She’d been looking forward to co-facilitating the Ignatian silent retreat with me. I saw a mix of sadness and relief on her face.
I reached out to my friends Katherine and Thelma. Thankfully, they were available to step in last minute, and together we would offer spiritual direction to each of the participants. The retreat could go ahead as planned, but I would need to facilitate the input sessions by myself. I was comfortable with the material and the format. It should be fine, I thought.
An hour before a Zoom check-in a few days before the retreat, I got a phone call from a participant who lives in Alberta wondering why I wasn’t online. I suddenly realized that I hadn’t allowed for the time difference between provinces. Another participant lives in Saskatchewan. Would the schedule still work for her? During the check-in, I discovered that a couple of people hadn’t received the handouts and another didn’t have the schedule for the spiritual direction sessions. Addressing issues like these were the reason I scheduled the check-in, but what transpired rattled me. I felt alone with the weight of it.
“This is exactly why we have co-facilitators in Living from the Heart,” I said to Fred. Why did I think I could facilitate alone? I caught myself. I didn’t choose this. It’s just how it played out. But the hard facts landed. There was more stress in facilitating alone, and it was not likely going to be as enjoyable as working with others.
The next day I settled into a full day of offering spiritual direction online. In a moment of silence, I looked over at my Christmas cactus and thought I saw a bud on it.
When the session was over, I remembered what I saw and got up to take a closer look. There wasn’t one bud. There were fifty or more facing the window. I turned the plant around and saw that many of the buds were pink already. One would likely bloom on the weekend of the retreat.
A sense of awe filled me. The coming of the blossoms at the darkest time of the year has always been a visible sign to me of God’s presence and of hope.
You are not alone, the cactus reminded me. God will be with you.
And God was. As I explained Ignatian prayer to the retreatants sitting in little boxes on my computer screen, God was with me–invisibly and visibly. The cactus was blooming and Katherine came to every input session even though I hadn’t expected her to. How good is that?
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Saviour.
–Isaiah 43:2 (The Message)
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One of the participants in the Ignatian retreat told me about the music of the Poor Clares of Arundel. I listened to it and feel my body relax and my heart open. What a gift. Here is the story behind the music. In it, one of the sisters says, ” Our hope for the album is that people will have an experience of God and know they are loved by God. And if people can have an experience of God, then we will have achieved what we set out to do.”