Retreat Day #3: Trusting our Guide along the way

By Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB

Overhead lamps cast a warm glow in the dining room where we have gathered for Day #3. It’s been raining, gently and intermittently, for 2 days. Sister Mary Schmidt’s lettuces are thriving!

Abbot Jerome opened our session this morning by saying there are 2 steps to accepting a vocation. The 1st is to ACCEPT it, but we can get stuck there when we accept it with bitterness or halfheartedness.

The 2nd step, then, is to EMBRACE it, whether we would have chosen it ourselves or not. In embracing it, we learn to love it, grow with it and thrive because of it.

Our job today is to embrace our journey through the wilderness. How? By trusting our Guide. How? By establishing and maintaining a personal relationship with God. How do we do that? Through prayer.

Many of us experience anxiety around prayer, thinking we don’t do it well enough. But prayer isn’t about perfection. The Spirit prays within us, bringing our prayer to perfection. All we have to do is show up. Intend to pray.

God knows our deepest hearts and the Spirit makes intercession for us. It is the life of the Trinity that is the source of prayer, and it is the Holy Spirit who pours God into our hearts.

God does not force us to pray. Prayer is in the heart where no one can see – or hear – it. A reporter once asked Mother Teresa how she prayed. She answered, “I just listen.” He then asked her what God said to her. She answered, “God just listens.”

I think a common concern people express when talking about prayer is how do I stop the distractions. I know I have them!

The thing to remember is everyone has distractions. Abbot Jerome talked about monkeys above our heads, swinging in trees. We need to climb down out of the trees ourselves and just sit underneath them. The monkeys will keep distracting us, but if we keep trying, we are doing our job. If we are present to God, we are doing our job. If we are listening, we are doing our job. In other words, we are showing up.

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