Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Cornerstone retreat

So this past Friday night and all day and night Saturday was my parish's women's cornerstone retreat. I don't know what to think of it. It was a retreat and a decent one at that, I just hear the words "you're beyond it" played over and over in my head. See last year MaryKay, my parish's pastoral associate told be point blank to not go on the retreat because "you're beyond it" so that made the tugging on my heart take a backseat until it rolled around this year and I said at the last possible minute I'm gonna go. After all it's a retreat, even it's one of the worst retreats I've been on, at least I can help them market it to my age group, bottom line a retreat is a retreat, you almost always get something out of it.

Not knowing what to expect except a lot of familiar faces from the "older" members of the church, I was honestly quite nervous about going. Interestingly enough all the candidates had a similar feeling. It being a women's retreat and with all the hormones in the room, it made for a weepy weekend. It was a roller coaster of emotions with all the witness talks, the Sacrament of Confession, and having one of the candidates mother die while we were on retreat. (Her mom was sick and in the process of dying and would have been 90 in September, so it was expected, but still caused a bunch of emotions in everyone else who didn't know about it.)

Typical of the "whoo-hoo Jesus loves me" retreats there was plenty of reassuring that Faith and God will help you through your life and what not. Also typical of these retreats are letters from home or in our case the parish, and knickknacks to remind you of the talks. I've never really been a big fan of these types of retreats and it was honestly hard for me to be in candidate mode vs. team member. Fr. Brian, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite priests, even told me to not use that as an excuse. Fr. Brian plays a big part in the weekend for me, but more on him later. Cornerstone follows the traditional route of a SEARCH retreat or at least that it reminded me of. So my thoughts were going to be loving yet critical, yet critical isn't the right word, because it has such a negative stereotype around it.

My thoughts are going to seem scattered and that's because they are, but I might as well start from the beginning. Cornerstone is marketed to the women of the parish, via announcements at Mass, and by some members of team giving a 2 minute talk on it at the Masses about a month before the actual retreat. Needless to say it wasn't the marketing strategy that won me over to go on the retreat, the constant reminder of it might have helped. As it was I waited until the last possible moment to hand my form it. Actually my dad handed it in to the rectory and somehow it was placed in the wrong box and by chance they, the team, found it the Thursday before the retreat. I don't ask, I just chalk that one up to a bit of some spiritual warfare, and I'll leave it at that, with God winning as usual.

So the time came to go on the actual retreat which takes place at the parish, well in the school. Thankfully we have a youth ministry room which is across the hall from the cafeteria, and a gym. The youth room offered itself as the actual retreat room where all the talks, small group sharing and large group discussion took place. In my humble opinion it was too much time spent in such a small room, well it's not small, but it's not as massive as a gym either. I didn't understand why they had the sound system set up for the talks, I have yet to use a microphone in that room, and everyone seemed to hear me just fine. So I think we could do without the microphone, it would also allow for more animation from the speaker. Seeing as they were constantly adjusting it, I don't see a need for it, but that's just me.

In doing as many retreats as I have for as long as I have, my brain went right to how can I make this better. Yes as Fr. Brian and I discussed I am a perfectionist, and I have to be right all the time, it's a fault and well I'm working on it. The witness talks, while good seemed to have two personalities, those that practiced and those that didn't. For someone who is as well versed in public speaking as I am, I tend to notice things like transitions, speed of speech, and well other little things like that. This is something I can help out with should I "discern" to be on team. Each witness talk picks a song, and they were all classic cheesey songs, even the theme song was cheesey. I know I've been graced with an array of Christian music artists, but I also know how to take a secular song by a band like U2 and give it a Christian meaning, actually I would just take most of Matt Maher's works and use them. He is wickedly talented, and Catholic! I walked in to hear a song we used when I was in high school a good 11 years ago, and that amused me and I pointed out that the last time I heard it in that particular room was when I was in high school, that comment wasn't appreciated by some, but oh well.

