It had been 30 years...
May 21, 2015
“30 years! 30 years it has been inside my tomb with the huge rock in front of it…before my Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat. My life changed that weekend, and I have never turned around to look for my tomb again."
This was the answer to my opening question during our recent support group of graduates from a Spanish Rachel’s Vineyard™ Retreat.
How long were you in your tomb? Since your Rachel Retreat, have you wanted to go back inside the tomb which was familiar to you? Have you found new tombs and new stones to keep you from God? These were the questions I threw out for discussion.
“The stench of being in my tomb was a part of me… surely you were able to smell this when we all gathered on our retreat. A stench that I was not even aware I had."
Many nodded in agreement.
One of our male graduates from a recent retreat shared, "Sometimes I feel like I am holding on to a tiny lifesaver and floating out in a large ocean. I received the lifesaver on my retreat. I can see land in the distance but my lifesaver is running out of air and I fear I will drown.”
A rainstorm of ideas from the other graduates of different years and retreats showered him with love including offers of attending retreats, suggestions of wise spiritual directors, invitations to attend Mass together, as well as different groups and communities within the Church.
Of course, not everyone has a personal support system to encourage them. But that is why WE are there -- retreatants and team members alike -- to help keep those lifesavers afloat even after the retreat. WE are a family, a community, helping each graduate to walk a path of discovery to find the right please for themselves within the Church. We encouraged this new graduate to try different things and accept some of these offers to see what fits well for him.
He asked me if that is a search to find what you want to hear. "No… It is a search for where God wants you to be! You have a place in the Church and we are incomplete with you being out there in the ocean. Let us throw you more lifesavers and swim beside you as you search for God’s presence in your life."
“It is hard for me…. hard for me that my little Angel Antonio is so present to me now! After retreat where I met him and was forgiven by him, I thought he would stay 'up there' and I would stay 'down here' and we would be fine. No! he keeps making himself known to me and gives me such great insight! That was hard for me to accept! When I connected with him on retreat, it was forever!"
These support groups are a special place for our graduates: “This is our group…where we can come and say everything we have inside which we can’t do anywhere else. I really needed to come here. I need to recharge my batteries again.”
Recharging batteries can mean letting go of shared pain.
From memories of the loss -- “It is hard for me…. hard for me that my little angel is so present to me now! After retreat, I thought he would stay 'up there' and I would stay 'down here' and we would be fine. No! he keeps making himself known to me and gives me such great insight! That was hard for me to accept! When I connected with him on retreat, it was forever!"
To painful stories of domestic violence -- A story shared by one was echoed by every female graduate in the room having lived the same story at some point in their lives. Each one jumping in to let the one know what helped for them to be able to move on. Showers of love once again from the graduates for her, filled with invitations and offerings of hope.
And finally, the struggle to embrace forgiveness -- For many, the retreat is just the beginning of the journey towards believing they can be forgiven, a belief that takes time. We so often here, "I received much on retreat and I know God has forgiven me. But I still say I will NEVER be able to forgive myself for killing my son. NEVER."
But that is why WE are there as a family, a community to lovingly challenge that "NEVER". "So if God forgave you but you are unwilling to walk the journey of forgiving yourself…was what God did not enough? Was He not big enough? Was His gift not big enough for you?"
An awareness began to seep in, seeds of life penetrating in to the ground now cultivated by God. Words to ponder, thoughts to consider, offers to accept or deny. As the meeting concludes for the evening, we all shake hands ... retreatants from 2015 , 2013 and 2012, all united on the journey. As one woman walked out with another woman several years her junior, she shared, "I am a mother-in-law and she is a daughter-in-law…we have much to learn from each other that will help us with our own families.”
I took one last look at the group in the doorway and they all had their phones out exchanging contact information, tickets and retreat flyers to holy events in the Church yet to be attended.
I smiled as I saw that once again…all is well in the Vineyard and God is still cultivating the ground.
By Eileen Kuhlmann, Abortion AfterCare-Healing/ The Rachel Ministries Director for the Catholic Pro-Life Committee
Tags: Rachel's Vineyard, Project Joseph