Monday, August 03, 2015

Asking Prayers (and promising them) during retreat

As you read this, I will have begun the annual eight days of silence. (I'm writing this pre-retreat, but scheduling the post for when NunBlog readers are more likely to see it.) The spiritual exercises (mandated by Canon Law!) put a halt to all outwardly "productive" work, allowing the interior space to hear the Word of God in a more focused manner, letting that Word cast its own light on the past
We had some bats visiting from the belfry this
past week, but the hatch was closed and we hope
 to be undistracted by further visits!
and issue its (sometimes unexpected) invitations for the future. The retreat schedule also provides more time for that sublime human activity, rest. (When I was a novice, I used to joke that my favorite Catholic prayer was the "Eternal Rest.") An extra, somewhat unexpected challenge for me right now is that I will attempt the extra, hopefully focused prayer with the decided distraction of back pain. (After two years without an incident, I thought I was home free. Alas, not so!)

My last annual retreat was made under somewhat unusual conditions last November, about two weeks after I returned from the UK. I was in my new Boston community, keeping the basic community schedule as far as community prayer and meals went, but outside of that it was Jesus, me and a set of audio conferences by an Italian theologian. I didn't even finish the whole set of conferences, the content was so rich: I kept listening to talk 3 over and over. (I think I may revisit it again this week.) This year, I am at the retreat house with almost 40 other sisters. I am scheduled for daily meetings with a spiritual director (who was himself just named Superior General of his own religious congregation), and so far the weather promises to be particularly indulgent, promising me lots of rosaries prayed while walking down the country lane. Best of all, the second reading of this Sunday's Mass is practically a retreat in itself, guided by none other than St Paul!
"You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; that is not how you learned Christ, assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus, that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth."

As I formulate my intentions for this week of prayer, I am including in a special way all the readers who have entrusted their special prayer requests to me throughout the year. I ask you to also remember a person I have "met" online this year, whom I will call "Samir" (not his real name). Samir desires to know more about Jesus and to become a Christian. The very desires he has expressed openly to me on social media put him at risk in his country. He has already been detained for hours to explain to the religious police why he has not attended the weekly services of the official religion into which he was born. Although the US has military installations in the country, Christian ministry is limited to the military installation and personnel.  In his honor-based society, should Samir be accused of changing religion (already against the law in itself), his being sentenced would bring great shame upon his whole family, and break his mother's heart. I have not heard from him in a week, a fact which concerns me greatly. So please pray for "Samir" and others like him who desire to come to Jesus, but are effectively prevented. And let us pray for our own "free" world, that the social, political and financial pressures may not tempt our federal lawmakers to (once again) choose the status quo rather than free up for actual women's health care the half-billion dollars given annual to abortion giant (and lucrative fetal organ supplier) Planned Parenthood...

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