Posts Tagged With: retreat

January 2013 Missionary Newsletter

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” –Romans 5:3-5–

Dearest Benefactors,

I just wanted to say how happy I am to be able to write y’all again. Everytime I write, it means that there is more to report on the ways God is working in my life as a missionary. That is ALWAYS an exciting and good thing! 🙂 As y’all already know, last year my full-time mission post was FMC’s Casa de Misiones in General Cepeda, Coahuila, Mexico. I was there for a total of 8 months with the other 4 months of the year split between visits to friends and family, 2 short term trips to St. Lucia (my mission post from 2011), and some time spent at our Big Woods Mission Base in Abbeville, LA. After my 5th or 6th month in Mexico, I started to feel like it was time for me to come back stateside. I didn’t know exactly what that meant, as my living situation and possible ministry opportunities had not yet been established. But when you know it’s time to move on, you step out in faith knowing that the good Lord will provide.

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fourth name from bottom. I’m official y’all! 🙂

Thanks be to God that in my last month in Mexico, November 2012, things started to clear up, and by the time the Christmas holiday was over, my course was set. Part of what I discerned last year was that I wanted to do stateside mission work.So, I am now living at our Big Woods Mission Base as my full-time mission post. One of my new “jobs” is working as a liaison for our retreat house, Our Lady of the Bayous, and for our retreat ministry. If a group wants to book our facility, I’m the guy they talk to. If a group needs missionaries to put on a retreat, I’m the guy they talk to. And if a group wants to do a service project at our retreat house or mission base, I’m the guy they talk to. I’m also involved in the day to day operations of our retreat house. It can be a very busy but very rewarding ministry at the same time.

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me and my dad wearing the shirts I bought while at language school in Cuernavaca

 

My other main duty is serving as Evangelization/Outreach coordinator at one of the nearby parishes, St. Mary Magdalen. In this role I do alot of follow-up home visits in conjunction with our door-to-door evangelization team, in order to pray, visit, read scripture, and help these people to enter more fully into the sacramental life of the Church. Part of this job also entails doing a weekly Bible study at the Christian Service Center, which is a part of the church parish. Aside from this, I also lend a helping hand with any manual labor that needs to be done at the service center, such as stocking the pantry shelves and unloading food shipments.

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me and Donnie, one of the home visits. Please say a prayer for him, he’s been a bit sick lately

 

As you can see, God is keeping me busy with lots of ministry opportunities. I’m so blessed that y’all continue to journey with me in my missionary vocation. Your support makes it all possible, and without your prayers I would not have the strength I need to do what I do. Thank you so very much. I hope you had a Merry Christmas and are having a Happy New Year.

God Bless!

Sid Savoie

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Vieux Fort Retreat – Week 1

Team Retreat/Mission Trip – Sisters of St. Francis Convent – Vieux Fort, St. Lucia – May 22-June 7, 2011

Since I will be journaling several times a week, and only posting the collections of these entries once a week as a single missionary blog post, I forewarn you that this entry is VERY long. But I do hope you take the time to read it and enjoy the pictures.

here’s the link to my picture album on facebook, you might need to copy and paste it into your broswer.

Day 1 – Monday, May 23, 2011 – 9:00pm – Upstairs Living Room

I’m sitting here, writing this at the end of our first full day here. We arrived here yesterday around mid-afternoon and spent the afternoon getting settled in, cooking supper, and discussing with the sisters some of the things we would be involved with while we are here. Supper was delicious, and I think God multiplied our pasta, because there’s no way I’d have thought one pan of pasta would be enough to feed 5 adults and 10 kids, but somehow it did. I also really enjoyed chatting with Sr. Francis. We chatted yesterday and today about all kinds of things: ministry, culture, missionary work, etc… It’s nice to have somebody that I can talk to and discuss things. After night prayer, me, Sister Francis and some of the kids played Rummikub, a board game based off of the card game rummy. It’s an opportunity we had because of not having as much access to the internet here. Back at the Marian Home, we basically have unlimited internet because of the wireless signal we get from the sisters upstairs. And although we try and limit ourselves in our usage of it, inevitably you devote a little more time to that instead of devoting a little more time to ministry and fellowship. So, that was a nice change of pace. I think it will also help me to appreciate the contact I do have with family and friends. Since I won’t have it as much, I’ll appreciate it more. I’ll also be better able to enter into the “retreat” aspect of our time here. Ended up getting to bed around 10 o’clock (early for me). That was also due to not having as much internet access, thus not putting off getting the rest that I need. And believe me I need it since I wake up at 4am. (4:30 back at the Marian Home). I have to wake up that early so that I can get in my personal prayer time and Scripture reading before I take a shower, get dressed, and then go to morning Mass.