The food was AMAZING, it was all home cooked meals, so suffice to say that I've never had food like that on a retreat before, that is reason enough to come back. Cornerstone is one of those retreats you only go on once, so if you're coming back it's on team, and Lord knows they make up enough positions to accommodate everyone. The retreat itself was pretty decent, it was just the little things that got to me, and those are things that if fixed will only make the retreat better. Like I said it's a typical "Jesus loves me" retreat, and while I would have loved to have more Scripture quoted and Catechism quotes in the witness talks, they are what they were, and so be it. I would have loved to have seen time for one to reflect on the talk before moving into "table share" aka small group discussion, but that is something easily fixed, same with the Scripture quotes.

My next biggest issues comes from the closing Mass and the Mass of Thanksgiving. The sharing experiences from the retreat was expected, though not overly enjoyed. The only thing that got to me was Fr. George, our pastor, asking the women who were on the retreat to come and join him in the Sanctuary for the entire Eucharistic prayer. The traditionalist in me had a heart attack about 10 times over and the perfectionist in me said ok offer it up, it is a retreat Mass after all. I would have been fine had he don't done it for the Mass of Thanksgiving too. It's not allowed, and I don't like when you mess with the rubrics, so let's just say Fr. George and I are seeing eye to eye currently. It's nice to have Fr. Brian on board because based on Fr. George has said, Fr. Brian doesn't veer from the Rubrics and that I love, hence why Fr. Brian is quickly becoming of of my favorite priests.

Looking at the retreat this way I thought I was going to be more critical, but alas I really wasn't and everything that I had issues with is easily fixed. I did have a wonderful time on the retreat, and do expect I'll be on team. At one point someone said to me, that I didn't seem affected by the retreat, I said I was, I just sort of knew what to expect with all the retreats I've been on.

So back to Fr. Brian, the first night, we went around the room introducing who the candidates were, and Fr. Brian came to me later and said, "I'm surprised this is your first one, when you introduced yourself I turned to Fr. George and said, I'm surprised this is her first Cornerstone." I told him about MaryKay telling me it was beyond me and he just shook his head and that conversation had to end because the break was over. Later that night the Sacrament of Confession was offered, typically of myself I wondered do I go to Fr. George or Fr. Brian, I actually thought about it and finally caved to the ultimate tugging on the soul to go to Fr. Brian. Let's just say I was never happier to go to Confession, and to be clean afterwards. Thank God for such a wonderful sacrament, as Fr. Brian said we need to use it more. During confession we talked about perfection and I was told to leave some of that behind as I left. And for the first time in my life was given a classic as a penance, 5 Hail Marys. I smiled and laughed to myself as I went to say them, and said, what I don't think I've ever gotten that as a penance. Also typical of myself I was one of the last people to go to Confession, that was not the plan but Fr. Brian's line kept growing, and I just said, fine I'll wait. I think I've found my confessor. ;)

During the retreat we are given letters from home and the parish, the typical palanca (I probably spelled it incorrectly) letters and most of them did make me cry, which is what they do. However I got from from MaryKay which just annoyed me. I sat there appreciating the thought, but thinking how do you tell me one year, that I'm beyond the retreat, and the next year say I'm so glad you went on the retreat. In her letter she says "When you are young it's difficult to watch other people move ahead on their journey while it seems that you haven't moved very much." While I appreciate the thought, it's like she was telling me I was moving backwards. I was so annoyed with what I read that I had to take her letter shove it in it's envelope and reread the letters the deacons in the parish sent me. Yes I totally understand that my friends are in a different place than me, but I have never felt like I wasn't moving. I can look at my life and equate it to the poem Footprints, and "it was then that you carried me Jesus." Yes my friends have what I want, but God's plan works in different ways with each person He's created. Rereading her letter it doesn't seem as bad as I first thought it was, but it still annoyed me. Don't come preaching to me about my life that you know nothing about and don't assume we're alike just because I'm a woman in ministry. I'd gladly take your job, and I know a few others who would love for me to take it. I'm content with what I have right now. It's not what I wanted, but it's working, and I'm slowing regaining my trust in my gut which has been pretty spot on, thanks to being guided by the Holy Spirit.
Overall the retreat was a good experience for me, and I'm glad I went on it. I'll do whatever is asked of me for team, and no MaryKay I'm not writing my witness talk, which you told me to do as you left the coffee and desserts after Mass. If I'm called to do a talk I'll do it, if not so be it.

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