I was blessed to have spent a large portion of this past weekend on retreat with 90 curious, caring and Catholic students from Boston University (yes, Boston University…). Despite their college of choice, I was inspired and in awe of their hunger for faith, their openness to instruction and their receptivity of God and His message. It brought pure joy to my heart to see students on their knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament, students sharing a shoulder for a crying friend, students attentively listening to guest speakers and students taking great risks to be vulnerable enough to maybe let God in. That God was present among us was clear, in my eyes, in my ears and in my heart.
The theme for the retreat was “Grounded: Christ is our Rock.” For some reason, I was deemed worthy to speak and share my experiences for a portion of the Saturday night section of the retreat. My challenge was to address the role of prayer in grounding one’s life in the unshakable foundation of Jesus Christ. I was to teach and share on the purpose, practice and progression of prayer, through its unique and varying stages. In keeping with this very appropriate and significant theme, I placed at the center of my talk the need for prayer to exist simply because God exists. There is a tremendous desire in prayer, and a common tendency, to think that we pray for our own benefit, or even for God’s benefit. Though the rewards of our prayer are great, they are not the foundation, the foundation of prayer is the worthiness of God that warrants our prayers. He is who is, unchanging and eternal, and therefore, someone in whom we can and must place our heaviest anchor.
This blog has shown in the past that life, noticed mainly in running, is full of consolation and desolation. Every day presents new opportunities for success and better opportunities for failure, but in each of them exists another great opportunity – to hold on to the Cross with confidence that we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. As I spent the night in conversation with these students, listening to their lives and sharing mine, it was apparent that we each struggle uniquely, but we find solace in common. We learned that we are not alone in our fears, troubles, joys and experiences. Rather, we stand with each other as friends, because we stand on the same holy grounding. The conviction of my friend is a pillar of my own. It is my friend who helps me to bear my cross because he is an agent of The Cross Bearer, whether he knows it or not. Together, through good friends and hard prayers, we started to see at the retreat what has been there all along – the person of Jesus Christ, sometimes scared, sometimes sorrowful, always healing, always praying, the Crucified, but the Risen!
Though we rejoiced over our friends and our God, the retreat was not all easy. The difficulty is in recognizing that the greater challenge, in grounding ourselves in Christ, is not the attachment to our God, but much more so the abandonment of ourselves. As the students shared their stories of transition, lost identity, daily struggles, sin, pride, and slowly launched these testimonies as waves upon rock, to watch them crash into mere droplets, they noticed a similar erosion event occurring. As we offered up ourselves, in our strengths and weakness, God offered Himself even more fully to us. As our attachments shattered on the Rock of Christ, in return did His grace begin to shatter the rock of our own hearts, revealing beneath it, a fleshy, living and holy Heart.
The retreat was a wonderful example of the power of prayer and the support of friends. Over the weekend we all became a little more aware of God’s goodness and His relentless longing to love His created children. These students, as they danced to Rihanna in the middle of life’s challenges, truly found love in a hopeless place! (by which I can only assume they meant BU…)
Let us offer our hearts to the Lord, so we may be free enough to receive His!