Today was a really nice day too. Woke up refreshed, enjoyed my personal prayer and Scripture reading time in the chapel downstairs (which has a tabernacle with Jesus Body and Blood! 🙂 ), and then joined the sisters in their morning prayer before we went to 6am Mass. (It was actually a communion service and will be the same tomorrow, since the priest is out until Wed. morning). After breakfast and morning prayer, me and Mark walked with Sister Francis on her way to a lab appt. and then headed off to the Super J (grocery store chain) to get a few things. Saw alot of locals and their streetside “market” where they sold all kinds of diff. fruits, veggies, and other things they grow. Passed by the local independence monument, and kicked myself for leaving behind my camera, although it’s such a small town and easy to navigate that I’m pretty sure I’ll pass by it again. After we walked home, we decided on a whim to go to the beach for a short while, about an hour. Besides wanting to go to the beach, we wanted to investigate our beach options. Since Vieux Fort is literally at the southern tip of the island, when you look out the west side of the house, you see the Carribean, and when you look at the east side, you see the Atlantic. Today, we checked out the beaches on the Carribean side. First off, I gotta say that we enjoyed our time at the beach. The kids were able to swim and play in the sand. I was able to take a dip in the water a few times and got to lay down and catch some sun. However, it was definitely a missionary beach experience, not a ritzy touristy one. Our trek that led us to our spot on the beach led us past rocks, pieces of junk and trash (litter is a big problem in St. Lucia), and some less than ideal walking spaces for such a large group. One of the guys that gave Mark directions on how to get to our beach spot had the world’s largest joint in his hand. At one point on the path, we walked past a free roaming horse and her baby (forget what horse babies are called). And I’m pretty sure I caught the scent of horse poo several times while we were at the beach. Like I said, it was both enjoyable AND interesting.

Made our way back to the convent, did my daily workout and took a shower, and had a pretty normal remainder of the day. Aside from our normal routine, one of the things Sister Mary did was to introduce us to some young girls nearby. She’s going to have some of the older kids help the girls with tutoring and I think she also wants these local girls to have someone to visit with, as I’m sure they dont’ get that very often. Me, and 3 of the Eckstines also accompanied Sister Mary to a planning meeting for a fundraiser for the Vieux Fort Children’s Society. It’s a non profit that has been formed with the hopes of starting a children’s home. Currently, the only children’s home on the island is in Castries (in the north), so the kids down here that are homeless, abandoned, come from abusive homes, etc… have nowheres to turn to. The meeting was a perfect example of Mother Theresa’s saying “God calls us to be faithful, not successful.” Of course there were some minor details discussed that pertained to us, but 99% of our time there was spent watching and listening and doing nothing at all. I wanted to go because I had nothing else to do and wanted to spend my time as a missionary doing something constructive instead of being lazy. Another reason I was called there was to test my patience. I think too that aside from learning that and some other things from the people that were there, that hopefully they too were able to learn from our witness and presence. Came home after that, ate supper, and then did night prayer as well as some more retreat reflections and discussions.

The two themes that seemed to stand out today were Joy and God’s Guidance. Our scripture for God’s Guidance was 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, & the passage that related to Joy came from our morning prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. The summary of my thoughts on God’s Guidance was “God will send us brothers and sisters in Christ who can strengthen our faith and He will direct our hearts to his love and Christ’s steadfastness.” In regards to Joy I wrote “If we welcome the Word of God into our hearts and seek after the right values, we will have abiding & eternal joy.” Then during our night prayer tonight 7 of us were a assigned a gift of the Spirit to read, pray, and reflect upon. I chose the gift of Wisdom, which is something I yearn for and which fascinates me. I found some great references (Wisdom 6:12-16 & CCC #474) and my nugget of wisdom was that “true wisdom comes from God & helps us to make good use of knowledge and understanding.” To demonstrate it, I came up with the following analogy: Knowledge is the certainty that the sun is bright and hot. Understanding is realizing it is that way because it is a gigantic ball of burning gas that emits heat and radiation. Wisdom is the ability to use that Knowledge and Understanding to warm ourselves, see where we’re going, or get a tan.

Day 2 – Tuesday, May 24, 2011 – 9:12pm – Upstairs Living Room

Really enjoyed the day today. The rain stopped us from taking a walk around town this morning. We were also gonna take a walk by the lumberyard to see what materials were available for the work we need to do on the blind lady’s house. Ended up staying home all morning and doing alot of journalling and some reading. Ate lunch and took a nap. Woke up, prayed the chaplet and then we walked around town just to explore and familiarize ourselves. Got to see the Indepence memorial monument. Then did my workout and took a shower before supper. Had two different times today that we did our “retreat” portion of the day. So far, I’m really diggin’ this retreat aspect of our time here.

The gift of the spirit that I had to report on was Wisdom. True wisdom comes from God (CCC #474) and helps us to make good use of knowledge and understanding. Reference Wisdom 6:12-16, Sirach 39, 2 Peter 1:4, Galatians 5:2-23, and Proverbs 2:1-15. Wisdom is being a good steward of God’s gifts in your life. Wisdom is know what to do with what you got. We need to be docile to the Spirit (malleable, flexible too).

Ministry reflection questions: 1.) What are my primary ministries? 2.)How are they going? 3.) Is what you’re doing what you thought you’d be doing?

1.) My ministries are primariliy visiting with the elderly at 4 different nursing homes, as well as having a ministry of prayer.

2.) They are going well. Both of them seem to fit well with my personality and gifts that God has given me. The necessity of both is evident. The elderly need someone to pray and visit with them. They need to know that they are cared for and not forgotten. My own life and spiritual journey, as well as the needs we encounter show me that my ministry of prayer is also important. I’m able to visit the Marian Home, St. Lucy Home, Adelaide Home, and Missionaries of Charity Home each week. Some of them I’m able to visit multiple times per week. On a typical day, my prayer ministry includes personal prayer in the morning (meditation, scripture, and intercessory prayer), Mass, grace at meals, morning prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, the Angelus, Noonday prayer, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and Night Prayer.  At first I thought that I prayed alot because I wasn’t yet busy with what God really wanted me to do. But then it occurred tome that I’m supposed to pray because without prayer, which is my connection to God, which is how I receive God’s grace, there will not be much fruit that’s born in my life and in the lives of all for whom I pray and with whom I am connected.

