This past weekend (Friday July 27 - Monday July 30) I joined the Marianist brothers for a bi-annual gathering called "Look, Listen and Lounge." It is a gathering for people in formation with the Marianists, but also for those who are seriously considering entering the Marianist vowed life. It was not exactly a retreat... although we did pray together and had 1 or 2 sessions each day. It was more of a weekend just to relax and get to know one another in an informal and fun atmosphere. It took place at the Marianist retreat house on Governor's Island.Quick explanation of Governor's Island...
In the early 20th century one of Ohio's governors left his property to the Marianist brothers and priests at the University of Dayton. The property just happens to be one of the small islands in a chain of islands in Indian Lake (a large man-made lake about 2 hours north of Dayton).
Anyway, we had many late night card games, swimming, boating, tubing, a bonfire complete with s'mores and roasted hotdogs... When the Marianists get together, I suppose one could say that we have a good time.
On the serious side, however, there were 3 sessions... I was asked a few weeks ago to give the one on Sunday evening. I spoke about my discernment journey and where I am right now. I used the story of Jesus walking on water and calling Peter out of the boat as the frame for telling my story.
I won't go into everything I talked about, but I want to share with you a few of the reflections. I shared with everyone that stepping out of the "boat" and into religious life wasn't a huge difficulty for me and that at the beginning if I stayed focused on God and the grace of the present moment, I was fine. However, at times during this past year there have been moments of doubt or questioning... "Can I really do this? Will anyone else join? What does the future hold and will I be able to cope?" and other such questions...
During each of those questioning moments I have asked for help... and that help has typically come through the people around me. I told the group how difficult the year would have been had it not been for "my brothers"... the men in formation with the Marianist brothers/priests. We have been each other's support. Also, my intercommunity novitiate group was immensely helpful... as well as the sisters in community.
If I were to write a book about the brothers & priests in the Society of Mary, I would entitle it Truly My Brothers because that's who they've been for me. I didn't grow up with brothers... but God has seen fit to bless me with 100s of them now!
After the talk I gave everyone a copy of the Scripture passage along with 4 questions for reflection. I asked them for what is Jesus calling them out of their boat, how do they feel about that, what support do they need to take that step and keep going, and who has been supportive for them in their own discernment journey. Then they had time for one-on-one conversations.
It was good. Reflecting on how I've come to be where I am on this journey was good for me. It was also good to articulate it verbally. I've realized that each day is filled with God's grace... that I can't "do this" of my own will/effort... that a helping hand from Jesus often comes through the people around me... and just because there are winds that toss the boat, it doesn't mean Jesus isn't there attempting to walk on water with me.
My friend Brandon, who is a 1st year novice with the SM, took pictures from the weekend. Here are a few:
Many blessings to all who read this!