By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
The Holy Spirit guided many hearts and hands to bring Our Lady of the River Parish’s Advent mini retreat to fruition on Dec. 7, which filled me with joy. Some 25 adults and teens assisted with and/or participated in this blessed experience of Advent as a time of preparation for the three-fold coming of Christ. Their presence helped me to appreciate what it means to be a family of faith.
The retreat took place the same day as “Christmas in LeClaire,” a secular event that draws people to our town’s quaint shopping district. Those of us at the retreat enjoyed a light breakfast of coffee cake, breads and fresh fruit, followed by an opening prayer service and presentation with Deacon Jeff Schuetzle of Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton. He and his wife, Dawn, are treasured friends.
Jeff encouraged us to take notes during his presentation, which included an inspiring video from the Augustine Institute, “Experiencing the Mystery” by Edward Siri. I took away several thought-provoking messages from the video. The first focuses on a question: Do I truly believe that Jesus is God and Lord of my life?
The most profound message for me, however, centered on the explanation of the parable of the hidden treasure in Matthew’s Gospel (13:44). We assume the story is about us. The message has far deeper meaning. Jesus sees each of us as the treasure to be found in a field and gives everything for us. Jesus loves us that much!
Jeff asked us, “Who truly is the Lord of your life?” and “What does that look like?” For me, it’s a work in progress, a growing awareness of God acting in my daily life.
We talked about Jesus as a model of holiness, a quality that participant Karen Dugan especially appreciates. I thought to myself, Jesus is God; I’m not. It’s far more difficult for me to emulate the holiness of Jesus!
That thought hadn’t left my mind when Jeff posed another question for each of us to consider, using Karen’s husband Brian as an example. “How about contemplating the humanity and divinity of Brian Dugan?” Humanity and divinity dwells within each of us, Jeff said.
He returned to the concept of joy, a feeling much deeper and lasting than the happiness people pursue. In Luke’s Gospel, after receiving a message from an angel, the shepherds go to Bethlehem to witness the joy made known to them — the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:10-17). In turn, they go out to make known the message shared with them.
“Shepherds as the modern Facebook of their time,” observed Deacon Matt Levy, who participated in the retreat with his wife, Lisa. That message went viral and two millennia later, it’s our responsibility to keep that message trending!
Understanding the three-fold coming of Jesus — the first, when he became flesh; the second, his presence in our lives now; and the third, when he returns at the end of time — requires us to take time with Jesus in relationship. We cannot ignore what participant Mary Jo Godwin described as “that little voice that says, ‘I’m here; I’ll help you.’”
Her comment provided a good segue to our create-a-prayer-book project. I had asked people to share favorite prayers that focus on anticipation. We pasted copies of these beloved prayers into small spiral notebooks, which we can reflect on throughout Advent and beyond.
After the prayer book project, we gathered in the chapel to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the universal prayer of the church. Ladonna Czachowski, our parish’s director of Music Ministry, provided music accompaniment as three of our cantors, Cheryl Costello, Lorena Murphy and Joanne Rumpza led us in song that made my heart soar.
Father Tom Doyle, a retired priest of the Davenport Diocese, returned to his long-ago parish to offer the sacrament of reconciliation at the retreat’s conclusion. Wonderful reassurance on our journey toward joy.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at email@example.com)