3.) What I’m doing is NOT what I thought I’d be doing. I thought I would be teaching in a school and leading a youth group at a church. However, i’m not disappointed that this has happened. I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy the ministries I do, and how much I’m motivated to do them.

Random Reflection:

I’ll spare you the details, but I’m in need of the sacrament of confession. It looks like that won’t happen until tomorrow since the priest is out ’till then. I’m so used to having this sacrament readily available as soon as I need/want it. That has been a huge blessing for me. On the other hand, being in a situation where it’s not as readily available really makes the priest shortage so much more real to me. It also gives me an increased appreciation for the priests we do have, as well as helping me to appreciate all those who support and promote vocations. And since this time of retreat and prayer cannot be put on hold until I’m able to receive absolution, I have to deal with it the best that I can. I’m forced to live with and reflect on the tension created in my life and soul that results from choosing sin over God. I have to live with not having the peace of heart and soul that I could have. It also increases my desire to restore right relationship with God. Another thing I’ve realized is that it has almost forced me to confide in the protection and intercession of the angels, saints, and Mother Mary to protect me and guide me until I can receive the sacrament of confession and not be at risk of dying in a state of mortal sin.

The whole experience has also humbled me. It seems like my thoughts, reflections, and journaling is the best it’s been in quite awhile. My first guess as to why this is happening is because whenever I’m not in a state of mortal sin, a subtle form of pride creeps in. I allow myself to rest easy. “It’s ok. I’m in God’s grace. No danger for me. I feel at peace. I like not having to worry.” Yes, God wants us to have peace, but the Bible also tells us that we have to always be vigilant on our spiritual journey. The moment we relax too much, lose focus, and think that we have “arrived”, that marks the beginning of our downfall. So in a paradoxical and ironic sort of way, I realize my need for God and his mercy while I’m in this state of mortal sin. And I think this has allowed me to receive the humility that has allowed my thoughts, reflections, and journaling to be what they have been thus far. And while I’m discussing sin, it also occurred to me how many of our battles with sin occur because of giving ourselves excuses to do so. Under the guise of false concern, a defeatist attitude, or some other weak reason, we give ourselves permission to indulge in sin by not fighting against it.

One of these excuses, which is itself a sin, is the sin of presumption. It’s the sin whereby we presume that God will forgive us for what we are about to do. In other words with this sin we say “God forgive me for what I’m about to do, because I’ve already sinned and I might as well do this too since I have to go to confession later anyways.” Besides selfishly distorting God’s grace and mercy for our purposes, this also means we’ve fallen victim to the lie that when we’ve fallen into sin, all hope is lost & there’s nothing good we can possibly do. True, we have separated ourselves from God by our own choice to sin. But, we are still his child and we also still have angels & saints as well as our own brothers & sisters here on earth to put us on the right track again and assist us in doing good works. This is one area where for the first time, I feel like I was able to make some progress. In spite of my intial choice to commit mortal sin, I feel like I’ve been able to choose not to add sin to sin. It feels really good. I have a hunch that if God’s grace has allowed me to advance to this stage, then I’m really close to conquering this particular sin permanently.

Day 3 – Wednesday, May 25, 2011 – 8:27pm – Upstairs Living Room

Today started off differently than I had hoped it would. Sister told us Sunday that we’d have communion services Monday and Tuesday since the priest was out, but Mass would resume today. Well, I get to “Mass” and out walks the same layman that officiated the communion service the previous two mornings. He begins by telling us that the priest missed his plane. I hope the priest is ok, and my second thought was I sure hope he comes back tomorrow. The rest of the morning was low key. Mark and Lora went to the resale shop run by the Vieux Fort Children’s Society and did some other errands. I stayed home and watched the kids. About 10:00, the little kids were being too noisy and woke up the baby. So, of course he’s cranky and not happy with the world. Ellie tried holding him, I tried. And when he was trying to throw a tantrum, I tried quieting him, even spanked him a couple times. He finally calmed down a bit, but I could tell he just needed to get back to bed. So, after imposing threat of “getting in trouble with mommy and daddy” to get the littles to be quiet, I began my odyssey of getting the baby to sleep. I don’t have much experience with kids, but this one sure does fight the sleep. I sang the chaplet. He calmed way down, and his eyes even got a little droopy. But, now and then, he’d get a little whiney. So I finally decided to lay him down in his bed. Had to keep a hand on him, not so much to hold him down but moreso to reassure him that someone was there. He’s one of those babies that always has to have some kind of contact in order to not be whiney or fussy when trying to put him down for a nap. So, after at least 30 minutes of tahtah-ing him and reading a book to pass the time, he FINALLY zonked out. Praise The Lord! The only other thing really notable about the day we me and Mark walking to the lumberyard/hardware store. Yeah, I know, that’s how you can tell i’m a missionary on retreat. When the highlight of my day is walking to the lumberyard! 🙂 We needed to check out their materials and prices so we could get an idea of what we were lookin’ at to be able to fix up that blind lady’s roof so it didn’t leak. Mark figured $200EC (approx. $70US), which is not bad at all.

