On April 6-7 we held our Lenten retreat in Viseu, directed by Fr. José Vieira. We started in the morning by listening to a song by Aline Barros called, Renew me, Lord Jesus, in order to enter into the spirit of the retreat. It is a time to stop, to create empty spaces in order to listen to Jesus and make him live in the intimacy of our being. The morning had as a theme, “mission: holy and capable,” as Comboni wants us. There was a brief introduction by Fr. José Vieira as general outlines for a later time of individual reflection and prayer. We followed some of the points of Exult and be Glad by Pope Francis to help us see our mission in Christ and how we must be holy and missionaries in all the facets of our lives. “Be holy because God is Holy.” Namely, to feel in our hearts a life united to God, where we allow ourselves to be molded by Him and so walk towards holiness. Later, we prayed the Way of the Cross, guided by the Gospel and by St. Daniel Comboni, that took us to relive the last hour of Jesus, keeping in mind how he keeps on suffering in Mozambique, Malawi, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and many other places.
In the afternoon we reflected on the theme of “a missionary heart,” again with a short introduction by Fr. José Vieira before our individual reflection and prayer. The theme comes from the fact that the heart is the true home of mission. In this sense, we cannot run away from our heart, and that is why it is so important to understand what makes it beat. To help us in the reflection, we were able to meditate on various parts of Comboni’s Writings where the word heart is mentioned. It is interesting to know that the word comes up more than a thousand times in the writings of Comboni, to show the importance of the heart in the mission and in the missionary.
I give you three quotes that shaped my reflection:
- “The four of us make up one heart, one soul. Each one making an effort to please the others” (SS1507). I see here the meaning of community, united in one heart.
- “The heart of Jesus is our communication center” (SS4764) I saw this sentence as being very connected to this morning’s reflection, namely this union with Jesus who becomes the center of our communications, one with the others, and puts us on the road to holiness.
- “When one has the full certainty of being following God’s will, any sacrifice, all the crosses and one’s own death are the sweetest comfort of our hearts” (SS3683). It resonates with the search I have done to find this will of God in my own life, this full certainty of the path to be followed. It gave rise to doubts and uncertainties that I could raise in prayer to the Lord during this retreat.
At the end of the afternoon we had a penance service that helped us renovate our repentant hearts and take a look at what keeps us away from God and his love. In the evening, we had a Lectio Divina and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, using as a base the Sunday Gospel, the one of the adulterous woman. It was an occasion to open our hearts fully before Jesus present there and meditate on the Word and what it was telling each one of us in our lives and our difficulties. For me it was a beautiful sharing and a true encounter with Christ.
On Sunday morning we meditated, based on Pope Francis’ Lenten message, on listening to the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth. We looked even into these environmental problems and this Lent as a way of full conversion, not only in our actions towards our neighbors, but also in our attitudes towards the work of Creation “that waits with eager longing, awaiting the revelation of the children of God” (Rms 8:19).
We ended our gathering with the Eucharist and a time of fraternal relaxation.
For me it was very important and very good to experience this retreat. It helped me to stop, slow down and break the routine of this life so full of worries and work. It helped me to have an encounter with Jesus, look at the cross, listen to what was in my heart. It helped me to allay the fears and doubts that often bother my heart, with the certainty that, when I walk with him, everything makes sense. Ana Sousa