Sharing the Retreat
Weeks 16-17


Week 16

Week 16 - I can't contemplate Jesus' growing up without thinking of my own childhood. Reading others' reflections as an aid didn't trigger any imaginations either! Am I narcissistic! Wrapped up in selfish self?

Addressing this I am reminded of the intimations of a good friend, monk and sharer of his own contemplative life. He told me he thought Jesus was missing from home because he was with Joseph of Aramathea journeying across those ancient trade routes, across the Mediterranean to Cornwall in search of tin. We are told by some that Joseph was a blacksmith not a carpenter, so metal working was part of his trade. Jesus would have been familiar with this work as he watched Joseph work as a child.The need for metal would have been apparent.

Mary and Joseph would have encouraged the idea of Jesus to go with Joseph of Aramathea in order to broaden his outlook. Mary knew there was something of a mystery about Jesus from the time of his conception at the annunciation and presentation of him at the temple to Simeon with all that was said and with Anna present. Joseph complied with this mystery.

These two people, as we are told by holy scripture, were totally compliant with the Will of God. Like st Ignatius' 'take Lord and receive, all my Liberty, all my memory, my understanding and my entire will, all that I have you have given to me I now return to you, only give me your grace and my love of you for that is sufficient for me' applies.

This is not ignorance, far from it; it is the humility of these God given people created to show us the way. In doing so, we may in total imagination see our blessed child Jesus travelling afar.

What did he see? Well, not least, the wonders of his father's created world, not just as described in the Hebrew psalms, with which by this time he would have been familiar, but in total reality as the creation was revealed as he journeyed. Wonder, wonder of the Angels all about him! The seas, the mountains, the valleys, the rivers, displayed in the glorious light of the world about him.

Only later would the memories of his journeying be shown in taking up the scroll and reading his mission in the synagogue on his return.

Thanks be to God.

Before starting week 16 and after sharing weeks 15 and 15a, the revelation of real failure is upon me in that I am critical of others. 

Summing this up, whilst reading today's Sunday readings, I know that this nudging of the Holy Spirit during the week was right. Luis Rodriguez is so good to remind us that in all our failings, the source is from the heart. 

So I must make, not only amends, but consciously do something to correct the critical stance I take in regard to my behaviours towards others which come from the heart  lest all my devotions and pride in 'being good' lose their purpose and transparency. 

I have made the first steps towards correcting my behaviour towards others and feel confident to look at week 16!!

Thanks for the Graces received to write and I enjoin with all who read in love. Patricia

Week 16 — proves an enigma to me — try as you want Jesus is God and the second person of the Trinity — I would love to know much more about the hidden 30 years but quite frankly putting Jesus as another kid on the block who cheated at something stretches the imagination a bit — the hidden years a hidden for a reason — I have often wondered about the trip to Egypt and their lives in Egypt — the part that particularly disturbed is where I read that Jesus and His Father had to rethink something that they thought was a good idea at the time but needed tweeking!!! Excuse me is this the god we pray to and created the universe. Imagination is good and thinking about Mary pregnant is something that I never thought about — however, angels coming to you. Being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit etc. I am sure Mary and Joseph fully realized what needed to be done and kept all things in their heart — imagination is good and if it helps fine — but somewhere along the line while letting our imaginations run wild, we must realize that is God and not some 2 year old throwing a terrible twos tantrum — while I have learned much week 16, its readings and sharings have left me wondering if we truly understand what God has done for us — Remarkable, extraordinary, and loving — imagination about the lives they touched while in Egypt — imaginings what was God’s plan for Egypt and not somewhere else — are inviting — Jesus as a rough neck — bare chested stud — please!!!!!!!!!

This week, I reflected on Jesus as an adult to gather clues to His childhood.  I noticed an ongoing theme of love versus tradition and rules in the Gospels this week.  On Monday, all the people had to do was reach out and touch His cloak to be healed, Tuesday, He tells the Pharisees that their laws and traditions are actually causing them to go AGAINST God, then smack in the middle of the week, Jesus tells us that it is what comes out of our HEART that matters the most, Thursday, He goes against His culture to heal someone who has little more significance in society than a “dog”, He heals again on Friday saying, “Be opened!” and gives a man his ears and voice.  But Saturday sums up all for me!  Jesus says, "My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance."  Then He performs the miracle with which we are all familiar, feeding thousands of people with seven loaves of bread and two fish.  I’m not so focused on the miracle as the reason why Jesus chooses to perform the miracle.  I think what I want to say is that Jesus is what we might call a “softie”!  And there I see the kind of childhood He must have had. 

I was disciplining my own two and a half year old son earlier this week when I had this thought about Jesus being a bit of a “softie”.  I had just corrected my son for making too much noise in Church and we were having the follow-up staring contest.  I was able to keep a stern face for quite some time, but then I just couldn’t help it anymore and though I stifled the smile, my eyes must have given me away.  It was then that the thought occurred to me that perhaps caving in to love wasn’t so bad after all.  Perhaps it is even more important for me to do that as a parent than to be so obsessed with sticking to all the rules.  And I believe that is how Mary and Joseph must have parented Jesus, keeping Love at the center of their parenting, so much so that Jesus learned that at times, it would be NECESSARY for Him to break the rules in order to keep love at the center of His mission.  The people put their human need for food aside for three days just to hear God’s word.  Jesus, being in touch with their humanity and moved by their act of faith (call this their divinity?), did not leave them to starve.  He performed a miracle to satisfy the needs of the crowd, breaking the rules of nature and perhaps going against His own reluctance to perform miracles. - Week 16