My first spiritual nugget of the day was a quote from the book “Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual”. It states “….it is not likely that a person will love God unless he prays to him, unless he spends some time with Him as a person. It is the same with any personal relationship. Two people have to spend some time together or they will not develop a friendship and a love. The friendship will be broader than just the time they spend together. It will begin to penetrate all of their lives the deeper it becomes. But it is the time together that is indispensable for the forming of the bond.” I was drawn to this quote for 2 reason. First of all, it opened my eyes on how to approach my relationship with God. Do I really talk with God and spend time with Him everyday? Or do I just mentally acknowledge his presence, rattle off a few prayers, and call that a relationship? Second of all, it brought a whole new meaning to my discernment of marriage, and the process of friendship and dating that precedes engagement and marriage. It speaks to me of the importance of forming a friendship, a truly loving friendship that brings joy and happiness, and is centered on God. I also see in it the importance of devoting time to that special person. Of course, as a missionary, any friendships that I begin to form now will be long distance. But I feel like I can devote the time necessary to nurture these friendships, both in prayer and in conversation. Online chatting and video chat programs make it much easier to have some good face time. And in God’s time, I’ll have some actual face-to-face encounters as well.

Today’s gift of the Spirit was Understanding. During Ellie’s presentation of this gift, I came away with some good tidbits. I discovered that it is an intimate knowledge of God. Not just knowledge, but INTIMATE knowledge. (ref. Proverbs 2:3-13). Understanding will guard you. Understanding helps us to see what God is not; helps us to have a deep and abiding peace; helps us to be at peace with the mystery in life and to savor the mystery. I especially like the part about “deep and abiding peace”.

Well, I gotta go. Need to get MagicJack running on my computer so Sister Mary can make some phone calls home to the states. Then, gotta get back online and do some more researching of plane ticket prices.

Day 4 – Thursday, May 26, 2011 – 8:27pm – Upstairs Living Room

So, I’ve discovered that there are two reasons to not worry too much about what you’re going to do on any given day as a missionary. For one thing, it helps you to trust God and just be at peace with whatever he brings to you. It also saves you the trouble of saying that you’re gonna do something and then having to explain later why you didn’t do it! 🙂 Today was one of those days where I shoulda done that. It started off VERY well. I had been needing to go to confession since Monday, and as I mentioned earlier in the week, i was expecting Father to be back for Mass on Wed. morning. Well, since he missed his plane, I had to wait until this morning. He was very accomodating and agreed to hear my confession after Mass, and then even came over and met the rest of the mission team. We were also blessed to visit with Peter Fevrier this morning. He works for the Family & Life Secretariat here in the Archdiocese and was instrumental in getting us set up here with the sisters in Vieux Fort. Since the first day we arrived we were expecting him to come and visit with us. Today he finally made it here (he’s been VERY busy). I was thinking the whole purpose of him coming was purely practical. Maybe he was going to help us purchase supplies to work on Ms. Bibi’s leaking roof, or bring us food, or something like that. And while we did take a minute or two to briefly discuss practical matters, most of his visit was exactly that, just visiting. We must have spent almost an hour just talking about different aspects of pro-life ministry and things that are coming up soon. It was good just to sit there and visit with him, not have an agenda, and be blessed by his witness and enthusiasm. Later in the morning Mark mentioned that he and Lora would go by Ms. Bibi’s house sometime after lunch with the ladder to make some last minute assesments and then me and him would go to the lumberyard to get the materials we needed. Well, the rain changed those plans. Mark went to Ms. Bibi’s, by himself, without the ladder. And by the time he got back, the lumberyard was about to close, so we didn’t go. An unexpected blessing that I did receive came later in the evening. Sister Mary took me and Mark to visit a quadriplegic guy named Moses. He was probably close to my age. We briefly talked with his mom about building a ramp from their front steps out to the street, so getting him in and out would not be as difficult. Got to talk to him a little bit too. Understandably he wasn’t extremely talkative, but he wasn’t shy either. Sister even said that she was surprised at how talkative he actually was. I’m guessing he’s normally very quiet. Maybe having some guys there kinda made him feel at home and loosened him up a bit. I know Mark is the brains of the construction type of work, but i’m hoping to get a chance to just go and visit with him before we leave.

Our retreat time was good today, but we didn’t do quite as much as I thought we would. Can’t really explain why, except that it’s how rhythm of the day unfolded. In his homily this morning, father mentioned that “a wounded animal is the most dangerous. it’s desperate and has nothing to lose”. During our retreat time, Mark recalled this and posed the question to us: “how have we hurt or wounded each other?” Then as the discussion veered towards summer plans and what we would need for them to happen, Mark reminded us of Mr. Frank saying that we have to keep in touch with our donors, that way they can donate to us and so they can be blessed by our sharing and testimony. As Mark talked to the kids about whether or not they would be able to go to faith camp, he mentioned that if the Lord says no, then it’s a good thing. I echoed that by telling the kids how when God has said no to my heart’s desire (a loving relationship with a girl) he has blessed me with the incredible experiences of seminary and living life as a foreign missionary. Then I kinda reflected on all the wonderful things going on in my life right now, and realized that I am in a season of blessing. 🙂

