"or speaking to or speaking with" means I want God to remove anything that would prevent my receiving the little (or big) nudges God gives me so often.

Here's where I hit the brick wall.  God made me to know, love and serve God; to be happy with God here and in heaven.  God also made me to know, to love and to serve.  In fact, Paul says nothing will ever separate us from the Love of God. Thank You, God, for brick walls.  Brick walls sometimes force us to reflect again on just why it's all worth Your while. Week 18

It has been a struggle during this week 18, "three ways of responses".  I am so filled with mixed thoughts, truly the gravitational pull is very much at work in my life.  I do want to follow God's will, but when my focus becomes on my self will, instead of focusing on Christ, I fall into patterns that depress, and humiliate me.

It seems that I need to keep my mind on God's being present with me in my struggles, that will allow me to keep focused on truly living that costly discipleship that I believe is needed in my response.  I have failed so many times, and I realize that I turn my back on God each time I respond in a deliberately defensive mode.  I beg for the grace to respond  to others as He wants me to , with compassion, understanding, and less protectiveness of my self will.  The one thing that I should keep in mind is , how am I serving God, in my interactions, and daily life?  Is this for God ? or is this to defend or protect myself interest.

I beg for the grace to look always to God , in all circumstances ,to realize that everything  can lead me closer to Him if I give it to Him to transform me.  I am in need of transformation, to keep the prize of eternal life always before me , to want only to please ,love , and give him praise.

I am feeling that He understands me, but I do not understand me ... a very hard week. Thanks for all of the readings and prayers.  This is a period of questioning how I can say I love God , but fail so often to trust, and live each day a worthy life .

As I near the end of week 18, I must say again how perfect God’s timing is. The focus this week on Jesus’s baptism and my response to His call fits so well with the readings for Mass this week. All call for courage in the face of opposition, and my life is in just such a position now. I need His grace to see me through, and my fear still holds me back. So far I’ve come, so much further I have yet to go. Lord, help me. You know how weak I am. Strengthen me, give me courage. I ache to do Your will, yet struggle. I feel like such a failure right now. How can I profess a faith at the same time knowing such fear? As a little girl’s father said in Scripture, “Lord, I do believe. Strengthen me in my unbelief.”
Week 18. Though this is only the first day of the week for me, I find this week amazing in several ways. First, it reminds me of how far I have yet to travel to become the person I believe Christ has called me to be. I know in my heart that I have come a long way since starting this retreat, yet fear remains with me. Second, the introductory sections for the week echo my life and my fears with remarkable accuracy. I so easily see myself on the shore watching Jesus’s baptism and wanting so to follow Him yet being so afraid to ‘take the plunge.’ Finally, I am at a crossroads in my life. There are several roads to choose from, and the one I am now on, which appeared so ‘safe’ just a short time ago is uncertain now.  I pray for the wisdom to accept what Christ wills for me, and ask all of those on this retreat to pray for me also. As I have written at least once before, “Here am I Lord, I long to do Your will. Give me the strength and courage to do so.”

Week 18. Hard to believe I am already half way through this retreat. The broken record in me about God’s timing again hits this week. With changes in my life at this time it is perfect for slowing down for a little reflection on the ‘first half’ and especially for seeking the grace to accept what God allows. I was surprised and relieved when I read the three response types Ignatius described concerning the resolutions we make. I know that in the past I have employed the first two, usually just doing nothing but often justifying my decision. I fully expected the third option would involve changing what I was doing. It was such a relief to learn that it instead involves opening myself to accept whatever comes. I must, of course, remain faithful and prayerful in choosing courses of action, but the key is that the major “action” I am asked to make is acceptance. I pray for that grace.