Since I began this retreat my life has been completely changed.  Not because of the wonderful solace and understanding I have found here but more so because our 24 year old daughter has been diagnosed with what appears to be an incurable form of cancer.  She has gone from what we thought was a healthy, vibrant person to someone on death’s door in the space of 4 months.   As I read “For the Journey” for week 16, I cannot help but ask Mary’s question – Why?   I have not lost any faith in our Lord and I know his plan is infinitely wiser and better than mine but it is hard not having the knowledge yet as to Why our daughter must go through this.  Why not me instead of her?  We are praying for a miracle.  Now it seems only a miracle can save her earthly life.   My wife and I have taken our children to mass every Sunday of their adolescent lives and attempted to teach them about the comfort and love that comes from our faith.  I feel we didn’t do a great job in this endeavor.  Only one of our 4 children attends church and our ill daughter rejected the faith with a vengeance as a teenager.   If she loses her life on earth now, I wish I could somehow gain for her the comfort that I have found from our faith but I am scared to broach the subject with her for fear it won’t be the lovely experience I want it be for her.   So many conflicting feelings.  Please pray for her and pray for our family. May God bless each of you. -Week 16

The Holy Family suffered. They experienced danger from powerful sources. They experienced the fear of the unknown. But they kept to the path, even when they did not know or understand the full plan. They trusted God and His unfolding plan. God grant me the grace to trust your unfolding plan for me and my family. -Week 16

I wasn't expecting much this week. Although I have found fruit in imagining this period of Jesus' life before, for some reason I started out with low expectations about my imagination and God's power to challenge me. But I did find much fruit. I developed some vivid images of Jesus encountering people as he grew up. These encounters shaped the way he was able to deal with people in his ministry. I thought of hiow he develops love for everyday people as they went about their business, understanding the fears, loves, dilemmas and challenges they faced. I see him develop a sceptism about the really religious people who follow just rules for their own good. I then enter into conversation with Jesus about the experiences that have shaped me. I see that Jesus has many of the same experiences but that he is able to shape them in different ways as he brings God the Father into each encounter. How can I do this better? That is an area of challenge. I also ask Jesus where he finds the roots of his desire to reach out to the poor and needy and discuss where that emanates in my life. I find reassurance in Jesus' desire to see that I can still develop and still be challenged. -Week 16

Week 16: I wasn't expecting much this week.  Although I have found fruit in imagining this period of Jesus' life before, for some reason I started out with low expectations about my imagination and God's power to challenge me.  However,  I did find much fruit.  I developed some vivid images of Jesus encountering people as he grew up.  I imagine how these encounters shaped the way he was able to deal with people in his ministry.  I thought of how he develops love for everyday people as they went about their business, understanding the fears, loves, dilemmas and challenges they faced.  I see him develop a sceptism about the really religious people who follow just rules for their own good.  I then enter into conversation with Jesus about the experiences that have shaped me.  I see that Jesus has many of the same experiences but that he is able to shape them in different ways as he brings God the Father into each encounter.  How can I do this better? That is certainly an area of challenge. I also ask Jesus where he finds the roots of his desire to reach out to the poor and needy and discuss where that emanates in my life.  I find reassurance in Jesus' desire to see that I can still develop and still be challenged.

Week 16:  In 'these or similar thoughts' the storyline included an incident when as a child Jesus cheated at a game & Mary saw him.. I don't agree with that because Jesus was like us in every way but sin.  But it did prompt my thinking of how he would have responded to 'our everyday life situations'.. I can picture Jesus standing up for the one being bullied--every time. I can picture him running into Joseph's shop for his chores & carpentry lesson, maybe even a few minutes late because he was picking a handful of wildflowers for Mary. I can see him being inquisitive about the smallest wonders of God's world & getting muddy & dirty enjoying them all.  I can imagine him as a teenager being the one everyone loved to have around.. happy, appreciative, a peacemaker.. though all had had their comfort zone disturbed by him.  I can see him at Joseph's side, watching & learning, not just from Joseph but from all those around him, witnessing sin, perhaps a bit puzzled by it.. but as he grew 'in wisdom & stature' he would look at all of them, into their souls, justly, encouraging, forgiving.  Thank you God for the opportunities to know Jesus in a more personal way than ever before, our brother & our Lord.

Week 16: Reflecting on Jesus and his "hidden years" gives me the grace to realize that Jesus had to learn.  He was taught.  He made mistakes.  Mistakes are not necessarily sins.  He made a mistake assuming that his parents were expecting him to leave the family as soon as he was 12 and initiated as a man into the temple.  He made the mistake of not communicating with his parents about his desire to stay and be at the temple.  Did his parents make the mistake of not allowing him to stay at the temple and be educated by the priests?  We, as Catholics, hold true that Jesus led a sinless life, and so did Mary.  Yet, it is hard for me to think that they never made mistakes.  And I think that Jesus  staying behind in the Temple was a mistake that the exuberance of his youthfulness made.  He and his mother tried to understand, after the fact.  Isn't that how we often learn?  We learn by mistakes we make.  At times we are able to learn just by being taught, but even then, it is hard to conceive that there were no mistakes made by Jesus.  I praise God that not all my mistakes are sins.

Christine M.

Week 16 -  The Hidden years - A Carpenter's Son

      One insight which particularly struck me was when Joseph followed the angel's instruction to bundle up his family and leave for Egypt.  How many of us would hesitate leaving everything behind to follow a dream (?).  Yet with his faith tucked under his belt he went ahead, to a place they did not know where,  to live a life they did not know anything about.  He didn't have a computer to google where Egypt was in this world much less what kind of people the Egyptians were.  He didn't have relatives or friends who had been there to apprise him of what awaited his family there.    NOTHING!  And yet he followed on the strength of his faith on God.

     Lord,  you know that we are in the process of migrating.  The angel did not appear to us in a dream pointing  us where to go.  It appeared in the form of a job scarcity that led my husband to seek it away from home.  Now You are leading us  to join him there.  Away from our comfort zone.  I have been praying hard for this to come but when the approval came I received it with a mixture of happiness and loneliness.  I am sorry! I must have been sending mixed signals here.  Did Joseph think of all of these things when they traveled to Egypt for his family's safety?  Did he have a lot of emotional baggage to contend with before saying YES to You?  Thinking of what my husband had to endure when he decided to leave home for his family, I would say that Joseph,  like my husband,  just followed with nothing but faith.  And so should it be with me and my children.  Only faith will see us through.  Remind me of what's written in the scriptures:  " Be still and know that I am here."

