As I indicated in a bulletin letter quite a while ago, this Tuesday I will be flying to Memphis, TN to direct a retreat for about 25 sisters from that region who belong to St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta’s religious order, the Missionaries of Charity (MC’s). I will return back to Paulding very late Wednesday night, March 8th. While I’m gone, Fr. Fred Duschl and Msgr. Marv Borger (Vicar for Clery of the Diocese) will cover my Ash Wednesday and weekend Masses. I’m very grateful for their willingness to help. I was very reticent to take on this retreat, given its timing at the beginning of Lent; but after conferring with the powers that be, and prayerfully discerning, I decided this was the right thing to do.
When I was in Rome, a handful of us priests living at the North American College in order to pursue further studies served the seven houses of MC’s there. Their houses can always be found in the worst sections of poverty in big cities. That is because their charism and apostolate is “to quench the thirst of Jesus for love in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor”.
The retreat will consist of three spiritual conferences throughout each day, as well as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Then the sisters will have an extended several hours of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament each day, during which at least some of those hours I will hear confessions and offer some spiritual direction. I’ve never visited the MC’s in Memphis, so I don’t know much about the physical setting where I’ll be staying. But I guarantee you it will be clean and simple, since they live a life of extreme poverty and simplicity.
The main content of the spiritual conferences will be commentary on the Old Testament book entitled “The Song of Songs”. The book is replete with love poetry. What’s surprising about the book is that it never even mentions God’s name, except for – literally – one syllable in chapter 8 verse 6, where the word Yah appears. That one syllable seems to be an abbreviation of God’s proper name, Yahweh. Every stanza of the love poetry is a dialogue between the book’s Lover (male) and his Beloved (female). There are also seem to be at times small groups of people standing around him or her, and some of the words are adressed to them.
Traditionally throughout Church history, and even back before Christianity, in Old Testament times, this book has been interpreted spiritually as follows: the Lover was seen as God, and the Beloved was understood as God’s chosen people Israel. Or the Lover was seen as Jesus Christ, and the Beloved was understood to be His Church, or each individual human soul. Fathers of the Church and Saints who interpreted the book this way will provide the main inspiration for the retreat.
Please pray for the sisters on this retreat; also please pray that I’m able to give them something that truly nourishes their love for Jesus Christ, as they live such a grueling and disciplined life in His service among the poor. The retreat will be useless, if God himself does not fill it with the power of His Holy Spirit. Thanks in advance for the prayer support!
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,