During the 18th week, I experinced how difficult it is to leave the natural laws of personal gravity and live more in keeping with the freedoms which Jesus offers. I have longed for being free before the attachtment and tried to be free. But at church meeting, I realized that I was never free after I excused loudly about the things that I had been responsible for. Even though the reason I am engaged in church activities is to serve God, I found I didn't get rid of my own self- absored pattern at all. And I realized all I have to desire to is only a grace from God. Now I can really speak '' My life is in God's hands." Frankly speaking, until now I was too stubborn to hear the way of Jesues' life

I have started out on week 18.   I am not a very persistent person.  I read the themes of the week.  I think I understand them.  Sometimes I do and that week really grabs me.  then I tail off and enter the next week half heartedly.  I know that I am not doing as well as I should because my early enthusiasm has waned.  And yet there is so much good to be found here.  I do squander the treasures that God showers on me.  Perhaps I should take myself away physically from my surroundings so that I can concentrate.  But I cannot justify it.  How can I leave my wife and family for a week or so in a retreat house?  I should not need to do that because it is all here in this site - the careful reflections from Fr. Gillick - the sharings - the readings - the guideposts - everything.  I do believe in the power of prayer so I earnestly beg all of you to pray for me.  And may God bless you all

I am starting week 18 of the retreat  and am being challenged to look at the rationalization and self will in my life.  I am hearing that call to trust God more deeply.  I have a sense that that God is calling me to confirm my life more closely with His will for me and I am both attracted to this calling and resistent to it.  I fear what He may ask me to give up, but I know from past experience, that He always replaces what He asks me to give up with something far better.  He asked me to give up my need to always be right in my relationship with my husband and has given me the wonderful intimate marriage that I could only dream about a few years back.  When I gave up trying to control my daughter and her drug usage, she has completely turned her life around and has become a source of great joy in my life.  With so many examples of God's way being so right for me, why do I still resist this call to conform my will to His?  I am asking Him for the willingness to trust him more and I as for your prayers, by fellow travelers.  May God bless each of you and may this be a fruitful week for all of us as we continue our journey on this retreat.

I am on my week 18 with this retreat.  Until now my mind is still on the reflections on the nativity scene. I am learning to embrace my humanity and accepting my shadows without neglecting the light. I am drawn to reflect more on what is God doing in my life at this point and gently accepts whatver comes. This is quite difficult for me, for I always want to be in control. I realized sometimes that even in my prayer that I want to control certain events in my life.  I am finding it difficult to let go and let God control my life. I rationalize my attachment to my money, I do not have much, that's why I have be selfish and I find myself refusing to help others financially. 
The retreat is helping me lot and on this week (18), I'm quite nervous on what to let go to attain that kind of freedom that Jesus had. It's a tall order for me. I am at a lost on what to do with my life. I lost my direction and my sense of purpose. This is not the life that I dreamed of.  Please pray for me.

I am in the eighteenth week of this retreat and I am writing in response to the first item in the August 25 posting.  I know about emptiness and the blank wall, which I first discovered almost fifteen years ago.  It took me a long time to get as much distance from the that emptiness as I now have -- years.  But I have not yet learned how to pray for someone else.  Even the great mystics seem to use prayer as a way of centering themselves rather than as a way of centering someone else.  I wish I could teach someone how to pray for themselves -- I just don't know how.  But the retreat is a really good place to start, and a really good place to establish the discipline of regular prayer.  Hope I can keep it up during the academic term.  Perhaps you will try to pray for me in this regard and together we will each discover something new about lives with Jesus at their center.

