Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Weekend of Retreat!

My fellow novices and I went on a wonderful retreat in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania for a whole week.  We stayed at the Villa of Our Lady retreat center and were taken care of by three super fun jolly Bernadine Franciscan Sisters.  They and their staff cooked meals for us all week long and made sure we were well fed.  The interesting fact I must share with you about these Sisters is that they began in Poland just like the Felician Sisters did.  Upon meeting them, I made the connection that these were the Sisters some of our own Sisters stayed with during the War in Poland.  Now here we were, generations later, reunited!  I really feel that they're family.

I made a few new friends of the feline class.  The Sisters feed families of stray cats that live in the woods nearby and I was able to coax a few kittens with some dangly things.  I also made some human friends at the grotto outside which is perfectly situated at the corner of two major streets, so people stop there all the time.  I talked to several visitors and learned that many of them were not even Catholic, they just wanted to spend some time with Mother Mary :)  They could light candles, sit in prayer, or go inside the retreat house to check out the gift shop.  Perfect!

I found the Mount Airy State Park nearby and the four of us novices went hiking a few times. I even rode my bike around. It was the first time I ever used that bike in the mountains -- it finally fulfilled its purpose! A mountain bike on the road is nothing like a mountain bike in its natural environment. I loved it! It actually provided for a neat reflection on allowing myself to fulfill the purpose for which God has created me. What is my natural environment? Am I made for the road or the trails? Married or religious life? That's what discernment is all about -- discovering where we work best!
While hiking and biking around, we caught glimpses of wildlife.  We heard about bears, but never saw one.  However, we did run across some toads, frogs, a couple of snakes, deer, a rabbit, squirrels, a beaver, a turtle and a few unknown creatures.  Not to mention mosquitoes... I came home with over 25 mosquito bites.

I have to mention the stream as well which was an icy cold relief from the heat and humidity.  We sat in it almost every day and made sure to submerge ourselves enough to make it last for the walk back home.  It was like a baptism, being embraced and comforted by my Sister Water.  Despite the trail's bugs and possible predators, the path was like a deep conversation with God.  With flower pedals strewn across the ground, we could feel the Lord drawing us closer to Himself.

May you be able to see God's love for you no matter where you are!  Amen.  Amen.