Day 5 – Friday, May 27, 2011 – 9:34pm- Upstairs Living Room

Today was quite the day. Our team retreat this morning was really really good. The catalyst for the conversation was a question about how can things be improved. And that basically launched me and Mark on some really good reflections about what is so challenging about missions specifically for each one of us, and some of the things we hope to see happen in the next few months. It was very much a blessing to see Mark open up like he did, and Lora had some really good input too. I think it was the first time since we’ve been here that the three adults have really just laid it all out on the table. It’s not that we don’t like each other, but we’re at diff. stages in life and still learning how to interact with each other. None of us is particularly outspoken, so it’s hard for us to just come out and say stuff. We also finally got over to Ms. Bibi’s house to start fixing her leaky roof. She’s the blind lady I mentioned earlier in the week. After Mark assessed the situation, and even went there yesterday when it was raining, he couldn’t tell exactly where it was supposedly leaking from. So we bought some tar-backed aluminum tape, and covered the holes and seams that we could. We’ll probably go back in the next few days with another roll or two to see how much more we can do. Got some really good action pics and got a pic of me and Mark with Ms. Bibi too. Me and Mark also got the chance to visit Moses again. I hung out with Moses and chatted while Mark made some measurements for the ramp out front and went around the house while the mother showed Mark a few other things. It was really good to chat with Moses. I felt like just being there as a Christian and as a friend was helpful. Not sure how many visitors he gets each day, but i know i wouldn’t mind having visitors myself.

Had some good reflections today too. So, you know during Mass, the penitential rite where we confess our sins to God and community? (“I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, etc….”) As we were saying that during Mass earlier this morning, it struck me that I was just SAYING it but not PRAYING it. Then I got to thinkin’ about 2 things: 1.) How often do I say instead of pray? & 2.) Do I claim God’s forgiveness? What I mean by #2 is that this morning I noticed I was just saying the penitential rite instead of praying it. I wasn’t trying to claim God’s forgiveness and mercy. Naturally I then started reflecting on how many other times I’ve failed to claim his forgiveness. How much different would my spiritual  journey be if I did claim that forgiveness?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

“….loneliness is the greatest fear of humanity. In isolation people cannot be fully human. Our experiences of life confirm this. People inevitably form into groups, associations, communities, organizations. Some are temporary, some long-lived. They have a variety of purposes, but all prove man’s need for sharing and living his life with others.” –Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual–

Day 6 – Saturday, May 28, 2011 – 10:00pm- Upstairs Living Room

So the first thing in my notes said “My prediction for today is that either we have a cleaning/work day or a beach day. We’ll see what happens 🙂 It definitely wasn’t a beach day. The morning started out with me accompanying Sister Mary on a few errands to prepare for the St. Vincent DePaul Society meeting later in the morning. Had to pick up some snacks and a few things from the store. Came back just in time for the start of morning prayer. Afterwards I decided to hand wash my laundry. I wanted to handwash for a few reasons. First of all, when I saw the clothes that Mark washed in the washer the other day, some of the shirts had a ridiculous amount of what i’m guessing was lint all over them. Not a fan of lint, so that had me sold on handwashing. Second of all, I had some little packets of Tide laundry detergent that was specifically formulated for handwashing of clothes. I bought them back in 2008 when I went to Australia/New Zealand for World Youth Day and I figured I should use up some more of it. Third reason was that I needed something to do. There wasn’t really any other work for me to do, and I didn’t wanna be a complete slacker either. Also felt like handwashing would be a way to toughen myself up a bit and sacrifice the ease and comfort I was used to. So after filling buckets (2), suds-ing, agitating, wringing out, rinsing, re-wringing out, and hanging up to dry, I was done. Took me about an hour or so. Did alot of reading the rest of the morning. After lunch, I checked email and then took a nap. Woke up, prayed a chaplet of divine love for priests, took a shower, and then went back into the house. After supper we had evening prayer and our retreat time for the day. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my day.

(from earlier today) As I sit here, sippin’ on some coffee, doin’ my morning spiritual and scripture reading, a nice rain is falling. The doors and windows are open. A nice breeze is blowing. Several of the kids are sitting in the room, next to me, quietly reading. It’s one of those heaven moments 🙂

Oh yeah, one more thing. So as I’m sitting here, I’m wearing my Pope Benedict XVI shirt from World Youth Day 2008, and Isaac keeps pokin’ the Pope’s face and makin garbled goo-goo sounds. Methinks he likes the Pope! 🙂

Judging by the amount of good reflections I seem to be having and how having a small journal nearby makes it easy  to record them, I think I’m going to try and have some kind of little notebook on me at all times. Try to be more vigilant about rewriting these thoughts…

I was also doing some reflecting on friendships and relationships recently. I’m at that stage where my year-long singles commitment is almost up (Sept. 15th). And regardless of singles commitment or no singles commitment, I’m at that stage in life where it’s what I notice and think about quite a bit. My past relationships, my faith, and other life experiences have taught me alot about the opposite sex and how I interact with them and what to look for. One thing I’ve realized is that everytime I’ve acted unchastely or improperly towards or with a girl, it was simply a very misguided way of seeking true fulfillment. (If you’ve studied Theology of the Body then you’re familiar with this concept). It occurred to me that these actions represented my want and need to be able to open up to someone, for them to be able to see me as I am, and for them to open up to me too so that I can truly see them. I’ve also reflected on things I can use as a measuring stick for determining if I have a good connection with a girl or not. One of those is “Do I act chase with her, and do I also DESIRE to act chaste with her?” Chances are that if I don’t have unchaste desires or actions with her, then it means that she brings out the best in me, and that she’s a possible match. If however, I struggle with chastity in some way with a girl, then there’s a good chance that a good connection might not exist and that I need to be cautious.

I should be thanking God for my struggles because they show me what I need to work on. If these struggle were never made evident, then how would I know to correct them?

Romans 8:14-18

The gift of counsel makes us responsive to the enlightenment of God. It’s a good gift to pray for while at Mass, considering all the ways God enlightens us through the Mass.