Week 19

Week 19. Jesus leaves home and is baptized. But Jesus left home once before. When He was 12 He left His parents to be about His Father's business. He went home though. It wasn't His time. He wasn't ready but He was so eager. At that time Mary and Joseph worried about Him. Now He was being baptized. I can imagine how Mary felt. As a mother, I wait for the day that I can say my children are ready to leave home, and I will help them, knowing that I have done all I could do. Two have already left, and two are still home. They knew when they had to go. They were restless and knew that they were ready to try to live their own life. Although it is not spoken, they go out to search and do what they were born to do. It must be a maternal instinct to hold onto children until that time comes. It is with mixed feelings that we let them go. We acknowledge and are proud that they can go out on their own, but we are also fearful for them because of what can be ahead. Mary soon showed her confidence. At the wedding at Cana she was the one who encouraged Jesus to perform His first miracle. Did she already know His place was to serve others? She too must have been prepared for this time of setting out. She too had to be brave and trust in God.
greetings to you all. ' to go somewhere different - you will have to take an entrance you have never used before ". i read that this week and spent most of the week figuratively sitting on the bank of the river jordan with my back against a tree. watching the baptisms and contemplating. it was a very pleasant week but i had trouble rousing myself to go down to the water. where i think the dirt of the road would be washed from me and i would be shown an entrance into the next stage of my life which i have never used before.
when i did go down - my eyes on john and jesus i was surprised to encounter many of the people from my life - my mum and dad and my dear friend roger who passed on a few years ago. various people i have known in other times and other places and then some people ive not yet met. all ready to be baptised into the next stage of their mission.
when i emerged from the water - i came out into colour and a sense of perfumes and dancing and jewellery which are things which dont feature on a grand scale in my life. but i came out into celebration and colour and honour.
and then i sensed that i was being sent back up my hill. this was the same feeling as with the nativity. that my part of the mission at this time was to STAY where i was. and keep the light burning. at most times in my life i have been called away with neither robe nor sandals.
but once again - i am staying put. i could feel the christ smiling on me. and the restfulness of being the elderwoman able to stay on the bank of the river for a time and watch the seekers come. and direct them and tell them about what i have seen. as a recovering image this sits very well with me.
so here i am. washed clean and blessed again. to this work which lacks much of the drama of other times and leaves me alone a good deal and has me restless but which is bringing me a quiet background peace when i accept what seems to be the mission i have been given for now.
my love to you all
Nell from the Tweed- Week 19

I cannot imagine that when Jesus left home to be baptized by John that it was a scene of any great drama. Departure seems the norm for Jesus. At the Annunciation, he leaves the glories of heaven behind to be enfleshed in the womb of Mary. How does Mary respond? She leaves her home in haste to help her cousin, Elizabeth. Jesus is born a stranger in the stable; he is taken to Jerusalem to be presented at the temple; he flees Herod’s slaughter of the innocents; he returns from Egypt to Nazareth; he goes to Jerusalem every year with his parents; as a youth, he stays behind in the temple unknown to his parents. All the JOYFUL mysteries of the rosary speak of departure, separation. So when Jesus left Mary that day, I imagine she was her joyful self, watching him go again, serene. And Jesus is just going again, as he always does. Perhaps it seems that he is off to another carpentry job that day. Jesus, being God, can hardly be surprised to see his cousin John in the water, but again, there is joy on his face as he sees this man he loves who so splendidly does the will of God. And so Jesus is happy to submit to him, despite John’s protests. John is joyful to see his cousin too, but his joy bears with it the weariness of being merely human. He has, after all, been standing in the brown waters of the Jordan day after day. Jesus, under water, holds his breath. Jesus, emerging from the water, embraces John with joy, nearly knocks him off his feet. They both almost laugh, but their joy is solemn, too. The dove descends and the voice of his father is heard, but Jesus has known these things all along. They are signs for everyone else, not for him. So he walks away wet, wondering if he should go home to change or just let the sun of his walking dry his clothes. Week 19-- Tom, Pennsylvania
I contemplated Jesus leaving home for His ministry and baptism. I see that this is a time He has really prepared for. I like to think that He and John have had some encounters before. Of course, He is settled in Nazareth and the older we get the more difficult it is to move on. He has become somewhat of a fixture in the village. No one has really noticed except Mary His mother that He has grown spiritually and changed.

I am drawn to think of Jesus setting out on His journey and wonder about him contempating the cross. Part of that is because when I think of the different transitions and journeys I have taken I have always encountered dark moments that cloud the anticipation I had desired at the onset. Despite this I have been graced in all these transitons. But I wonder if Jesus contemplates the Cross. Then I wonder if He more likely contemplates the resurrection. Walking with Him as He sees His ministry emerge in that light gives me encouragement and hope.

I wasn't feeling too well for parts of this wee and in a mood of some tiredness I watched Jesus's baptism. I like the image of light that emerges in this story. I thought of this last Friday after the rains cleared. Maybe it didn't happen quite like that on the Jordan when the clouds parted but from a mental and emotional point of view Jesus obtains a new clarity which shines around Him and infects everyone. But personally I am restless. One part of me wants to enter the water with Jesus. But I am really looking for immediate clarity as I emerge from the water. That clarity is probably self-serving. I want another position ... or my dreams of what I want to accomplish to be immediately apparent. When this doesn't happen I wallow in self-pity. I am more in need of Jesus's touch of renewal and of taking time to find balance as Jesus does in today's Gospel. With Jesus I recall that baptism is just the beginning of a journey. I ask for the grace of renewal to continue on the journey.