     Help us Lord as we embark on our new journey.  You did not fail Joseph,  Jesus and Mary when they obeyed your order to go to Egypt.  Please do not fail us also,  I beg of you.

Week 16:  This is what I thought about the "hidden years" of Jesus.  I think He was a very charismatic child and adult.  How could it have been otherwise when Jesus would call to fishermen and say, "Come follow Me."  And they got up and left family, friends, and work and followed Him.  So I see Jesus as charismatic as a child and as a teenager.  He was a person with a welcoming smile and an open "come on let's go do something together" look on His face.  I also picture Jesus as being mature and smart for His age.  He possessed scriptural knowledge far beyond His age.  At 12 years old He was teaching Rabbis in the temple at Jerusalem.  I see Jesus as part of a large, loving family.  I think Jesus would be the leader in any group He was in.  I see Him as a child playing school with family and friends.  Jesus is the teacher or Rabbi, teaching scripture passages to His peers, practicing His preaching style on His family and friends that He will use latter in His life.  I also see Jesus as the one, especially in His teen years that keep all of His friends out of trouble.  When His friends suggest some "naughty" activity, Jesus uses His persuasive personality to gently suggest something better to do.  And being the natural leader of the group, they all follow Him.  In His childhood and teen years, Jesus honed the skills He would need as an adult to lead masses of people to God.  And He set an example for all of us to follow in His footsteps.


I thought I would share a prayer I wrote in my journal on 9/24 (about week 16 or so)

you have showed me the paths of power and success
and you have also led me down the path of love. 
From my heart I know which path I must choose.
I need to seek your guidance always and let your heart continue to speak to my heart,
in good times and bad and whether I achieve more or less
financial success.  You are awesome Lord.  Your love is amazing and your spirit is within me.
Stay with me Jesus, I want to be your friend, I want be open to your will today. 
I want to help show others what your heart is all about: 
pure love, goodness, mercy and unfailing strength.
I can only try, as I am weak and fall so short of who you want me to be, 
but I do pray for the grace that maybe just sometimes
others will get just a glimpse of you because of me.

God bless

Week 16: The Bible passage where Jesus is left behind and is found later in the temple has always bothered me, bit I accepted it. However when I try to be with Jesus during those three days, I immediately have serious problems. His talking with those in the temple is no problem. I had a son who at that age was very comfortable with adults (and they with him. It is when I get practical and wonder how did he eat? Where did he stay and sleep? Things were different then, but wouldn’t the adults wonder and ask why was he alone and where his parents were. What would he tell them? I can’t imagine a 12 year old boy not eating  for three days and hence when he did eat there would be the same problem with the adults not checking into his presence. Would he be accepted in the temple for three days. In other words “ being about his father’s business.” might make sense to him, but it should not have to the adults he encountered. As hard as I try, I cannot understand the behavior of the adults. Later my imagination shifts to why was the author inspired to put that little snippet of Jesus life in the Bible? The passage has always bothered me. He was human, but he was also God and would have to know that that would not sound like a loving response to his mother.  Perhaps the point is to remind us that he was both God and man.

Week 16: Joseph and Mary fulfilled all the requirements of the Jewish religious law, got Jesus circumcised and presented him to the Lord in the temple.

I wonder what Joseph and Mary might have thought and felt about Jesus? Mary was his mother, but Joseph was not his true father, only his foster father. They knew he was a special human, God’s son. Was this always in the background of their minds when they looked at him? Did they treat him differently from their own children that they had later? Did they feel the same kind of parental love towards him as for an ordinary child? Was there a certain feeling of reverence?

Jesus probably knew instinctively in his spirit and Mary and Joseph probably told him at a very early age that he was God’s son, not Joseph’s. Yet he respected them as his parents and was obedient to them. (Luke 2:51) As the Bible says that Jesus was sinless, he must have been a perfect child and adolescent boy. He had human feelings like all of us, but didn’t sin and never gave into temptation. He must have been such a kind, loving and gentle boy, just pleasant to have around. No sinful thought, word or deed – what characteristics does such a child have? Yet he went through the normal developmental stages.

Already from early childhood Jesus must have been really interested in hearing biblical stories about God and the history of his people. His parents must have taught him all they knew about God. He went regularly to the synagogue and listened to the teaching, probably more than other kids his age. At what stage did he start his “training” as a Rabbi and was invited to speak? Already in the age of twelve the religious leaders noticed extraordinary gifts and knowledge in him.

Twice it is mentioned in Luke 2 (v. 40, 52) that Jesus grew not only in stature, but in wisdom, and that God’s grace was upon him. That’s how every life should be – growing in wisdom under the umbrella of God’s grace!

Joseph must have taught Jesus his carpenter skills. Did they work daily together until Jesus started his public ministry in the age of 30?

I wonder why Jesus didn’t tell his parents that he would stay longer in the temple in Jerusalem after the Feast of the Passover. So they had to wander around for a few days until they found him and worried a lot. Was this not inconsiderate of Jesus? If I was in their place, I would have gotten upset about the fact that he didn’t inform them and caused them so much worry. I suppose if he had told them beforehand they might not have allowed him to stay on his own in the temple, so maybe this was the only way how he could stay there longer and listen to the teaching and conversations of the religious leaders? Or maybe he just assumed they would know as it was so normal for him to go to the temple and they knew who his real father was.

Mary collected various experiences with Jesus in her heart and kept thinking about them (v. 51) – a true introvert.

When I read these passages, I was attracted to the character of Simeon and couldn’t stop thinking about him. The Holy Spirit was on his life, had told him beforehand that he would see Christ before his death and prompted him to go to the temple at the time when Jesus was there. Simeon was really in tune with the Holy Spirit. He had the gift of prophecy and told what Jesus and Mary would experience in the future. I feel attracted to this closeness with God. I also want to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading like Simeon was. Listening to God - a topic that has been on my heart for a long time. I have experienced God’s guidance in daily life situations, but sometimes when I’m busy I feel that I’m emotionally and in my thoughts not really in tune with the Holy Spirit, so can’t always sense his guidance. I want to grow in that area.