When my mind wandered during our sharing, I used my ink pen to draw squares around all the freckles on my right leg.

You know, I kinda wish that one of the struggles I have right now, grumpiness, would disappear soon. No, I’m not one of those people that’s grumpy with the world. It’s just that being a missionary, even in a paradise like St. Lucia, is difficult. And i’m still working on trying to adjust to living with a family that has 10 kids. Sometimes adjusting to that plus dealing with my own shortcomings and struggles plus the normal stresses of mission life, it all makes me a little grumpy sometimes. I’m lucky that these kids being as good as they are, just kinda brush it off. But, they do notice it, and that’s what has me feelin bad. Whoever the patron saint of grumpy missionaries is, please pray for me! :-p

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First Overseas Lent/Easter

(warning: LONG entry. But, it all ties together and I didn’t wanna break it into multiple sections)

Monday, April 25, 2011 – 11:18am – School Room @ Marian Home Mission House in Castries, St. Lucia

For the first time in my life, I spent Easter away from family. To the best of my recollection, I’ve never spent it overseas or away from family. There’s a first time for everything, right? I think a good recap of Holy Week and the week before is in order. (sidenote: I just realized it’s been over a month since I’ve had a regular journal entry. that’s flippin’ crazy. Usually i do it at least once a month. But that illustrates a point that I’m learning quite well: once you get into the mission field and get settled in, time begins to pass by quickly.)

The week before Holy Week was a really good week. We had our parish Lenten retreat. It was led by Brother Jeffers Paul, a layman from Dominica who works for his home diocese. I don’t really remember the theme of the retreat. As is usual with anytime i’m in church, I daydream even when I try not to, and have a hard time paying attention. But what I do remember is that he was a very passionate preacher. Not that passion and performance is everything, but being able to get excited about something you’ve devoted your life’s work to, says alot in my book. I could also tell that his life reflected what he preaches, which is what I think drew so many people to the retreat. It was the perfect blend of charism and orthodoxy. Besides the actual talks, which helped me to grow in my journey with Jesus, the sacrifice of my own will and plans to go to the talks and the closing Mass at the end of the retreat were also good for me. This is how the week basically went: Sid realized he’d have to get out of his comfort zone, sacrifice his own desires and plans, and not be able to sit at home to relax and veg out. Sid got mad. Sid went to the retreat anyways. Sid’s eyes were opened and he was blessed. Sid was then glad that he went and participated.

Me and Brother Jeffers Paul, the speaker for our Lenten retreat

Palm Sunday was not much different from the 29 previous Palm Sundays I’ve experienced. What I did notice however was the lively faith of the parishioners at our church. Well, I’ve noticed it in bits and pieces before, in fleeting moments. But there was something about Palm Sunday where I really noticed it. The best way to sum it up is that for the recessional hymn, I was waving my palm around like there was no tomorrow, dancing to the music and being joyful in the Lord. Genuinely joyful in the Lord. Not just faking it. Playing around with the kids as we started to walk out of church.

Palm Sunday Procession

The next three days were fairly non-descript. We had our normal daily routine of prayer, Mass, meals, ministry, fellowship, etc……. The routine took a backseat once Wednesday evening rolled around and we attended the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral. For those unfamiliar with it, the primary things occurring at that Mass, besides the miracle of the Eucharist are 1.)Priests renewing their vows, and 2.) Bishop consecrating the holy oils to be used by the priests for the year. It was my first Chrism Mass ever. Even in the age of priest shortages, it was truly amazing to see all the priests from the whole diocese together on the same altar. Makes the priest shortage not seem as bad. I was also really blessed by the loving words spoken by the archbishop. The other thing I remember most about this Mass was the blessing of the oils. Part of this blessing involves the bishop breathing on the oils, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and is also a reflection of Scripture, where the Spirit hovered over the waters during Creation, and when God breathed into Adam to give him life.

Opening Procession of Chrism Mass at the Cathedral in Castries

Thursday night was the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. It’s when we focus on The Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist. For this Mass, me and Mark, my mission partner, were chosen as two of the twelve men selected to represent the apostles for the foot washing ceremony during the Mass. Again, the Scriptural symbolism of this is a real and powerful way of internalizing the virtue of humility. It was humbling for me to have my feet washed, cuz i’m definitely not worthy. And it was also humbling for me to have to lower myself to the seemingly mundane task of washing someone else’s feet. It was the first time in my life I have experienced being part of the foot washing ceremony.

Foot washing at Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper

Good Friday had a very sacrificial feel to it, as it should. Our church parish has the tradition of doing the Way of the Cross starting at 4am. If you thought you knew early and tired, you don’t know early and tired until you’ve done Way of the Cross at 4am! 🙂 It was a beautiful thing though. We started at the doorstep of our church with the first station, did the meditation, and then following the person who was carrying a wooden cross, walked through the streets stopping along the way to do each of the stations. We had a truck with a loud speaker on top so that everyone could hear the choir leader singing the hymns and the people leading the prayers. About halfway through the stations, we paused on the road we were on and prayed a chaplet while we waited for the other church parishes to meet up with us. By the time the other group met up with us, we were 4 church parishes total. And, I kid you not, by the time we reached the end of the Way of the Cross, the crowd was easily 2000 people. It was quite a sight to see, this massive crowd of people walking through town, praying and meditating on Jesus’ own Good Friday journey. We too had people along the way that were, as I shall attempt to diplomatically put it, not reverent towards what we were doing. We also experienced a little bit of physical discomfort. That’s what I love so much about the Catholic faith, it makes the experience of God real in a very physical and present way.

