HAVING consulted the College of Consultors, His Grace Most Reverend…
KOKOL, Manggatal – LiFE Community of Sacred Heart Cathedral created a space for Catholic women to quiet down and contemplate on the reflections given in a two-day silent retreat, 10-11 Mar 2018 at Kokol Prayer Summit, with the theme, Beauty for Ashes (Is 61:3, 35).
The retreat was facilitated by Sister Josephine Preza of the Congregation of the Religious Virgin Mary Philippines on her fourth visit to Kota Kinabalu.
Sr Jo, as she is known, presented the story of the prodigal son, inviting everyone to put themselves in the story. Most of the retreatants were able to identify themselves in it and shared their encounters.
Gathered around the cross, Sr Jo invited everyone to hold their pain and to not let it just past as it is an uncomfortable feeling that one usually wants to get rid of.
The gesture of lighting a candle and putting it into a decorated glass jar helped everyone to focus on the ritual. The letting go of pain through the power of the cross, allowing Jesus’ wounds to meet theirs and encounter redemptive suffering was a healing experience for many.
Prior to the weekend retreat, Sr Jo facilitated a five-day Retreat in Daily Life. Two women shared their prayer experience after completing the retreat.
One of them shared on how she hurried prayer time and treated it as another task to be done in her day. Giving time to God in prayer during the weekday retreat brought revelation and healing to her.
Another woman shared about the discovery of her anger with God for having an autistic son. Times of prayer and embracing the identity of being blessed by God helped her to see her life differently.
The other retreatants said they were able to relate with their sharings as they too felt like they have been hurrying prayer time and blaming God for the difficulties they are facing. – Beatrice Chong
Below are some of the reflections of the retreatants.
Improving communication with God
The silent retreat has a tremendous effect on me where I’ve learned to improve my communication with God. Apart from coming there to rest, be refreshed and to discover Beauty in Ashes, I’ve had the opportunity to learn the importance of being silent and listen to God as well as how to enter into a relationship with Him which I had been longing and searching for all of my life.
For me, I’ve experienced God’s unconditional and unlimited love, forgiveness, peace, acceptance despite that I’m a terrible sinner and am just like the “Lost Son” coming back to his father as in Luke 15:11-32.
During the communal prayer on Saturday night, it was a very touching experience where I’d been taught how to hold and release, past life, all my anger, hurt, worries, frustration, and sadness to God.
Sister Josephine taught me to put it all in Jesus wounds by presenting my lighted candle (in a glass jar) to Jesus. Upon presenting my lighted candle to Jesus, I felt lightened, released, peace and I saw the image of Jesus inviting me so he can embrace me. It was truly a wonderful moment and experience for me.
I had also learned to do personal reflection in silence through scripture. We were taught to take note of what word or phrase stands out to ourselves and thereafter, come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.
In conclusion, this silent retreat has greatly impacted me. Now I can see myself getting closer to God, learning to be silent at the same time listen to Him even in my daily busy life, as a working mother and wife. I started to read the daily readings and bring my Bible to the office to read during my lunch hour. –Susan Liew
The retreat helps me to be silent and still
I went to the retreat with my mom and sister and also with a pain in my heart, hoping and searching that I’ll get an answer. Surely, I got my answer.
This women’s retreat with Sr Jo was indeed fruitful and helpful for a person who is constantly busy with work, hardly having a full focus on “God time.”
It helped me to focus and be silent and still, disconnected with the world and just be connected to God. As I was contemplating on the scriptures given by Sr Jo, God showed me an insight of the answer to my pain as I reflected Jesus on the cross. It’s like he wants me to know that to love is also to understand love in pain and to be willing to suffer for love. – Desiree Laban
The Father embraces me
I would describe my relationship with God and others as a “safe” relationship before I attended the retreat. I love but am not too loving. I care but not too much. In short, my sole purpose of loving was making sure I was not hurt.
During the retreat, God brought many painful memories alive. The past wounds of betrayal and losses felt raw once again. I was in great agony during the whole process and for the first time I ‘saw’ our Heavenly Father was there. He was crying harder than I was. I had never seen Him shed so many tears for me “I am sorry, my child, I know it hurts. I am here. You are made for love,” he said gently.
I continued to feel the pain and cry out to Him. Just when I thought my heart was going to burst from crying, I felt a sense of warmth. He was embracing me like a father would embrace a little baby. I was small, wounded and fragile. Being in His embrace, I felt safe.
My heart finally had the courage to admit I felt hurt by God. He hurts me for allowing losses and betrayals to crush me. I cannot see Him in my darkest moments because I refused to go through the darkness with Him. I now know God can be found in the darkest moments of my life but I have to reveal the darkness to Him.
Vulnerability is letting my true self be seen and admitting that I am afraid. It’s true that being vulnerable is scary but God has shown me the path to love authentically is being vulnerable to people who love and care for me. – Jessica Rine
Get in touch with my deepest being
This was my first time joining a silent retreat and the experience was extraordinary. It allowed me to get in touch with the deepest, truest part of my being, by spending personal and quality time, one to one with God in silence.
The theme ‘Beauty for Ashes’ together with the chosen scripture of the Prodigal Son for me to contemplate on had made me realise that as human, we may fall into the darkness of sin, as dark as the ashes, but the Light of the beloved Father will never fail to always save us in His warm embrace and make known to us the greatness of His unconditional love.
On top of all that, this experience continues to strengthen my trust in His unfailing love, to always believe and never give up on Him. – Sarah Michael
The Father waits for my return
The retreat was a truly amazing experience for me. I was at a point of my spiritual journey, where I looked back and wondered how I have drifted away from the close relationship I once enjoyed with Jesus. From spending an hour in prayer each day in my youth, I had slowly allowed it to become shorter with time.
When I became a mother, I had to be satisfied with a quick 10 minutes here, and 5 minutes there! And now, the babies had grown up, and I had grown apart from God. So, my personal aim of the retreat was to reignite my personal prayer time with the Lord again.
From the beginning of the retreat, Sr Josephine was encouraging and clear in her instructions and guidance as we prayed with scripture. The Prodigal Son was the passage that moved, yet troubled me most. Having associated myself often with the character of the dissatisfied and unforgiving elder brother, it scared me while I was in prayer, and saw myself as the beaten prodigal son, lost and dirty in the dark pig-sty…. paralysed in misery as I realised my past mistakes. Worse still I felt unable to return to God! I was so unworthy to return to my Father. I felt so ashamed. It was my fault, so I had to suffer the consequences.
Then, Sr Josephine’s words reminding me that God gave up His only son for me. He is waiting for my return, imagine the agony He goes through while waiting….so how could I continue to cause Him pain by not returning to His loving embrace?
I needed to forgive myself and return to my Father’s loving embrace…not because I deserved it, but because not doing so would continue to wound His loving heart! Thanks be to God! I concluded my retreat with the resolution to begin spending an hour a day with my beloved Jesus…once again! Amen. -CChang