Jared L. Wuerzburger
Peace be with you.
Franciscan Young Adult Ministry had the luxury of spending October 24th, 25th, and 26th of 2020 at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis. I am writing this reflection about our grace-filled retreat that sought to experience Christ in the Chaos of this year. I served as a spiritual companion during this profound weekend, and I plan to write to convince you of the need to spend time uniting ourselves to God via prayer in this chaotic world.
Shannon Sonderman and Oscar Henriquez, Young Adult Ministry Coordinator’s for FRAYAM planned and orchestrated an eventful weekend focused on personal prayer. You may have experienced spiritual retreats whose primary goal is to overwhelm you with engaging activities, forced sharing, and community building. Although these can be beautiful encounters, these were not the focuses of this retreat. Instead, activities, sharing, and community were the side-effects of the focused and prayerful rejuvenation that can only occur when resting in Christ Jesus.
Father Adrian Burke of Saint Meinrad Archabbey was our presenter for three sessions across three days. The focus on the conferences was simply prayer. How can we communicate with our creator? Why is this beneficial? How does prayer change us? How does the world view prayer in contrast to our sacred Tradition approach?
We can, and we must rest in the peace of our Lord and God. It is imperative to do as we were commanded to:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mathew 28:16-20, NRSVCE)
To dwell or abide in the peace of God, to rest fully in that love of God, is to see as God sees and to love as God loves. We must focus on the needs of the other instead of fixating on the needs of ourselves. This requires the gift of grace, collaborating with the Holy Spirit, and, therefore a developed prayer life.
Father Adrian desired to clarify the nature of prayer, but first, disclosing what prayer is not.
“Prayer is not a transaction. Prayer is not trying to convince God to fix your problems or the problems of people you love. Prayer is not a Quid Pro Quo. The Eucharist is not a transaction. We are not in it to change God’s mind but instead of understanding God’s mind. It is relational. Prayer nurtures transformation. Prayer is an intimate relationship that is rooted in presence”.
We must come to see prayer as a gift that is given to us by God. This gift is given to change us. We must actively choose to be changed in this increasingly busy world. If we allow God to change us through prayer, praise, and worship, we can begin to be engaged with Christ to change the world. This cannot be very comforting! One must let go of self and allow God to change our usual ways of seeing, thinking, and acting in the world. The change is Christological. We become like Christ, through Christ, and with Christ; side by side, we are converted. Prayer is the primary way that we consent to this change. Daily prayer practices become our Fiat allowing God to issues these miraculous changes in us according this his word (Luke 1:38).
Why must prayer become a regular practice? Prayer focuses our mind to remember that Christ is with us continuously throughout the day. Our Master and Lord is ready to lead us to the truth in union with the Holy Spirit. We must be conscientiously willing to exercise prayer as a concrete discipline in our daily lives.
Father Adrian ended our last conference with guiding words of spiritual direction, “The next time you feel anxious. The next time you feel fearful. Or the next time you feel angry or upset about something. Or stressed out over something that has happened or might happen. Or worry about something that may come along the way. Or shame, resentment, envy, abilities, irritation, fear, or boredom. The next time you feel any of these things. Pay attention. Stop, take a deep breath, and allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. Stop allowing yourself to give in to the temptation to cover up these feelings to make yourself feel better somehow. We don’t like feeling these feelings. Allow yourself to feel these emotions. What does it feel like? I am calling you to be present to yourself. Do not allow yourself to find a lame form a pleasure that comes from an addictive behavior. Scrolling through Tictok or Instagram or whatever you have learned to lean on to feel better. Instead, all this does is make you feel more isolated. Think of yourself as a mountain. A mountain of rock. The weather that comes through or over the mountain is just the weather. It can rain, be foggy, etc. But, the mountain remains the same. And, so do you. You are not your feelings or moods. Be in your feelings without judgment, knowing that they will change.”
Father Adrian also recommends the following: Think of your feelings as messengers from Christ. They are telling you something. Christ is telling you something. Christ is continually communicating with you through presence. What are these feelings trying to tell us? What is Christ attempting to present to us via these feelings? God wants to remind us that in Christ, we have nothing to fear.
23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. (Mathew 8 23-27, NRSVCE).
Christ is asking us the same question he asked his disciples in Mathew 8. Why do we need to pray? To remind us not to be afraid.
To rest in the calming presences of Christ, who is the only solace we have in the Chaos of the world. We must find Christ in the Chaos. Grab him and rest in his peace. Or the Chaos will encompass us, and that unforgettable lack of promised peace will leave us continuously restless.