Monday, March 28, 2011
This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a Spiritual Impact Retreat in Emmitsburg, Maryland at Mount St. Mary’s University. I committed to attending the retreat earlier this semester, not really sure what I was getting myself into. I have led a few retreats and even a mission trip the past few years, but I can’t remember the last time I went to a retreat just to be filled. The past few weeks I gradually grew more excited as the retreat got closer.
I arrived at the retreat site on Friday night with my fellow FOCUS teammates and one student from Seton Hall. Several FOCUS schools on the east coast attended with students, in all I would guess about 30-40 people were on the retreat. It’s always great to go somewhere that there is going to be missionaries from other schools. We spend a month together during the summer growing so close spending day after day together and then we’re sent to every corner of the country, it’s great to reunite with such joy filled people. (And fun to meet students they’ve been working with!)
Early Saturday morning before the retreat started at breakfast I heard a few missionaries discussing what the retreat was going to be like, one had been on the retreat before and one had not. The person that had attended said that the retreat is a lot of intense prayer and even some healing. The person who had not attended asked him what he meant. He said that people are overcome by the spirit and presence of God; hands in the air, people falling to the ground, healings taking place. When I heard this I was a little skeptical of the possibility of the last 2 happening in a legit and unforced way(people doing it for show). Nonetheless, I wanted to remain open to everything that I would see, hear, and experience during the weekend.
The retreat began with 2 talks; 1 about the Holy Spirit and 1 on God’s Love. I soon realized that I’m very unaware of what these things are on a deeper level; this realization really set the tone for the weekend. I was eager and excited to see how God was going to work in my heart if I let Him.
Lately I’ve been struggling with feeling loved by some very important people in my life. I know they love me, but sometimes it’s just nice to feel it and see it more. After the first 2 talks I really felt like I just needed to let God love me. Some of the men and I talked about this and that as men, we sometimes find it difficult to let ourselves be loved by others, even by God. I knew there was some connection between the people that I’m longing to be loved by and needing to allow myself to be loved by God.
The next 2 talks were on evil spirits & healing. Following the talks we were given some reading materials. During the talks and after I received the reading materials I thought about how I had let the evil one into areas in my life in the past. The devil has mostly attacked me by way of sexual sin; lust & fornication. Meaning that in the past, in my mind I have justified these acts as OK to be engaging in. Certainly there have been other ways I’ve allowed the devil in, but this area of sexual sin is something that I have a lot of regret about and have not fully forgiven myself for my past actions. I know that God is all Loving & forgives us for all our sins, but my human stubbornness has gotten (and still gets) in the way of always accepting that.
Next on the schedule was “adoration, praise & worship, laying on of hands.” I was looking forward to 2 of those 3. I was a little hesitant towards the phrase laying on of hands, but really I shouldn't have been, didn’t Jesus and the disciples do this for all different kinds of healing? To add with my discomfort at the situation, (very selfish of me & petty) we cleared the chairs and we would kneel or sit on the floor. I stood at the back of the chapel until I saw some space that I thought I could spread out in. When I got to this space in the front of the chapel, it wasn’t as much space as I thought and could not even see Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, but I figured that I knew He was present. At this point there were 4 pairs of people going around the room praying for people (the laying on of hands part). 3 pairs were a man and a woman while 1 pair was two women. I started silently praying that no one would come to me to pray. But they did, and it was the pair of women. They asked if I would like to be prayed for, I couldn’t say no. They put their hands on me and began praying, just calling on the name of Jesus. And once I stopped worrying about the words that were being said and focused on Jesus, I was at peace.
In a recent blog I wrote about having a euphoric tingling feeling when I was prayed for when I was in Mexico, I experienced that again this weekend, but in a whole new way. I have no idea how long the women prayed for me or what they all said, but I felt Jesus present the entire time. Once they left, I was praying that another pair of people would pray for me. That didn’t happen but I did have almost two whole hours after the first pair left to pray on my own. Near the end of this time I rolled my head back, looked above me, and realized that the entire time I was underneath a statue of the Virgin Mary. This may not seem like a big deal, except that I’ve been praying to Mary, asking her to ask her Son, Jesus, who she is with in Heaven, to give me the strength to overcome my lustful desires and regret of my past. And then I realized what shirt I had put on that morning, the shirt is the picture you can see above. Through this series of events; 2 women praying over me, being under a statue of Mary, and wearing that shirt, I really sensed God’s forgiveness for my past sexual sin that I’ve been hanging on to. The fact that God sent two women to pray over me when it was women that I have used in the past and the sense of answered prayer from the Virgin Mary, but most importantly from her Son, our Lord, Jesus. I finally feel healed of those actions and have great thanks for Jesus and His Love and forgiveness.
That was not all the spiritual impactivity (word/sp?) that happened this weekend, but all that I care to fit into one entry. So stay tuned for more spiritual impact to be posted soon. Until then, VERSO L’ALTO!