Way of the Cross winding through the city streets

After we were done with that Way of the Cross, we headed back to the mission house to have a cup of coffee, and try to regain a little bit of strength. Then, me and Mark went with our pastor and his driver to a little mountainside community that is within the boundaries of our parish, and did another Way of the Cross. Although it was not as long, it was also a walking Way of the Cross. We started at a parishioner’s house about a mile or two down the road from the chapel. As we got ready to do the Way of the Cross, and everyone else assumed their duties, no one had take up the cross yet (literally). So by chance, but perhaps by Divine Providence, I became bearer of the Cross. I had not set out to assist at this Way of the Cross with that intention, but I was happy to be able to do so. In the same way as the first Way of the Cross earlier that morning, it had some lifelike similarities and characteristics to Jesus’ Way of the Cross. We had those who were less than thrilled with what we were doing, though thankfully not many. At one point during the walk, the car with the loudspeaker we were using was parked on the side of another car that was on the side of the road, while we stopped to do one of the stations outside the house of a blind lady who was a parishioner. As we were about halfway through the station, a bus was coming up the road in the opposite direction. Seemingly unable to wait three or four more minutes, a man got off the bus and complained and said we needed to get out of the way. That in itself, while it may have manifested some impatience was not really out of place or unjustified. It was when the guy, maybe after seeing the wooden cross we were carrying, or seeing the plaster relief of the Station we were meditating on that was being held by Mark, made a comment in frustration about “Catholics worshipping statues”. Like I said, small thing overall, but it was a small “persecution” of sorts, that made the Way of the Cross seem that much more authentic and real. There was also the physical discomfort associated with such a journey. In St. Lucia, the weather is summer year round, literally. Lows are never below the 70’s with daily highs in the mid to upper 80’s. Even earlier in the morning, it still gets hot and sweaty. Add to that the exhaustion and tiredness I was already feeling, plus the headache and neckache, and it made for a very poignant and real experience. In the end, I was thankful for such an experience, and that God revealed to me things that I could improve upon.

Carryin' the Cross

After a break for a few hours, we headed back to our church parish at 2 for a meditation on the seven last words (phrases/utterances) of Jesus. Again, I had a hard time focusing, and didn’t remember much of what was said. But what I do remember was good stuff, and the opportunity to further try and sacrifice myself to be more available to God was good for me to experience. Then at 3 we had the Veneration of the Cross. It’s basically a liturgy, but it’s not a Mass, because there’s no liturgy of the Eucharist. The liturgy of the Eucharist is left out on Good Friday, because that’s something that first occurred on the first Holy Thursday at the first ever Lord’s Supper. On Good Friday, we remember Jesus’ death and that he’s in the tomb, and one of the ways we do that is by not celebrating the liturgy of the Eucharist and the consecration of the bread and wine into Jesus’ actual body and blood. The precious body and blood of Jesus that is consumed on Good Friday was already consecrated the day before and held in the tabernacle. We were told on Good Thursday that the “apostles” who did the foot washing ceremony would have to bring their robes on Friday because we might be asked to represent them again. Because of this, I wore a small white t-shirt and a pair of shorts to church so that I would not be too hot underneath my robe. Normally I don’t wear this kind of wardrobe to church. But when we got there, we found out that we wouldn’t have to wear the robes. Not thinking far enough in my preparations, I had failed to bring a pair of pants that I could slip on so as to be more presentable in my dress at the service. So, as to not be too much of a distraction, I sat almost all the way in the back. For the part of the service where everyone walks up to kiss the Cross, I stayed in my pew. There was only one line, and the Cross was all the way in the front. I know Jesus loves me anyways, but i did not want to distract or cause scandal by my casual dress. However, I was blessed to still be able to receive Jesus precious body and blood. When it came time for that, the area I was sitting had a Eucharistic minister at the halfway point of the pews, instead of all the way up in front. Plus, it was a side aisle. So, I felt like the combination of not having to walk past many people (and thus not being a distraction), plus feeling called by Jesus to receive his precious body and blood, justified my decision. After the Veneration of the Cross, we were quite happy to return home. We had been so busy the previous 2 days that it was nice not having anything scheduled.

