Man of the House | ACTS retreat -- finding peace, strength, God's presence
I participated in an ACTS retreat that was presented in February by a special group of men from Holy Spirit Parish in Maryland Heights. Here is a quick peek at some of my journey.
Thoughts before the retreat:
I am a pilgrim on the earth.
I feel like I am wandering most days, uncertain of my destination and unconfident that I am going where I should. I know You are present in my life, Father. My head and heart tell me that. But so often, I don't actually feel Your presence. Am I supposed to? With so much time spent in prayer and reading Scripture, you'd think I would know.
So many years of trying to give my life over to You. Shouldn't it be easier now?
As I prepare to go on this retreat -- yet another retreat -- all I ask is that You be my guide. If You choose to make Your presence more fully known and felt by me, by all means do so! All day, You have been sending some of Your words to me, that sentence You spoke in the Gospel: "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you." I am asking. I am seeking. I am knocking.
Help me in my unbelief.
I will meet new men. Help me overcome fears and shyness in sharing my life with them as You call me to do. Open my ears and heart as I learn about their lives.
Let me participate fully in the retreat's activities, especially the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation. Meet me profoundly in those moments. Urge my heart into deep prayer for the people whom I love, people I need to love better than I already do. And, humbly, for myself.
Speak to me. Enable me to listen.
Reflections immediately after the retreat:
I found peace, a warm and quiet peace that I haven't felt for a very long time.
I found it in the faces and laughter and stories of several dozen men of God, men who are searching -- not always successfully, like me -- for God's will in their lives and the best way to imitate Jesus. I experienced peace in many moments of prayer, in deep prayer, in worship. In the community of people trying to believe as hard as I want to believe. In silence.
Peace came with the sense of God's presence. It didn't overwhelm me. Rather, it sat with me. Walked with me. Whispered to me. Hugged me in moments of forgiveness and gentle joy.
It felt good to just get away from everyday life and the distractions that fill the day. But my prayer was a little less talking than it was just being. And when I did talk, I found my heart opening up wide and spilling out all my concerns and needs and questions.
I found strength. I found peace.
Several weeks later:
You are absent again, Lord. At least it feels that way. I look for You from early morning until late at night, and Your presence eludes me.
Maybe it is the fierce return of my depression that is masking your presence, blocking me from knowing it with all my senses. If so, why? Whatever the reason -- why has it happened? Part of me wants to give up. I'm tired of feeling alone, without Your hand holding mine. Without Your arms around me.
They might be there. I can't feel them.
But I remember them from my retreat. I remember Your love. So I will continue to seek.
Eisenbath is a parishioner of St. Cletus in St. Charles. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his website at eisenbath.com.
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