Anna must have been a widow for more than fifty years. After her husband died she dedicated her whole life and time to God and just lived in the temple. It sounds a bit boring to fast, pray and worship all the time and not do anything else, but God obviously really met her, ministered to her, changed her and used her prayers. So she was really fulfilled in his presence and didn’t desire anything else. She also knew immediately from God who Jesus was. Nobody needed to tell Anna and Simeon about it, they just knew from God as their spirits were in line with God’s spirit. Anna didn’t just tell everybody about Jesus, but those who were waiting for his birth, who were spiritually ready for this news. This confirms to me that I need to be discerning who I tell about Jesus. There’s no need or use to tell everyone as people might not be open and ready to receive this news, but those who are spiritually open, who are searching and waiting.

Week 16: Jesus as I reflect on your “growing up” years, I am drawn to the adolescent years. This is easy for me as my husband and I are knee-deep raising two boys ages 12 and 16. I imagine you helping your mother cook, clean and care for others. I am sure she was one of the first to reach out to someone who was sick or lost a loved one. Did you help her bake and take food over to a grieving family? I can see you feeling compassion for their sorrow or pain. I can see you helping your father and observing how he treats his customers. He is a carpenter, one of those occupations that do not land one high on the scale of wealth and status yet someone who is needed. Like today’s plumber or electrician; people may not be impressed with their status until they need one desperately. I imagine your father coming quickly and quietly to help a rich man whose roof has collapsed. Not a word is spoken about how the rich man has been condescending to your family in the past. I imagine you and your parents living with the grace of humility. We never hear of Mary and Joseph boasting about their son! And they had an angel tell them he was the Son of God! Some people I know only need a small remark from a coach or high mark from a teacher to set them off. I imagine you being a good friend with an easy smile and not particularly picky about who is joining in your games. I imagine you playing like my boys do. No matter what toy or gadget is available to them, everything leads to a wrestling match with much laughter and action. Most of all, I imagine you left people with a sense of wanting you to come back. Not really in anything you said or did but in how they felt when you were around. That is what I imagined in my prayer today.
Week 16: This retreat journey is so full of surprises, within me and within the design or the architecture of the course you have laid out. Twice now I’ve felt I had lost the thread of my retreat because of life distractions, was ready to quit, and both times you folks and the Lord have said, “No JR, you can still continue the journey”.

The demon in me throughout my life is always trying to convince me that I don’t belong, that I’m the weird exception, the outsider, the unpicked in the land of the picked. As a new week starts is hesitate to sign on to the audio because what could be there for me. Yet, each week a part of me still wants to listen to the thoughts for the week for the journey. When I’m through listening, if I’m serious and truthful with myself there is always some dynamics in the week’s reflection which are touching me; even if it is just me remembering to say thank you to God for this retreat opportunity while I say my good night prayers. There’s usually much more.

In my spiritual living, both in the context of these retreat reflections and the spiritual mind I have with me through the day, I keep coming back to this true awe at the vastness of the Lord’s love and acceptance for me specifically by name, and for everybody in the world, throughout time. All I need is this simple willingness to be open, to try just little bit, and each time the Lord opens my heart and my eyes to magnificent life, tangible and real; not contrived.

It’s a challenge for me to get into these Gospel scene meditation that you often suggest. The nativity bit in the stable and the wet hay and all was really hard. Then I realized I wasn’t really trying. I thank you for the statements that this isn’t an intellectual exercise, because relieved of that pompous distraction I’ve come to hear your advice about using my imagination, and I know I have a pretty active one of those.

You have a wonderful ministry, and I am very thankful for your effort. Thanks for helping me open new horizons in my relationship with the Lord and in my spiritual journey. You’ve crafted a find retreat.
Week 16: By one of those small-scale miraculous coincidences, this week a friend has lent me a book called "Playful Parenting". As I read it, I find myself wondering how Mary and Joseph could ever have parented Jesus. It's daunting enough with a purely human child! I pray that this week will help me to see Jesus in my children more readily, and Mary and Joseph in my own parenting.
-- Liz

Week 16: I am not a theologian but it seems IN THESE OR SIMILAR WORDS the Dear Jesus letter reads, "Once you (Jesus) cheated in a race and Mary saw you do it." As I understand it cheating is a sin. Tempted to cheat is not a sin. I believe Jesus could have been tempted to cheat and made a choice not to cheat (sin). The sin is not in being tempted but in the choice one makes. My thought is that perhaps this line should be change in week 16 teachings. Peacefully yours, Elizabeth Paul

Week 16: I found this a fruitful week of reflection. I found myself coming back to three themes. I kept thinking of the utter faith in God of Mary and Joseph and the effect of that on the young Jesus. I think of how many anxieties we often go through as young children as we grow ... for example, imagining giants in the corner, fear of darkness. Jesus' early life was far from stable either so there would be even more opportunity to develop natural anxiety. And that is where I see Mary and Joseph's modelling ... not providing distractions but rather using these times to teach Jesus about utter faithfulness ... maybe Joseph or Mary tell him to "look at the sparrows ... they are fine ... God provides for them ... aren't you worth that much more?". Then I see Jesus as he grows immersed in relationships ... really relating to people, enjoying people and not fearful about his own image ... because of this he understands them more ... so that later ... he sees the core in others where others only see disease and sinfulness. But Jesus also learned to retreat from the busyness of these relationships and to refresh himself in contemplation and also further learning which he uses to confidently go forward on his ministry. I thank God for these images and ask that they help shape how I relate to others and my ministry.