Week 19: This week entering the Jordan River with Jesus helps remind me to refocus on my own baptism. I joined the Catholic Church during Easter Vigil in 1998 and received Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist for the first time along with my husband and two children. I was searching at that time to know where and who God was, as this kept resurfacing in my mind after the death of my mother-in-law and several other trials. I remember however saying "yes" to Jesus to whatever path he chose for me. It was during the "laying of hands" that I first felt the real presence of God in my life. I felt "peace" and "freedom" for the first time. I had longed for peace for many yrs. after having been sexually abused as a teenager (incest) and it takes time to be healed from some emotional areas of feeling rooted in shame, etc. (And over time we can be attracted to many bad habits as a result.) This particular evening Jesus said, "Come follow Me, and I will Give you Peace". Like Mary, when the angel Gabriel spoke to her, I pondered for several weeks, over these words. However, everything I was doing and saying in my life began to change. I began teaching Sunday School, singing in the church choir, being a lector, and I wanted to know more about this new love I had for God and soon found myself beginning to leave myself behind and caring for others needs. Also, I felt a call to study and graduated from a Canadian University in
2001 with a Diploma in Ministry. Since all this, I have been wandering around in the desert for the past few months. But, I have learned the need to need others after having lost my employment and I experienced poverty in a real sense. On several occasions not knowing where the next meal would come from has enabled me to put my complete trust in God again and our God does provide us with our needs according to his riches for us. (Phil. 4:19) Also, I've learned that our happiness doesn't come from our careers, or materialism or people. And I'm starting to enjoy this more relaxed, simplier life that Jesus offers us. I started this retreat two yrs. ago and never completed it, but came back after an invitation from a friend. I pray for the courage to say "yes" once again to Jesus's calling and rid myself of the need to be in control, pride, fear, ego, selfishness, self-centeredness, etc., and/or anything else that prevents me from receiving the love that God wants to freely give me. I have enjoyed the sharing of others. Thank You. Let's continue to pray for each other during this special time of Lent.

Throughout Week 19 of the Retreat, I had a continual sense that Jesus had this deep knowing that compelled him through all his actions of leaving home, heading to the Jordan, and being baptized.  He just felt with all his being that this was what he had to do and everything was going to be alright as he did it.  This culminated in that deep inner joy, peace, exuberance, and contentment that I imagine he felt as he came out of the water and heard the message of his Father.
Week 19 As I imagine the near thirty old, Jesus, I see a beautiful strong man ; working, laughing , loving his life at home with his family and friends in the town of Nazareth.  He must have grown in wisdom before the Lord, taking in the love of Mary, Joseph, absorbing the Torah, seeking quiet to reflect on His persistent and growing desire to respond to His heavenly Father . It must have been a process, not a sudden one day saying "Well I'm off.."

He must have known that His love and awareness of His time had come. He no longer could contain His longing to heal and save His people...but  He might have torn feelings of how to say goodbye to the mother who knew Him better than anyone on earth.

He must have felt anticipation to begin His mission, but sorrow that He had to surrender so much to attend the call, the very reason for His birth. The parting must have been tearful, and bittersweet ;wanting to begin His mission, but longing to protect His mother from the hurt she would experience.

I imagine a fond farewell to a few of his closest friends,and a word of encouragement to them, that he would return...he would see them again, but in the meantime please look out for His mother.
Mary must have held Him in a tender ,but strong embrace to assure Him that she would be alright,even though her heart was breaking;tears fell ,but she did not cling,she did not protest.

Some people in the town were critical of Jesus, wondering who did He think he was to leave.  How could He leave Mary?  Did he not care for them? While others wished Him well, no one could possibly understand what He was about to begin.

