Today, I am thinking back on the experience that was the first Ladies of Our Lady retreat, just this past weekend, and I am in awe. It brings to mind a story from scripture:
Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that is his the Son of God.
~ Acts 9:1-6, 19-20
Now, I’m not saying I was on a mission to imprison the faithful, but I am far from a perfect person. I drove 7 hours (through Wyoming of all places) to get to the retreat in Denver and spent the vast majority of that time wondering how I had come to this point.
I had no credentials to be a retreat director. I didn’t major (or even minor) in theology at Notre Dame. I had never done more than help out at youth events. And I didn’t feel like the kind of person who should be making an example of herself. I felt my sinfulness, I felt my unpreparedness. I pondered ways to back out and not have to run the retreat after all. But even as these thoughts went through my head, I felt urged on to my destination. I thought I was feeling drawn by responsibility at the time, that I couldn’t let people down, that I had to at least give it the old college try.
Then the retreat began.
Nine of the most amazing women I have met in my life arrived at the retreat house, hungry for the Word – the experience – of God. I found myself standing in front of these ladies and I was humbled. They deserved so much more from this retreat than I could even try to be prepared to give, and in my current unprepared, incapable state, they were going to go home very disappointed. In my mind, I bemoaned the commitment these women had made to my retreat, sight unseen, and how woefully I was to let them down.
Except that I didn’t.
Except that, as I stood there, looking at these women of such strong faith, and wished I could give them the depth of experience they thirsted for, I began to speak about things I’d never thought about. I began to incorporate and link my personal experiences to the scripture in ways I’d never considered. I just talked, and the words came, in a thoughtful order and with great purpose, until the stopped coming. I surprised even myself when I finished, standing in the front of the room, waiting to see if there was anything more to say.
I did this three times that weekend. And each time felt like a gift from Heaven. I felt the light of the Lord shine down on me and, between my retreat running and off-the-cuff speaking, I began to ponder why. Not why was I able to do this, for I knew that the answer to that question was the Lord. Why was I feeling underprepared, sinful, and incapable? Why hadn’t I trusted my God to provide? I found myself mentally and emotionally prostrate in the light of my Lord.
And I felt Him call to me. I felt His call when I was speaking to the women on the retreat. I felt His call when I was having individual conversations with the ladies, with Fr. Don, even with Dill, my assistant retreat director. He was telling me that it was time for me to rise, and go to Damascus, and await instruction. Once I decided to go to my internal Damascus, I didn’t have to wait long.
Sunday, the retreat ended and my instruction began. I sat with Dill, Lynsey and DawnMarie and we began to talk about what came next. The original idea for this retreat had been to bring the women of Region 2 together. It had been intended to kick off an annual event in Denver to help smaller clubs in the region reach out to their women. But we quickly realized that it was so much more. And through these women, God told me what I should be doing.
When Dill spoke this weekend about Making God Served, she quoted from Matthew:
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
I wish to add to it another quote from Matthew:
As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
It is said many times in many different ways throughout the Bible, but it all boils down to one concept: God is calling us, calling us to drop everything and follow Him. I was amazed at myself as I made the decision to pursue Ladies of Our Lady to whatever ends it reaches. As I committed myself to what I’ve begun calling my “year of service” helping to organize and facilitate similar retreats across the country.
And I’ve continued to be amazed as I’ve begun writing for this blog, writing the same way I was speaking, without obsessive word choice and extensive editing (as I usually write and speak), but with the flow of words given to me by the Spirit.
I want to close with one more selection from scripture that I am thinking about today:
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each on of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
~ Acts 2:1-7