Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Spiritual Spa Day

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  Romans 8:28

I woke up feeling pretty low like I was sunk down into a pit of mud made of self-pity and senseless sorrow.  And then I went to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians at Holy Hill for a morning of reflection sponsored by the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Council of CatholicWomen. After a hearty breakfast and some quiet conversation with my friend Anne, the retreat began with a fabulous talk by Fr. Tim Kitzke who smiled and laughed as he joyfully shared his inspirational stories.  Then I cleansed my soul in confession, and we attended Mass in the Basilica.

photo by Cornel Rosario from the Holy Hill website
St. Simon Stock receives the scapular
photo by Cornel Rosario from the Holy Hill website
Oh the Mass!  Mass at the Basilica is always a treat!  It is so beautiful that it feels like you're in heaven and Fr. Don Brick, OCD gave a wonderful homily on the very topic of heaven.  He spoke about having a conversation in heaven with St. Ignatius of Antioch where the saint shared the story of his life here on earth. Then Fr. Brick invited everyone to live our own lives here and now in such a way so that one day we will join St. Ignatius in telling our life stories in heaven.

Following Mass I enjoyed a leisurely stroll in the fine autumn weather along the Stations of the Cross path.  It was just me and Jesus under the canopy of blazing leaves that burned brightly before gently falling to the ground at my feet.  When it was finally time to hop back into my van for the drive home, I felt as if God had taken that mud that I had been sinking into earlier in the day and used it as a rejuvenating mud-pack for my soul.  He took a day that was unappealing and made it into something wonderful.  I was refreshed and light as the leaves that fell around me on the Stations of the Cross walk.  What a blessing!

Fr. Tim Kitzke
Are your spirits sinking in the mud like mine had been?  You might not be able to get away to Holy Hill but you can enjoy some highlights from Fr. Tim's excellent talk and be refreshed! I only wish I could share a sound track of his laughter for you!

Fr. Tim Kitzke's Spiritual Spa Day

Fr. Tim said, "We will hear whatever we need to hear today, not because of the speaker or our frame of mind, but because of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.  Then he shared a story about a homily he gave at a nursing home.  He explained that nursing home homilies have to be short, usually only about two minutes long.  So he kept this particular homily brief and when he was done, he overheard a woman say, "Well that was a complete waste of time!"   We all laughed even though her comment had probably been very hurtful to Fr. Tim at the time.  But, Fr. Tim used that negative comment and made it into something meaningful for all of the women at the retreat.  He explained that our morning together was going to be a complete waste of time; time wasted with God.  He said, "Let God do the work.  This is a spiritual spa day so step back and waste some time.  Put aside your "to-do" list and stop being Martha for a while.  Become Mary sitting at the feet of Christ."

He explained that "We are ultimately called to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.  We need to say "yes" to Jesus about everything.  We are consumed with fears, doubts, worries, and cares and even though we don't know Jesus' plan, we should just say yes.  And what are we to say yes to?  We are to say yes to learning a new language-not Polish or Italian, but rather the language of  love in Christ."

Fr. Tim brought flash cards to help us learn our new language.  The flash cards had one word written on the front and when Fr. Tim flipped the card we saw the translation, a new word which will allow Christ to become ever more present to us in our lives today.  For example:

Information becomes Formation-  Formation means we allow Grace to change our hearts so it changes the ordinary way we look at each day.  He quoted the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning:  "Earth is crammed with heaven and every bush is flaming with God."  He's everywhere and in everything, even the most mundane tasks.  Like St. Therese of Lisieux we need to make every action of our days into a prayer.  Make our homes havens of peace and prayer because the domestic Church is the primary place where faith hits the road.  Do you ever thank God for your home?  Do you ever thank Him for your kitchen sink?  Do you thank Him for your chores?  Thank God for your home and for your work.  Form your daily life in His love.

Personality becomes Personhood-Every person is a unique incarnation of the spark of God, a magnificent unfolding of our personhood.  We're pretty hard on ourselves and carry a lot of baggage around.  Fr. Tim said that when he listens to confessions he hears a common theme:  people feel rotten about themselves.  Going to confession is not a sign of how bad you are, it's a sign of how good you are.  You are mentioning your sins in confession because you want to be done with it.  Some people complain about penances that aren't hard enough.  His response to that is, "You've been punishing yourself for years now.  Let it go."  Then he shared a joke:

There was a guy who had been away from the Church for a long time so he decided he had better go to confession.  He slips into a dark church and as he enters the confessional he sees a bottle of Jameson, some beer and some snacks.  So he's waiting for the priest and thinks that things have really improved in the church since his last time there.  When the priest arrives he says, "Father, this is wonderful!  I was just about to pour myself a drink."  And the priest says, "You're on my side."  :)

Self-Project becomes Self-Donation-We're not here to "get" we're here to "give."  It is in giving that we receive, says St. Francis.  We are not here to make ourselves better like buying some self-help manual that we never read or buying a new piece of exercise equipment that we sell at a rummage sale after we have only used it three times.  We are glorious, called to be royal.  At baptism the priest says, "As Christ was anointed priest, prophet and King, so are you."  Say, "I accept my status as a beloved disciple."  Then grace can work.  Every person is royalty.

He shared the fact that he struggles with listening to people complain so he takes a tip from Bishop Sklba.  Bishop Sklba says "You have to play the Prince.  Be bigger than it all."  We are supposed to love our enemies and we are even supposed to love people who complain.  Instead of fighting back, pray for those who hurt you.  Help them.  He said, "When people irritate me and complain to me, I try to be nice to them.  So if I'm really nice to you, watch out!"

I could have listened to Fr. Tim speak all day, but unfortunately time ran out so he shared a few more flashcards without elaborating.  Maybe we can embellish them on our own...

Discipline becomes Discipleship
Achievement becomes See Everything as Gift
Success becomes Fidelity (stay faithful, be joyful)

Then he closed with Mother Theresa's poem, Anyway:

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Be good anyway.
Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
People need help but will attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

It's so good to step back from the treadmill of life every now and then, to let go of our worries and let God treat us to some rest and relaxation, to remind us of how very loved we are.  I'm so grateful that I had this opportunity to allow God to treat me and I pray that we may all enjoy a Spiritual Spa Day that lifts us from the dregs of distress and raises us to the heights of God's goodness as often as we possibly can.


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