My deepest desire is that my grandchildren know Christ. In the recommended readings this week, the phrase “and he went down with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them,” touched me deeply. Jesus, after letting his parents know that they were not his master (God the father was) returned with them. “He did not cling to divinity, but entered our human condition” (Phil. 2:6) As I struggle at this time with a daughter and grandkids that are part of a family (the other grandparents) that disdain the religious aspect of Christmas, my temptation is to anger and control – lashing out, judging, proclaiming “my truth” in an authoritarian way…In the scripture passage mentioned above, I travel with the twelve year old Christ-child “obedient” to the very human situation I find myself in (helpless!!!) I cannot force God’s hand. With the twelve year old Christ beside me, I pray to grow with Him “in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor” (Lk.2:52), obedient, in trust, to the contingency of my very human condition.
-- Anita
Week 16: I had some problems with this week, mostly because I didn't just want to "make up" stories about Jesus that probably would have never been possible. I've actually done that too much ( as American Catholics can be prone to), in my own religious practice. And so I thought I would search for some historical fiction about the child Jesus, but I didn't find anything immediately to read. So you can see that in a way I began this week off the mark, at least in the spirit in which the exercise was offered to us. And yet, grace was offered. The review week was still fresh in my mind, as was the Nativity week, and I was led to think about my own Catholic childhood. One of the strongest links we used to have as a faith, that set us apart, and presented us to the world as faith people, was something we once had in common with Jews of Jesus time. That is, there wasn't much separation between secular and faith life. Up until the '50s and '60s, Catholic kids went to Catholic schools, Catholic families had statues and plates and busts and holy water founts in their homes, and we had a strong strong emphasis on prayer--at home, at church, even in public. As a child, every day of my life was infused with being Catholic, as I imagine Jesus and His Holy Family were infused with Judaism. And although every Catholic my age can probably list the disadvantages of growing up this way--from the secrets we kept that are haunting us right now to the sometimes superficial ways we practiced our faith to the GUILT:)--I really hadn't examined until this week what might have been lost after those years. I think Pope John Paul II talked about it in his millenium letter, how there really are no longer cultures of nations totally blended with cultures of faith.I ended up with a kind of "homesickness" for those years, a realization that I had the chance to experience something special that I might well have shared with Jesus as a child. I mean, every day of my life, for at least as long as I was willing to pay attention to it, I was told how much God meant to me. Literally the breath of my life, without Whom I could not and would not exist. Every day I was reminded that God was thinking of me, and of every other living being too. How could that not have prepared and strengthened me, maybe even leading me toward the day when I would begin these exercises to "reschool" myself as an adult?And my mom still has the bust of the Blessed Mother, and the plates of the Holy See, God love her.
-- Kait
Over Christmas I found the retreats really helpful in getting more immersed in the familiar nativity story, to think more of both Mary and Joseph's role in bringing Jesus to birth and the care they gave him. More so in Week 16 when I looked more closely at the life of Jesus before he began his ministry. It was a period of our Lord's life that I had glossed over and never thought much about before, but I was more aware of how much Mary and Joseph had contributed, rather than looking directly at Jesus. I then began to wonder why I found it so difficult to look more closely at Jesus. Was I avoiding him and if so why? Was it to protect myself from getting to know him more closely, of loving him too much. Is this a defence mechanism to protect against any possibility of feeling pain (mainly through loss of the love I suspect, though why I would think that Jesus would stop loving me I do not know). I am so bound by fear and what other people think, that even if I do have times when this fear is broken it quickly returns. I am resolved to continue through the retreat and I am praying that as I continue my journey, my love for Jesus will grow and drown out this fear, and that I will respond to this by loving as he does. I do value your prayers.
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 THIS is the first time I share some thoughts. I am going to be 70 years old and desire to write some reflections on my faith journey.

THAT I may be open
To receive what you give
To receive something genuinely new
To learn something refreshing different

I will hold Jesus hand and walk in the direction that he guided me and not worry about what people say. I would like to continue to hear his voice and have courage to try something different. Please pray for me.

Weeks 17 and 17a:
Graces received these 2 weeks:
EVERYTHING is a gift from God, I have been chosen. Nothing I own or do to gain honour or praise from others is to be compared with the peace of knowing Gods love and mercy in my life. All I want is Gods love; by the bucketload!
Thank you so much for this wonderful retreat and the opportunity to learn about and come closer to my Lord and God.
Jane NZ

Week 17 - I am confused by the juxtaposition of this week because I don’t believe that God gave us each talents so that we might play “small” in life.  Wanting poverty that is.  We are here to improve the world by using our gifts - and for some, that may bring wealth, recognition and fame.  I believe the challenge is to remain humble and not enslaved by the trappings of ego.  The trick is to always remember that we need to be a light and the hands of God.  I am working on myself to be able to put situations in perspective, to resist being ego driven.  I am a leader at work - and it is important to give praise and recognition to others to encourage others development and attainment of goals.  Everyone wants to be happy and have enough - it’s everyone’s job and challenge to help those that need it.

Week 17 is a relief from the madness of this world/society that we live in.  The issue is trust.  Do I trust God enough to desire the very opposite of what the world says to desire?  To the degree that I can do this, I will find peace and freedom from anxiety. - Week 17

Good Morning. It's just after 11am here in a monastery in the south of England, U.K., where I come once a month and set before myself a chapter of your book, Retreat in the Real World, which adds up to my being on this particular retreat for nearly three years. I have to admit that when I get back into my parish, most of it feels as though it 'goes out the window' as I am absorbed into the problems and activities there. But saying that, I have found it a very rewarding experience. The 'Stable meditation' in the review after week 16, I used as a meditation on Christmas night which was really well received by the people. The Retreat has helped to give me a great deal in a healthy and a very positive way. Early on in my ministry I was a great devotee of Fr. John Powell S.J and Fr. Anthony de Mello S.J. They have and still are a great influence in my life. I mention this because I can sometimes sense them in the Retreat.
I have not finished yet, but I did want to say 'thank you'. I have recommended the book to a number of people.
God bless you all in this special ministry.
Father J - Week 17