So much to think about this week.   Thanks for guiding me through the beginning questions about Jesus beginning his journey to the Jordan.  It has allowed me to appreciate another side of Jesus that I never thought about too much before.

Reading the “In these and Similar Words” for the Baptism of Christ, I was made uncomfortable because it was not my image of Christ’s baptism. It is always puzzling to see someone else’s personal image of Christ when it is dissimilar to my own. For some unexplained reason, I expect us to all see Christ in the exact same way. Usually when I have this experience of doubt, I get over the fear and I am able to see a new aspect of the Lord because of that other person’s view. I gain a larger picture of Christ and of God. The “In these and Similar Words” focuses on the communal aspects of the Baptism. By entering the scene, the contemplator, talked and interacted with Christ. I, on the other hand, focused on the solemn side of the events. I was not granted the gift of entering the event. As an observer, I saw a man alone as he walked from his mother. He made a personal decision to leave his mother and to step into the waters of his public ministry. He walked away from the baptism alone, to be alone in the desert and to soak in the baptism. As he walks away from the Baptism he probably had some notion that this may be the last time on earth he can savor being be alone with God. From this point forward he will have little time alone with God because he will seek out and be sought out by all of humanity. And while he may be lonely, he will seldom alone after the time in the desert.I also focused on another point. I was moved when the Father confirms Christ’s baptism with words from heaven. There are many instances in the Old Testament where God speaks with a calling, confirmation, command or acclamation of covenant. There are not as many in the New Testament and this one seems special. In this instance when God speaks, it is like a recreation. At Jesus’ baptism, it is as if the world was born again in preparation of the confirmation of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. His baptism is like the “let there be light” that proceeds God final affirmation that “it was good.” 
     You were baptized in the waters of the River Jordan,
and became our Living Water.

     Your first miracle was to change water into wine,

at the wedding feast at Cana.

     You walked on the waters of the Sea of Galilee,

to give us faith.

     You washed the feet of your apostles,

to show us humility.

     You washed Your Hands,

to give us Your Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity,

in the Most Holy Eucharist.

     From the Cross, blood and water flowed from Your side,

to show us Your Love and Mercy.

     And You were washed and prepared for burial,

after You died on the Cross for us.

                                   Thank You Jesus

I have been following the retreat with the liturgical year, but week 19 has really stuck with me. The image of Jesus coming up out of the water after being baptized, shaking his head and laughing out of pure joy helped me realize just how human He really was. I had been praying so intensely to Jesus and through Mary and several of the saints that my daughter and her fiancée would be married in the church. This had been going on for several weeks. During week 19 she called and said everything was falling into place and they would be married within the good graces of the church. I got down on my knees and thanked all to whom I invoked help and especially to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. When I went to sleep that night, in the state before falling asleep, I had a vision. The saints, along with Jesus and Mary were laughing, dancing, and celebrating. They had brought a young couple closer to God and were in complete joy. We sometimes forget just how human they all were and they do understand our problems and needs. Thank-you to those who put this retreat together for the rest of us. You are doing great things and touching many hearts. 

I am in the 19th week of this retreat.  I know that everyone on this retreat is very busy and deeply involved with personal reconciliation.  I can only pray that each of you on this retreat will join me and lead otheres in the daily repetition of the Office Prayers of Saint Rose of Lima (August 30) for Lori Berenson, still imprisoned in Peru.  May we all pray that Christ will enter her heart and soul and that through this she may establish her case for pardon and be reunited with her family in the United States.

The guides (week 19) have been so helpful in contemplating the life, and especially baptism, of Jesus.  It is truly a grace to have found this online retreat, and the many treasures that lie there. 

 As I imagined Jesus leaving the well-known and comfortable routine of life in Nazareth, I could certainly relate!  After I retired from my job as a pastoral minister -- which was in itself a miracle job! -- I was led by the Spirit into working with children who need a neutral advocate in situations such as abuse, divorce, chemical dependency -- get the picture?

