Throughout my life, like many of you, I have pondered the existence of an almighty deity. As a little kid, I had conversations with God that convinced me not only of His universal power and glory but also of His personal connection to, and interest in, me. These spiritual rendezvous were not earthshattering revelations but small signs that hinted of His reality or, in some cases, assured me of His presence. Though sprinkled with fear, my primary reaction to these rare experiences was happiness, gratitude, and peace. I realized later that those mystical brush-ups could have been the result of my lively imagination or eyes and a mind that played tricks through the wonders of perception. Nevertheless, I accepted them as legitimate ways for God to communicate to me in my limitations.
Spiritualists remind us that we should never underestimate the power, beauty, or grace of such mysterious encounters. Though revelation is very personal, it is dynamic, effectual, and long lasting. Divine episodes occur at unexpected moments; and we cannot will them into being. But we can invite them, opening ourselves to receive them, much as dream therapists suggest that we can open ourselves to messages while asleep. A Day of Recollection, Evening of Reflection, or Parish Mission can serve as catalyst for deeper spiritual encounters. They can be sparked by a retreat or other group dynamic or through spiritual direction or counsel from a friend or guide. Lent offers opportunities to avail ourselves to such things. I will mention here a few examples that might help open your “God portal” and issue an invitation to women for an upcoming prayer experience.
During the past week, Saint Charles Borromeo hosted a Lenten Mission, led by Redemptorist Father Tom Donaldson. Many who attended agreed that it was the jolt they needed to reignite their faith and dig in a little deeper. Over the weekend, I joined some young fathers of our community for a Night with Jesus in which, after putting children to bed, they met me in church around 10PM. We discussed prayer, what it means to us, and shared some best practices. We prayed some devotionals: Rosary, Stations of the Cross, Adoration…and did some spiritual exercises that led to meaningful discussions and faith-sharing. Around 2AM, we took turns before the Blessed Sacrament, praying for the needs of one another while others rested in the Lord. At 6AM, we offered Benediction and Morning Prayer before a quick breakfast and heading home. It was a reminder that the quiet light of darkness can ignite the flame of faith. A day earlier, I met with a group of men in their late 40s, early 50s (I first met many of them when I was newly ordained, and they were in middle school). We discussed the hallmarks of Lent and how praying, fasting, and almsgiving provide a moral compass to direct us in life. It continually amazes me in these sessions how their interaction and encouragement of one another is a means of encountering God.
As Lent winds down, I will join Kelly Pascuzzi and Jennifer Harris to host a Women’s Evening of Reflection at Saint Charles Borromeo Church. This two-hour session on Palm Sunday (April 10), beginning at 6:30, will explore how we can journey deeper into our heart and soul to greet the world anew. To register, call our SCB Parish Office at 816-436-0880 or email Sarah at email@example.com. We never know when or how God will be revealed to us: in the middle of the night, in conversation with a friend, or in reflection with fellow seekers. But when we open ourselves to God’s grace, we discover that the divine presence is very near.