Saturday morning was a normal workday. Shoveled some compost that quite literally smelled like crap. Smell didn’t leave my hands for a full day, no matter how many times I washed  them, or how many times i used hand sanitizer or poured rubbing alcohol on them. It still hasn’t completely left my workboots and work gloves. Finished off the workday by cleaning my room, doing laundry, eating lunch, and taking a nap. Woke up, played games with the kids and hung out, and then had supper. After supper, had some more downtime and then I showered, dressed, and got ready for the vigil, which was to start at 10pm. Right before we left, I downed a cup of coffee, which coupled with my later than usual in the afternoon nap, proved to aid me in staying awake at the Easter Vigil Mass. Atypical of St. Lucia/the Carribean, the Mass was really close to starting on time (things here are rarely on time). Only about ten minutes late. Had the lighting and blessing of the fire outside, we all lit our candles, and processed inside. Had the Liturgy of the Word, complete with it’s 9 scripture readings, the Homily, the baptisms and confirmations, and of course, the Liturgy of the Eucharist where we got to receive the precious body and blood of Jesus. The thing that I was expecting but was not prepared for, was the length of the Vigil Mass. Over here, a normal weekday Mass is 30-45 minutes, and a Sunday Mass is about 2 hours. All in all, Mass here, in whatever form or time of year, is twice the length of what it is in the States. So, I knew that the Vigil Mass was going to be long. Monsignor told us that it was going to end at 3. However, it “only” lasted until about 2:30. But, it wasn’t hard like I thought it would be. The reason the Masses here last so long is that there’s ALOT of singing. So while it makes Mass longer, it also helps things to pass by quickly. After we left church, we arrived home and happily acquainted ourselves with our beds. 🙂 Easter Sunday (yesterday) was a good day. Had a lazy and relaxed morning, ate Easter candy and chocolate, played games, and got to talk to my family on the phone. It really was a blessing to be able to talk to my nieces and parents. Then yesterday evening, we went to the Chancery to participate in the Knights of Columbus Easter Family Gathering. Several of the Knights and their family members (including the Eckstines) did various musical performances and then we enjoyed fellowship and dinner together. Among the various people I got ot visit with, I met a young woman from Canada, who is in St. Lucia for 3 months, living at the orphanage run by some Dominican sisters. It’s part of her Master’s degree program, and she’s helping to come up with a strategic plan for the future of the home. It was a blessing to meet at talk with her, because one of the things I lack here are people close to my age that I can visit and establish community with. The more fellowship and community we have, the more fulfilled we are, and the less likely we are to go looking for love in all the wrong places. What’s interesting is that she’s not Catholic. She’s Indian, though she talks and acts like a “normal/typical” Canadian or American because she’s lived in Canada her whole life. She didn’t say what religion she was either. I hope that I can receive some extra graces from God to represent my Catholic faith in a way that is loving and inspiring, and at the very least, does not turn her off to Christianity and Catholicism. And my real hope is that somehow I can plant a seed that leads her to a deeper relationship with Jesus.

pretty flower i stumbled upon during workday

our humble and beautifully decorated church during the Easter Vigil Mass

Christ our Light

Now I sit here, enjoying my day. It’s a national holiday today (Easter Monday), so we’ve been taking it easy. Did some reading and prayer earlier today. After I finish this entry, I’m going with the Eckstine to a local friend’s house to visit for a few hours. PTL for all of these blessings. Until next time, I leave you with a bible passage I stumbled upon recently……..

Coasts and islands, listen to me, pay attention, distant peoples. Yahweh called me when I was in the womb, before my birth he had pronounced my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, he hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me into a sharpened arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, ‘Israel, you are my servant, through whom I shall manifest my glory.’ But I said, ‘My toil has been futile, I have exhausted myself for nothing, to no purpose.’ Yet all the while my cause was with Yahweh and my reward with my God. And now Yahweh has spoken, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him and to re-unite Israel to him;-I shall be honoured in Yahweh’s eyes, and my God has been my strength. He said, ‘It is not enough for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I shall make you a light to the nations so that my salvation may reach the remotest parts of earth.’ ”  –Isaiah 49:1-6–

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Coreteam Retreat Journal Reflections……….

Coreteam Retreat – Butte Larose, LA – Saturday September 4th, 2010

Earlier this morning, I was sitting on the porch doing some spiritual reading when i decided to come inside to the prayer room for morning prayer at 8:30. My internal time clock must have been off, because it seemed like I was by myself for quite awhile. My first self-righteous instinct was to find some reason whine about it. But, I then realized that maybe it was a prompting of the Spirit, and by God’s grace my obedience allowed me to have some one-on-one time w/Jesus in front of the Blessed Sacrament. As I sat in there reading, praying, and reflecting, I was able to faintly hear people in the other parts of the house waking up, talking and visiting with one another. I think I even heard a little bit of music somewhere in background. I feel like God’s grace changed the way I interpreted that situation. Instead of getting annoyed and seeing it as a distraction from prayer I rejoiced at the fellowship and joy that was filling the house.  Then I realized that so far this weekend God has been blessing us with a lot of fellowship, happiness, and joy.  What more could you ask for?!?

Reflection Questions:

1 – What is your personal desire for yourself as a result of being in this Coreteam/community?

My personal desire for myself as a result of being in this community is to have a community I can connect with and be a part of. I want to learn about what it is to be in relationship with one another. I also desire to grow in faith and trust. There’s also an intense desire to learn how to be a faithful minister of God’s love, and really be able to reach people through the work I do.

2 – What specific gifts can you share with this community?

The most prominent gift I can share is my gift of presence. Just being there with someone and knowing that simply being present as someone who carries the Spirit of Christ, and that it can  help to heal someone, is amazing. My ability to be a sheepdawg and follow orders is another gift. Let someone else be the brain, and I can be the muscle. I also have the ability to be early/on-time.

3 – What areas do you  need help with, when it comes to working in a community?

My primary downfalls are my impatience, selfishness, & timidity. I am a  naturally impatient person which hinders my ability to relax and enjoy the moment. It also hinders my ability to be patient with others and put them first. My selfishness causes me to worship time as my own. It’s really hard for me to be comfortable in the present moment. I’m in a perpetual state of unsatisfaction, always waiting for the current moment to pass so that I can get to my future moment where there is a perceived “something” that I have a greater desire for, and where I (keyword: I) can be happier. My timidity is perhaps my greatest shortfall. I lack courage, backbone, and commitment. Simply put, I’m afraid to step out for the Lord and I lack conviction. And when things get tough, I tend to back down and weasel myself into a comfortable little hole where all is OK and confrontation is far away and unnecessary.

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