For a farm-wife with a comparatively healthy family background to become immersed in a world that I had previously only glimpsed on TV was about as great a change as anyone could imagine.  There are situations in which I can only be amazed at the goodness of God who sends caring social workers, attorneys and others who work in the court system, as well as therapists and counsellors who help the victims learn to survive and even thrive.  How humbling to have placed myself in God's hands and in turn find others placing themselves in my hands.  Only with God's help can I manage to continue, believing that there is a powerful source of Love who is constantly using us to bring good out of evil.  May all we do give praise to the Holy One.

I returned to my online retreat today (19) because I experienced such a wonderful closeness this afternoon as I gave blessings of the throat to people of my community. In praying with each of the people I felt like I was saying yes to following Jesus acknowledging that we rely on the intercession, love and call of God to do anything worthy in our lives and to have the continued health to do what he asks. I wanted each person to be strong and healthy to be a disciple of God, to do his work.  So when I returned to the retreat today and it spoke of the nourishment that we would receive in each opportunity to serve and choose service over self, I am moved to ask for the grace to hear the call to follow him and find the opportunity to choose to give as he has given to me, forgive as he has forgiven me. I ask for that grace to finally take me where I want and need to go. Bind my hands with the belt and take me where I do not seem to want to go alone. Blessed be God who loves me more than I ever imagined.

I think one of the most beautiful things about the Baptism of Jesus (19), and probably something of immense importance to him in facing his temptations, was the affirmation of him given by the Father ("This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.")  I believe it was the Father's affirmation of his belovedness which Jesus held onto during his temptations. That was the source of his strength to resist. I believe that it is when we truly believe in and accept our belovedness by the Father (and Jesus and Holy Spirit) that we can truly find the strength to better resist temptation to be unloving and also to give us strength, hope and desire to be more loving to others.

I'm living week 19 and identifying with the retreat section "In These or Similar Words."  I want so much to be close to Jesus and yet I find that I always stop short. I'm always creating a space so I can't get too close.  I usually just attribute it to the fact that I am so unworthy and yet now I realize that something else is holding me back.  I'm afraid of following.  I'm afraid of succeeding and afraid of failing. I'm too afraid of what it would mean for me to truly follow Jesus.  Once again I find that my focuse has changed to how I look, and what people would say about me. Why can't I keep the focuse on Jesus?  Why is it so hard to give Jesus my life? I offer my life quite often and then without notice I take it back. "Help me, Lord, to see what I need to do to truly follow you without getting sidetracked.  I love you so much and know that as long as my eyes and heart are set on you, I'm fine.  But the minute I begin to deviate from your path I get incredibly lost. When you look into my eyes and heart I feel overwhelmed, safe,free, and empowered by your love. I want to live in your gaze and learn to look only to you. When I turn to you I find the strength and courage to do your work, build your kingdom, and give you the glory. Help me to stay close. Please pray for me.  I will pray for you...

It is the 19th week of the retreat which has taken me more like 22-23 weeks. My less than perfect journey has nonetheless brought me more peace, excitement, nervous energy but in a more positive way. I feel the grace move in my life in the honesty and ability to reflect on the here and now. To be in the moment with more honesty and more focus on wanting to be more who I am and more deeply wanting to follow Christ, than focusing on issues that are surrounded with negativity and death of the spirit. In small ways I am feeling the light of the spirit in my life each day and am able to follow it. In the conversations, interactions, actions.  I am still afraid of being incapable of doing well what God may ask of me in following him but more open to the reality that he will not give me more than I can handle albeit with discomfort, pain, failure along with having the feeling that I am doing what he would have me do as he needs it to be done. He has worked that way before in my life and I am not sure I did what I was supposed to do but it seems that there is a pattern in my life of being put into difficult situations to set them back on track, to stand by those who are maligned unfairly, to be maligned for standing up. And yet through it all I have not been harmed by my "enemies" or those who would harm me. Even though I am sinful and weak and take three steps back for every step forward. I long for a closeness that I fear and feel unworthy of. I believe I will receive the grace I need to find my way in the darkness as I am called to leave the familiar and undertake the anointing I received in baptism once again or more deeply. I am ready to go but not sure if I will hear or recognize the call. I pray for that grace this week. To know where the work is in the vineyard and what labors are mine. My skills are so scattered and unfocused, in this world of specialization.  Where does a woman for all seasons serve? Lord show me the way.  
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