The choice for today is not to plan, but to surrender. It is difficult. I look for patterns. It is safe for me. I am a bit accident prone, so I look for ways to keep me safe. I also know the beauty of discovery. Of meeting something good that is totally unplanned and undiscovered. I thank God for all the gift moments, the totally unplanned events and people and places that hastened to give me peace, comfort and protection. I also thank God for the handrails. For placing people and things that I could lean on when totally scared. I thank God for encouragements to let go. So I can swim and so I can fly.
The poverty, dishonor and humility of this week turned into fullness, hope and encouragement. I had no hand in it. God reached out and healed me. I am grateful. -Week 17

Today we are to review. As I look upon the lessons of the hidden life, I see a family that was threatened by much, by power, by exile, by not fully knowing, but a family that kept to the path and said Yes to the Almighty every time. As I think about poverty, dishonor and humility, I see a family who suffered that through the hidden and revealed years, but kept to God's path, their sense of fulfilling the Living Word in this life, as they moved towards Everlasting Life always their destination and their goal. -Week 17

I find this reflection on the two ways of desiring to be challenging. Ironically, I am listening to an audiobook about “managing your finances”. I notice that I won’t listen to this walking to Mass. Why is this? There is something about money that gets in the way of me putting on my spiritual guise as I enter mass. Maybe I feel guilty about what I have. Maybe this is an area in my life where I want to pretend I have control even if the truth is I often do not. I recognize that I am blessed with gift of ample if not huge wealth. Often, I have returned to this theme as to whether this is fair and whether I am using it correctly. I can sometimes pretend that it doesn’t matter. But that attitude of detachment sometimes hides a more subtle attitude to not pay attention to what I am doing with my money. So in meditating about the desire for wealth and honors I can see how they add up. I can also see where I can keep adding to my possessions … sometimes not just with money but also things to do … because these gain me recognition … so I accumulate too many things to do. But my pride keeps me from cutting back … on tasks and possessions.
So I spend a good part of the time relating to the second desire and to earnestly join Jesus who does not look to acquire more but to give more of himself; who does not desire comfort but accepts where he has to go. I feel what it is not to be honored … to be ignored at the very least, to be ridiculed and as Jesus was at the very end to be convicted and killed. What does it feel like to be stripped of everything? What does it feel like to be just in God’s presence and that’s it? What does it feel like to not even feel God’s presence but to know that He is present? I practice this. I am surprised I do find consolation here but I also recognize I still need to journey with Jesus to understand more.
I resolve that it is also fine and maybe very necessary to bring my financial planning concerns to God … what will it feel like doing that from the point of view of humility. How difficult it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. How clearly, I see Jesus’ rider that “with God nothing is impossible”. I just need to put my trust in Him. -Week 17

Week 17:
I have read many of the shared responses from week 17.  How relieved and affirmed I am to find I am not the only one who struggled mightily with the theme of this week.  For me it's not so much riches and stuff that attracts me but CONTROL.  I had been traveling along aware that I like to have control in my life, and then I come to this week and I can really see how much I cling to control and want it and am really afraid to surrender to God.  The voice that whispered in the garden and to Jesus in the desert whispers to me, too.  I find I approach my relationship with Jesus with my "To Do" list in hand, wanting to check off my progress, tally up my failures.  And then I see where that's going, and I have to admit I really don't want to surrender to Jesus.  BUT I DO.  And the struggle goes on!  And I take heart b/c "I am clothed with a robe of salvation" and I "bear on my head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name."  Isaiah61:10  Baruch 5:1-2.  "yet will I hope---"  like Thomas Merton.- Judy

Week 17:  Respectfully, I was shocked at the words this week.  Then I decided I did not understand any of the ideas and struggled for an understanding of what was being asked of me this week.  I know that I do not like to be around someone who is prideful and boasts about everything, nor do I like an arrogant person who thinks they are always better than.  They are hard to be around for long.  And for me Independence from God is a form of insanity-it will never work.  With that said,  I disagree with the words that were used as opposites to these words.  I do not understand dishonor, humiliation and contempt.  Again respectfully, I think a good word for the opposite of pride is humility.  Humility is far different than humiliation.  Humility is surrender of pride.  Humiliation suggests shame.  I don't think God wants us to be shamed but humble.  Jesus was meek and humble of heart.  I can accept humble.  Dishonor also bothers me.  Who is being dishonored and why?  I think it makes more sense to be humble, to surrender yourself to God's will, and to follow God's will for your life.  And I picked up that it was not poverty we were being asked to consider but a poverty of spirit.

I have spent years studying and meditating on surrender.  It is not easy to let go and let God work in your life.  But that is what I think is the essence of what is being asked of me this week.  I am being asked to completely surrender myself to God's will.  The desire to do God's will does make me feel closer to God.  And this is what leads to poverty of spirit.  In my experience when you can get to poverty of spirit, that is when God can begin to work with you.  When one is prideful, arrogant, and independent of God, God cannot work with you because you are not open to hear His voice calling you.  Once you surrender to God, are humble, and are willing and open to do God's will, then God can work with and through you.  I have also found that the "stuff"  I accumulate is just "stuff".  When I learned to want what I had, instead of having what I wanted, I became content.  When I became content I was given peace and serenity.  When I felt peace and serenity, I found joy of life-and that is truly a wonderful place to be.  For me the "good stuff" started with openness to God's will for me and the willingness to carry out what I was asked to do.  And on top of it all, I have nothing to fear because God walks with me every step of the way. 

Please pray for me.  This was a tough week to figure out for me.


Week 17a-   The Graces Take us Deeper

           As I review the past two weeks  where my relationship with God has taken me,  I was struck with this message:  " This is good.  This is right.  This is from me.  Trust it."

          For the past month I have been experiencing anxiety.  Nervous.  And then I read that message.  What is good?  my nervousness?  Which is right?  my nervousness?  Is this from You?  Why should I trust it?  If I go to a medical doctor he might all those unnecessary pills to calm me down.  I forget that there is a Doctor among all doctors and He will make me well.  So everytime I get nervous,  I utter the name of Jesus.  And it goes away.  

