Sr Michele Slattery gathers the graces from this year’s community retreat as she reflects, in the first of a two part article, on key points that stood out for her. The subject preached this year on Grace sheds much light on aspects of the spiritual journey and the different ways in which God is ever gifting us.
Our annual community retreat in Glencairn, was given in June by an Australian Cistercian monk, Fr. Michael Casey, who based our retreat on his new book: Grace: On the Journey to God just published this month.
In his own inimitable way ,Fr. Michael helped us discover the graces and values hidden in many of our ordinary, everyday experiences and how we might nourish them.
I will try to share a few points from the wealth of his material hoping not to do an injustice to it!
The grace of Humanity:
Our task is to become more and more humane and to become more at home in our humanity. To be fully human is to be Divine. The grace of humanity is received in the measure that we accept it. Ones greatest calling is to become ones authentic self. .Made in God’s image, we must read our humanity and receive it in God. St. Leo urged us, “Oh Christians, recognise your dignity.” All our dignity, worth, beauty and the source of our equality is found here. Trying to know and to be and to live from ones true self is the task of ones life. We need self-knowledge which we discover firstly in prayer, then in silence and solitude and in the give and take of life shared with others. We must avoid a false spirituality that excludes or ignores our humanity by searching for a true spirituality that integrates both. People should see something of the Christ in whose image we are made, in each one of us.
The grace of Discontinuity:
When something happens that calls a halt to our previous experience or life-style , a crisis perhaps , a loss or failure or breakdown in a relationship or in health and ones spiritual energy dries up. We are faced with a choice ( often painful) to see this happening as an invitation to a new and deeper way of seeing and understanding and to open ourselves to it. It may lead us out of complacency and superficial living to conversion and to real loving and attentiveness. To a new beginning with trust in God and perhaps with a more healthy self-doubt.
The grace of Alternation:
It seems to be God’s plan in forming and transforming us that we experience the alternation of felt presence or felt absence, of light or darkness, of moods of sadness, or of joy. It is freeing to accept that whatever we are experiencing is part of God’s working with us and may lead us to humility and compassion, we need not panic in the darkness.
Accepting our limitations , we may grow in compassion for ourselves and for others We must accept that we are sinners with divided hearts that our conversion is a struggle but we chose to stay on the road and to search for God in all that happens.
The grace of Temptation:
No one escapes temptation but it is a source of self-knowledge. We learn who we are by the choices we make, ‘you are what you choose’. We continue learning all our life and temptation can be one mode of instruction. Are we choosing from the true self or false self. ? We respond mostly from the true self when we are transparently honest but we can also discern what is from the false self through our actions or non actions Perhaps we should stop trying to be good and concentrate instead on becoming who we most deeply are, accepting shadows and darkness, knowing we are
a battlefield.! Grace builds on nature but the false self disrupts the building and
manifests itself in individualism, self centeredness, vanity and disregard for others.
God sows good seed and gives growth but ones superego can obstruct His action. There is duality in our lives, we must face this and search for integration ( no head in the sand business). We call on God as we cannot manage it alone.
Try to recover simple , whole lives as unified persons . Try to become as good as ordinary ,humdrum people ( God’s little faithful ones), without glory or self righteousness, capable of entering into relationship with God by the door of the simple , poor , humble self. We throw self on the mercy of God with compassion for others and for our selves. God’s will is ineffective unless it is accepted , chosen and lived. Above all let us not try to be who we are not.
This article will be concluded next week