We just returned late last evening from our annual six-day retreat. It was a good experience, though by Day Six, as usual, I was getting a little antsy from all the silence and lack of regular work routine.
One great thing about it was that this year’s retreat was that the priest retreat master gave us a scripture passage or two to use for prayer and reflection during the time after the conferences.
The retreat’s theme centered around mercy during this special jubilee year. The meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words used in scripture referring to God’s mercy was conveyed as well.
An image that struck me at some point in the retreat, and which I am carrying with me, is that of the Good Shepherd with the little lamb on His shoulders. During his conferences, Father referred to the official image for this year of mercy, which draws from this scriptural image but puts a unique spin on it. (The image shows a person being carried rather than a sheep.)
In my own weakness, this image of the shepherd and small lamb speaks powerfully to me. During the retreat, I prayerfully came to some resolutions for my personal life, areas in which I need to do better.
However, I realize all too well how weak I am and how easily I can fall back into old habits. This is one major area that this image of the shepherd carrying the little lamb is helpful to me. My prayer has become through the course of this retreat: “Lord, pleas carry me…I know from experience I can’t do it alone, and I’ll fail. But, with you carrying me, day by day, I hope to make some progress.”
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I was blessed to have my sister with us for part of the retreat. She mentioned that she had seen my poem in the elevator; I had composed it as a postulant during the weekly chore of cleaning the stainless-steel elevator in the Hankinson convent. It was entitled: “A Message from the elevatory” and it playfully encouraged those riding to remove their smear marks if they left them inside by touching the surface.
I only mention this because my confirmation saint, Therese of Lisieux, shared spiritual thoughts about the elevator. Her reflections came to mind during the retreat since they tie in with (and confirm) my own on the shepherd carrying the helpless little lamb.
She wrote: “I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection. I searched then in the Scriptures for some sign of this elevator, the object of my desires and I read these words coming from the mouth of Eternal Wisdom: ‘Whoever is a little one let him come to me.’ The elevator which must raise me to heaven is your arms, O Jesus, and for this I have no need to grow up, but rather I have to remain little and become this more and more.”