          Our lawyer has told us that one of my kids cannot come with us to the land of milk and honey.  He has past the required age.  We were downcast.  I cannot leave him.  I don't want to leave him. Can a mother leave her child?    Is this the message?  What is good about leaving my kid?  What is right about it?  Are You allowing this separation?  Should I trust our being away from each other?  I thought everything is as smooth as silk already.  That You ,  my Lord,  are paving the way for our being together as a family again.    

           But if You say that it is good,  it is right,  it is from you therefore I should trust it,  then help me,  help me to see what is good,  what is right.  Help me to see that it's from you and more than anything else,   help me to trust.  Isn't this the spiritual poverty I have been praying for?  The simplicity of just waiting for your answer and the humility of accepting it.  The complete abandonment to God.  This is hard!

Week 17 - Two Ways of Desiring

The reflection for this week talks about desiring which leads to riches,  honor and pride.  More, more,  more.  Who doesn't want to be well provided for till the end of time?  Who runs away from honor?  What's wrong with being proud of who you are?    Everything,  as in everything is wrong with those desires.  If we cling to them as if they're the last straw on earth,  then we are in great danger.  For those are not the desires that God wants us to have.  For us He wants poverty,  dishonor and humility.  A 360 degree turn!  That's tough.  That's hard.  No wonder there are very few real Christians. 

Spiritual poverty is what drove me to go on this online retreat.  I feel there's so much much more to learn about my faith.  I'm still in the prep level if this were a school. Help me.   Increase my faith ,  Lord!   The forces of darkness is always out there but it has no power over the immensity of God's grace!  Protect me Lord!  Protect my family,  Lord!

I am not asking Lord for an overabundance of resources.  Just enough for my family.  Just enough so that in our twilight years we will not be dependent on our kids for our needs.   At my age,  my friends are retiring already.  But not in my case,  I have to plow and plow for our daily sustenance.  Thank you Lord!  because at my age also,  some of my officemates have  gone ahead to eternity but look at me.  Still plowing and plowing.  Enjoying the fruits of the talents you have given me.  If there is still something out there for me from my parents, then I thank you too.  If there's none,  I still thank you.  Not my will but Yours be done.  These are my concerns,  Lord.  The rest is up to you.

Week 17

Certainty beckons,
                  uncertainty disquiets.
Help me to trust You.

-Ellen H

Week 17: This Poverty, and the call to Poverty....are unsettling, to say the least!  I lived for more than a decade in REAL transportation, no medical insurance, no job. I could go into detail, and am tempted to, but I'm realizing that would be pride....amazing, to be proud of the "hard times" I've survived!  which makes me tempted to even greater pride about where I've come to: education, more food shelter, etc than any one person needs.
So I thought this week was asking me to pray for a return to that REAL poverty...I panic at the thought! those were not just tough years, but anxious, resentful years....although not without Grace.  So what is this poverty I'm called to pray for?  There's always a danger of dismissing the suffering of the poor by focusing on "spiritual poverty"...  But I begin to hear that this call to poverty is about loosing the "ownership" of what God has given me.  This education, these comforts and securities are not about me...the respect of my colleagues and friends are about them encountering the shadow of God over me....and that respect for what looks like me, could go at any moment. 
This call to poverty is unsettling in several ways.  Jesus, please give me the grace!

Week 17:I arrived at the week’s end realizing that my arrogance is such that I think I should receive eternal life with God even if I do it all my way – not follow Jesus. Once during the week I prayed: Please, God, give me the grace to imitate Jesus in all things, even those that frighten me including not having sex “on demand,” sleeping outside, backpack my constant companion, public showers with the homeless, shelter on cold nights with drunks and mentally ill people and the daily meal at the same place with the hustlers, prison escapees, and gang members in hiding, receiving health care from practitioners and in facilities for the indigent.This prayer seemed to open my eyes – if I am afraid of these services and facilities for the homeless and indigent, how can I make it so those that are receiving those services are not afraid? My silent, unmentionable desire is that I want to close my eyes again – I don’t want to confront or act on what I see...
Strangely, I also arrived at week’s end feeling closer to Jesus as I read and listened to the scriptures.I don’t know how all this came together or where it will go. I feel very scared; I am acting arrogant; I am questioning what I see around me; I feel closer to Jesus.-- Joe
I understand poverty, I grew up poor, at times in my marriage we were poor, my husband was an alcoholic/drug addict and all money our went to support his addictions. Even though I had a part time job, there were times when I had no food for my children and had to humble myself to call my mother to help, and of course she was furious. We divorced, our marriage was annulled, I went to work fulltime, but I was not in touch with my God, and so I just went through life one step, day at a time. As I look back now I can see where God was, but back then I just depended on myself or so I thought, he was there. For a while, I thought I needed material things to be happy and whole. I compared myself to my brothers and sister who are relatively successful, in life and possessions, and I felt less than they. So, I finished college, got a decent job, and there was still this emptiness. It's taken a few years, but I now realize what that emptiness was, it was a life without, without God, without love, without humility. Now that I've given my life totally to him, I'm so happy so joyful. My family thinks I'm so naive, that I look at the world differently than most, but they just don't understand. I'm not naive in the sense that life won't have it's detours, some painful, some joyful, but I never want to be without God ever again, he's with me through the hurt as well as the happiness. I now pray that he leads me to help someone else in some way, to use me for his mission. I hope I recognize what it is. Peace and blessings to you all, you're all in my prayers. Patti
Week 17: I'm starting week 17 and I have read some of the Sharing about week 17 & agree with a number of those who find this very difficult & disturbing. I'm 73 and until I turned 58 God was a fearful, punishing God. Love was not in the picture, spiritually or physically. I discovered the "God that loves" in a visit to a Charismatic prayer group. I am no longer involved but having gone there for 2 years made a tremendous change in my life. I had low self-esteem & this Good News helped me tremendously. I am most uncomfortable with the directions given for week 17. I do not plan to drop out of this Retreat but will have to do a lot of praying this week & see what happens. This Onlline Retreat is "home" to me. -- Jean
Week 17 The idea of poverty, dishonor, and humility is a great relief to me. Not to have to strive to be "important" or powerful or rich is liberating. It is liberating not to be looking for acknowledgement, or competing for attention. Although I have heard these ideas before, they somehow sunk in this week.
In praying through and starting to experience week seventeen of this retreat, I was startled by words that bothered me. I have read that if we are to seek peace her in this world, we must restructure our language to one of peace. Under Practical Help for Getting Started this Week, I read "Our Christian faith tradition has long pictured this struggle as a Battle being waged for our souls. Our effort this week is to understand the movements at work in this spiritual warfare." Perhaps, for me, one way to simplify my life--to work for poverty, dishonor, humility might be to prayerfully consider other words to use that would be less confrontative and say what is meant but in a peaceable way. My pray will be to think of this each day as I strive for peace in my small piece of this wonderful world. Thank you.
Week 17: I find the reflection on the Two Ways of Desiring challenging. I recognize that one of the seductive voices I fall for is the voice that tells me I can be perfect ... improve ... be happy. One metaphor that sticks with me is how I collect gadgets. I am an "early adoptor" and each new gadget I believe will make me more efficient or effective. Indeed, some do ... but a great many pass on. Similarly, in other places in my life and particularly in my spiritual life I collect "things" to make me improve ... to be happy ... to be successful. In themselves these are not too bad until I see that they lie around the rooms of my life on my terms. There is a quite a bit of clutter in these rooms. But what would happen if I just sat here and let them all go? I don't like being dependent. But I remember when I ran marathons that after crossing the finishing line there were lots of people ready to help you, take you by the arm, guide you to a place to rest that during the race you would have resisted, but in your tiredness you are grateful for. Maybe that's where I need to start in my spiritual life ... humbly asking God to guide me, resting on Him in dependence. Then what would happen if I were not successful or not delirously happy? I fear the word "dishonor" but I would be resting with God. What if I had no more gadgets ... real or imaginary? Then I pray that I would be free to hear and feel where God wants me to go onto next.

