Seeking What’s Next

For the last three years, including last weekend, August 3-5, I’ve had the privilege of helping lead a young adult Charis retreat weekend called “What’s Next?: Finding Answers With Faith” at the Jesuits’ Ignatius House Retreat Center in Atlanta, GA.  This year, I put my admittedly amateur video skills to work in order to make a “highlight reel” of the weekend.  If you want to get a sense of what some young adults are looking for, and what our retreat was like, have a look at our video!:

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L.A. Week: Countdown to Congress

After a pretty busy February spent giving talks and retreats in various places, I’ve finally reached my Spring Break vacation, of sorts.  I’m about halfway through my week in L.A. which has been a great time to reconnect with family and friends and prepare myself for what promises to be the somewhat overwhelming experience of my first Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, which some refer to as “Catholic Disneyland.”

My brother lives and works here as the Art Director for the show Parks & Recreation (my mother was somewhat taken aback a couple of years ago when he said his new job was with Parks & Recreation!  She hadn’t heard of the show.)  I spent the first part of my trip with he, his wife, and their three children.  They have twins–a boy and a girl–who are, as my nephew repeated more than once, “6 and three quarters” years old, and another four year old daughter.  The weekend was a reminder of the pros and cons of family life, as we moved from one sporting event to another.  There was T-ball with my nephew, where I was drafted as a third base coach, and practice for the two girls’ soccer teams that my brother coaches.  One of the Moms asked me, “Has he always been so wonderful with kids.”  And while this was the first time I’d seen him coach, I had to admit that he’s pretty darn good!  I’m also proud to see what a great father my little brother has turned out to be!  Saturday was soccer practice, and Sunday was the soccer games, and I had the joy of seeing my youngest niece score a goal!

She scores!

It was a bit of a surprise, because just minutes before she didn’t seem so into the game!  This was true of most of the girls on the team, whose interest seemed to wax and wane throughout the game.  Sustained competitive intensity is probably not so a common a trait for most four year old girls.

While all this was going on, I also provided entertainment–some voluntary, some not–for the niece and nephew who was not playing at the time, at one point simultaneously pitching balls to my nephew and kicking the soccer ball with my niece.  It was wonderful to spend time with them, as I don’t see them as often as I’d like, but also exhausting!  A reminder that I really need to get into shape!

I also had a wonderful dinner last night with my friend TerriAnn, who asked if she could bring her boyfriend, Ronnie Kovic, along.  I wrote back to her that I would be delighted if he could come and, isn’t his name the same as the guy from Born on the Fourth of July?  Not only was it the same name, but also the same guy!  It was wonderful to see TerriAnn, who I always visit when I’m in L.A., and to meet Ron, who is a lovely man, and who doesn’t look anything like Tom Cruise! 🙂  It was a privilege to meet a man who has really struggled with great hardship in his life, but has now achieved such great peace.  And he an TerriAnn are such a lovely match.

TerriAnn & Ron

We talked for hours, about all sorts of things.  Ron quizzed me on what I’ve been doing, I of course asked him about his experiences (and since I’m a movie nut, it was also exciting to be sitting with a Golden Globe winner!), and I got caught up with TerriAnn, who I hadn’t seen since my last visit to L.A.  How wonderful it was to see my friend, who lost her husband some years ago, to be so happy with someone new!  What a blessing.

All this is a prelude to the L.A. Congress which I hope will be an enriching experience, and also an opportunity to spread the news about my book, and to see a lot of friends and colleagues from around the country who I don’t get to see as often as I’d like!  I’ve also volunteered to be available for Confessions, which is always such a great privilege.

If you’re coming to the L.A. Congress, look for me at the booths of the Jesuits, Charis ministries or Saint Anthony Messenger Press (where you can also buy my book!).  I’ll report more on the Catholic Disneyland experience in a future post!

Pray With And For Refugees

The Jesuit Refugee Service is offering an on-line retreat, beginning Monday November 1.  It’s a good opportunity to “schedule in” some daily prayer, as well as to learn more about the plight of refugees around the world.

Here’s the information from JRS, for those of you who would like to participate:

Online Retreat

This November 14th is the 30th anniversary of the founding of Jesuit Refugee Service. We recall fondly Father Pedro Arrupe’s sound advice to “pray, pray much” as he encouraged the struggling first generation of Jesuit Refugee Service team members in Southeast Asia to bring the overwhelming challenges of their new apostolic work to the Lord in prayer.

To highlight the anniversary and our on-going work with refugees and forced migrants, on November 1 we will makeavailable on our website an Online Retreat. Each day of this online retreat will offer the opportunity to reflect prayerfully on the situation of refugees via the lens of The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.

By linking the Spiritual Exercises to the plight of refugees and vulnerable migrants, we believe that the retreat will provide an easy way for people to fuse spirituality and social justice into their daily life. During the next four weeks we invite you — day by day — into an experience of “prayerful storytelling” as we share with you the grace-filled stories of God’s powerful love for all of us.

I hope you can join them!

Pretty Good Advice, or Did I Really Write That?

For the past three years I have helped to lead a retreat for young adults at our Jesuit Retreat House in Atlanta.  The last one was about a month ago. The other day, the woman who works at our retreat house (who really does the bulk of the work for the retreat) wrote me, sending along an attachment.  You wrote this really nice letter last year, she wrote, and I’d like to send it out again.  At first, I didn’t even remember having written the letter!  Then, I opened it, and started to wonder anew if I had even written it!  It was a really nice letter!  Thoughtful, well-written and offering some pretty good advice.  Some advice, I thought, that I could do well to remember myself!  Here I am, I thought with a smile, giving myself some well-needed advice!  It was a great grace.  And even though by then I had remembered writing the letter, I still found myself a bit incredulous: did I really write that?

Here’s an excerpt from that letter that perhaps you might find helpful, especially if you need to be reminded of a good experience you had with God, and the people that were there with you:

” . . . I know that your choice to come on retreat was only one of many you have yet to make.  I invite you to let one of those be to be deliberate about remembering the graces of your retreat experience.  Many of you expressed the desire to hold onto the consolations of the weekend, but you also shared your fear that the many cares of your lives might make this difficult.  So, let this letter serve as a reminder to set aside some time to reflect, to journal, and to speak with others about what this weekend meant to you.  Pay attention to what struck you the most, and begin to ask: Why?  What is God trying to tell me?

This process of discovery will be helped by such things as attending mass more regularly, and finding a group of peers also seeking what God desires for their lives.  I also encourage you to find a spiritual director whom you can meet with on a regular basis.  The spiritual director won’t tell you what to do, but will help you to see the direction in which God is leading you.  You might also try to make a silent retreat of 3 to 5 days.  Silence makes room for God like nothing else.  Ignatius House can provide you assistance with both these things.

If you made a friend this weekend—or a few—do more than just Facebook each other.  Get together, and get to know each other better.  Do the same with God.  Get out of the house, and meet God away from your everyday distractions!  You’ve undoubtedly found that upon returning home from the retreat, your life hasn’t changed as much as you’d hoped.  There are still many of the same challenges.  But there is also something new happening.  This is the beginning, as the prophet Jeremiah speaks about, of “a future full of hope.”  That hope lies in your choice to let this be not just a pleasant weekend, but one of your life’s turning points.  Trust that God, with your help, will make the change you need happen.  But pray also for patience with the fact that this may happen in God’s time, and not as immediately as you would like . . .”

This was something that I know I need to hear right now, and there are things here which I know I need to continually remind myself of.  And just leave it to God, that infinite trickster, to send me a reminder, using my own words!  God is good, and doesn’t have a half-bad sense of humor.