Running up the stairs to the church for 7 AM Mass, late again as happens far too often these days as I scurry about from one activity to the next, soul awash with the familiar waves of stress and frustration even at this early hour, I felt some of that soul-water escape from the corner of my eyes, those ocular openings to everything that is carried within me. My daughter looked at me and silently reached over and squeezed my hand; my daughter who bears the burden of being raised by an over-stressed, emotionally unstable mother. When Mass was over and I was restored to calm, she looked at me and said, "See Mom? All you have to do is spend some time with Jesus at Mass and He makes everything better!" How much God loves me that He gave me such a sweet and intelligent daughter like my Mary! And even more, how much God loves me that he provided the time for a mother-daughter weekend retreat in the quaint little lakeside Rieti Hermitage on the holy grounds of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi Convent adjacent to St. Francis de Sales Seminary.
Mary and I had been looking forward to this weekend for months, since an early autumn mother and daughter sea glass search brought the idea of a retreat to mind; and what a perfect idea that was! Away from the normal hustle and bustle of our lives, away from the constant noise and chaos that is part of living in a large household with a majority of boys, Mary and I could quietly breathe and give ourselves over to God completely.
Together we prayed the Liturgy of the Hours' morning and evening prayer, the rosary, and the divine mercy chaplet. We played Scrabble and read books. We prayed the Stations of the Cross at the convent's lovely outdoor stations. We walked in Seminary Woods and had several opportunities to search for our precious sea glass treasures along the lake shore. We enjoyed some time with our friend, Fr. Don, who joined us for a game of Scrabble followed by some silent prayer in the convent's beautiful Adoration Chapel, after which we gave of ourselves in service as the three of us worked together to clear a massive amount of broken branches from the Seminary's grotto, the result of wild winter winds.
Spaghetti, Roses, and Open House
Completely devoting ourselves to some time away is quite the impossible feat, as Mary and I were compelled to attend Mercy Academy's pro-life spaghetti dinner to benefit our local Women's Support Center which works to assist women who are in crisis pregnancies so that they may keep their babies. Venturing out to this dinner was an enjoyable interlude for Mary and I. We were joined at the dinner by Paul and Jack, who were having their own weekend "retreat" at home as the three oldest boys in the family were participating in the Remnant Basketball Camp, uniting sports and faith at the seminary.
While at the spaghetti dinner, we set up a table display to promote Roses for Our Lady, an organization of Catholic laity which promotes Marian Devotion in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, and we were offered the opportunity to promote Roses for Our Lady again, the very next afternoon at the Seminary's Open House. It is such a joy to meet so many people who have a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother and working (if you can call it work) at the Roses table was a perfect opportunity to witness to my love for the Mother of God.
Our lovely little weekend away had a jubilant and celebratory ending as we attended St. Francis de Sales Seminary's Open House where the chapel was filled to capacity with visitors who were eager to see the beautiful and historic place where our priests are formed. It was here that our entire family reunited from our various weekend activities, and it was here at Mass, that our hearts were warmed with the love of God joyfully accepted and renewed deep within so that we may continue on with our daily lives carrying His love to everyone we meet. And it was here that I recalled the words of wisdom spoken by my daughter on that frantic Friday morning which now felt so long ago, "See Mom? All you have to do is spend some time at Mass with Jesus and He makes everything better!"
Joining Ann at A Holy Experience with my gratitude list for just a few of His many gifts:
~solitude and silence
~time alone with my daughter
~a visit from a friend
~the first fuzzy magnolia buds sprouting on long-barren branches
~daughter's smile and her embrace
~one lone Christmas ornament dangling on an outdoor branch
~crashing waves and thousands of whitecaps
~the sound of hail beating hard on the chapel rooftop
~the miracle of second chances that bring about new life
~filling glass jars with colored specks of sea glass
~fresh green shoots of chives pushing through the hard earth in the herb garden
~coming home to a freshly painted kitchen and...
~simply coming home