Week 17: This is the most powerful week yet drawing me like the magi to the baby Christ and His birthplace for adoration and worship

Week 17 has been very hard for me, and I am not sure why. Being 75, with somewhat limited physical abilities, I am looking to an unknown future both physically and financially. Hopefully the weeks ahead will give me answers to this confusion.

Week 17: I have been trying to understand this week how it is possible to desire humiliation without falling into the trap of self-loathing - a real danger for those of us with a history of depression and/or eating disorders. I'm not sure I'm getting very far with that, but I'm taking baby steps in the right direction. I found the courage this week to withdraw from a project that was stressing me, because I realised I was in it mostly to enhance my reputation. I've also been thinking a lot about how I see myself and trying to detach myself from unrealistic identities and self-images - things which create false desires in me that I can't fulfil and that would probably be bad for me if I did manage it. I think that has started me on a path that will be a blessing.

Week 17: 2Cor.13:11 spoke deeply to me of blessing…”put things in order.” It was time to act. It was time to be firm.
The grace this week – as I struggled with a community member disturbing long-time good and creating mistrust and anxiety - was the strength to “call the person back”. Phil.4:11 “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”, (from the recommended readings this week) spoke to me of courage. On a deeper level, the struggle was with my own personal integrity. My gut feeling about this person was mistrust from the beginning, and I went against my better judgment in accepting him. I had to let him and then the community know where I stand. “What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves.” Lk 9:25
This week was a call to action out of deep listening.
-- Anita

Week 17: This is my first sharing. The fear of putting spirituality into writing is that it confirms a commitment followed by a responsibility and finnalt an accounability. So what this lesson has revealed to me by the grace of God is that I have built a fortress on the world in all my other accountabilities. So being in the confines of riches, honoe and pride every thing just seemed normal. Then came fear of chafe tather than patience with the present and waiting on God. As I try and have tried to break the walls of the worls I have found how sturdy of a structure I was encapsulated within. The world I slowly buildt brick by brick. Now I will pray and wait as only by the grace of God can this sinner be saver. The walls are think for this creature.
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 17: I find this reflection on the two ways of desiring to be challenging.  Ironically, I am listening to an audiobook about “managing your finances”.  I notice that I won’t listen to this walking to Mass.  Why is this?  There is something about money that gets in the way of me putting on my spiritual guise as I enter mass.  Maybe I feel guilty about what I have.  Maybe this is an area in my life where I want to pretend I have control even if the truth is I often do not.   I recognize that I am blessed with gift of ample if not huge wealth.  Often, I have returned to this theme as to whether this is fair and whether I am using it correctly.  I can sometimes pretend that it doesn’t matter.  But that attitude of detachment sometimes hides a more subtle attitude to not pay attention to what I am doing with my money.  So in meditating about the desire for wealth and honors I can see how they add up.  I can also see where I can keep adding to my possessions … sometimes not just with money but also things to do … because these gain me recognition … so I accumulate too many things to do.  But my pride keeps me from cutting back … on tasks and possessions.

So I spend a good part of the time relating to the second desire and to earnestly join Jesus who does not look to acquire more but to give more of himself; who does not desire comfort but accepts where he has to go.  I feel what it is not to be honored … to be ignored at the very least, to be ridiculed and as Jesus was at the very end to be convicted and killed.  What does it feel like to be stripped of everything?  What does it feel like to be just in God’s presence and that’s it?  What does it feel like to not even feel God’s presence but to know that He is present?  I practice this.  I am surprised I do find consolation here but I also recognize I still need to journey with Jesus to understand more.

I resolve that it is also fine and maybe very necessary to bring my financial planning concerns to God … what will it feel like doing that from the point of view of humility.  How difficult it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  How clearly, I see Jesus’ rider that “with God nothing is impossible”.  I just need to put my trust in Him.

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. 

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