Running on Fumes

92 retreatants, 6 priests, 4 religious brothers, about a dozens sisters, a gorgeous retreat house in Connecticut, and 48 hours. Twice a year for the past 10 years my young adult group has been using this basic formula to run retreats (except that 92 retreatants used to be about 25– now our waiting list is double that). There’s a moment in the course of the weekend–things are running, smoothly or not so smoothly, people are laughing in the halls, or praying in the chapel, or sitting in the rocking chairs on the lawn drinking tea and talking about God, when you realize that the retreat has taken a life of its own, that you are no longer in charge.

When I was the maid of honor at my best friend’s wedding, I was pretty nervous the night before the big day. A priest friend gave me some very helpful, blunt advice, “Just remember: it’s not about you.”

And that’s the main thing I walk away with after the weekend is over–as people share with me little stories of grace of which I was completely unaware, as I watch my good friends tear up with gratitude before the Blessed Sacrament, as I see the lines of young people waiting to go to confession, some for the first time in years. It’s a freeing thing to be able to trust in the moment, to hand over the reigns and commit oneself to kindness and to work. The success (I don’t like to use that word in regards to spiritual matters, but it’s the most apt one I can think of for now) of one’s efforts has nothing to do with your personal disposition toward it–whether you’re insanely nervous (ahem), doubtful, etc.

When given to, people get generous, they open up in unexpected ways, and the things that seemed impossible the night before are suddenly no longer challenges. I witnessed so many acts of generosity and courage this weekend. One retreatant driving another to urgent care at the hospital mid-day Saturday. A priest staying two hours later into the night than asked to hear confessions. A heartbroken young woman who had recently given her child up for adoption, still trusting in God.

Today, allow God to surprise you with his gifts. Put no bounds on him; let go of the reigns. Put your goals for Holy Week to the side for a moment, and see whether there might be something additional God wants to give you, and imitate his generosity. “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you” (Lk 6:38).

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