Annual Associate Retreat: A New Heart and a New Spirit
Close to 60 CSJ Sisters and Associates gathered at Mount Carmel in Niagara Falls on Sept. 12 - 14, 2003, for our Annual Retreat. The Program was prepared and facilitated by Sister Grace Sauvé CSJ and Associates from the Galilee, St Luke's and Lalemant Communities. Our Celebrant for the weekend was Fr. Chris Iredale. The theme, "A New Heart and a New Spirit" was explored more fully in the presentations given by Sr. Marie Bouchard CSJ.
We were each given a symbol of a stony heart to carry with us throughout this weekend so we could concentrate on our own "stony hearts" and, with God's help, witness our hearts being transformed into hearts of flesh.
We also pulled names from a basket and whomever we had chosen became our prayer partner for the weekend. A new addition this year was walking the labyrinth, which is modeled on the one in the Catholic Cathedral in Chartres, France.
The labyrinth is an ancient symbol that is being rediscovered as a path for spiritual growth. It dates back over 4000 years and restores to Christianity the walking meditation. Different from mazes that have dead ends and are more like puzzles, a labyrinth leads surely to its centre.
A labyrinth symbolizes life as a pilgrimage, a spiritual journey whose ultimate destiny is our Creator God from whom we draw life and towards whom we constantly move. The paths of the labyrinth seem to meander and double back —reflecting the journey of life. It is a metaphor for coming home to ourselves — of becoming, finally, all that we can be.
The presentation on forgiving and our Communal Reconciliation Service brought us to a deeper awareness of the love of Jesus. At our Reconciliation Service, we gave up our stony heart symbols and were presented with bright red stones, which symbolized our new hearts of flesh.
"Drink of it, all of you: for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." — Matthew 26:28
This year our Retreat offered a variety of activities suitable for a large and diverse group, which was very much appreciated by everyone. Extra time was allowed for private prayer.
After morning prayer on Sunday we had our final conference of the weekend on "Freedom in the Spirit" based on 1 Corinthians 12:1 starting, "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit: and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord."
At Mass, Fr. Chris Iredale spoke about "The Feast of the Triumph of the Cross." This was a powerful invitation to each one of us to unite ourselves with Christ in the mystery of the Eucharistic Celebration and claim a new kind of victory won for us by the Death and Resurrection of Love Incarnate.