This is what I wrote about last year's Advent retreat with Fr. Roberto. Before I write about the Advent retreat we just had this weekend, I wanted to reprint this:
Monday, December 17, 2007
Our Communion and Liberation Advent Retreat
Something happened. I've been afraid to try to write about it because I want to do justice to it, but I also know that I can't. The best that I can try to do is talk around it, spiral fashion, hoping that when I get to the end of all my talking, the tail end will point to that unnameable center, that something that happened.
There is a Life within the life that we live, something that pulses and breathes. At moments we almost seem to touch it -- the skin of our habitual forgetfulness is peeled back and this Life is exposed to view. When this happens, we recognize that what we are seeing is what is real, true -- all the rest is just two-dimensional, black and white.
I had a crushing number of tasks to perform, preparations to make, and I was still not fully recovered from my bouts with viruses and bad turkey. It really seemed possible that this time I would not have the bare minimum in place before Fr. Roberto arrived. I was on pins and needles wondering whether the room for our retreat would be in order, whether there would be something to feed Fr. Roberto when he arrived, whether I could gather all that the babysitters would need, whether there would be enough gas in the car, whether I could prepare the food for the convivenza in time. For me it was a suspenseful time -- but not stressful somehow -- wondering, almost watching myself from outside, 'Will she pull it off?'
Occasionally it would cross my mind that this was not the way I would have chosen to spend my third week of Advent.
But one miracle was that I was not anxious, wondering how my friends would receive the Advent retreat. Ordinarily, in the weeks leading up to a fraternity retreat, I speculate about how one person, or another, will be struck, or not, by what is said. It would be too easy to say that I simply didn't have enough time to worry about these things this time. My prayer, that is to say my inner life was simply caught up in details, details that didn't seem to me insignificant at all. I think that I wasn't stressed out by all my tasks, because I lived each one as a gift to my friends -- even the silly things that couldn't possibly benefit them in any way, like filling the tank with gas, or making sure to put a pen into my bag.
So, when did the world's skin peel back for me? It happened even before Fr Roberto arrived, in the rush and busyness of these days. And then, when the time came to pack my children into the car and bring them over to the parish to drop them at the room where the babysitting would take place, the phone began ringing -- reminders to bring this or that essential item that had been forgotten -- and we simply gathered the objects up and loaded them into the car. Once we'd arrived at the parish, friends who had never been there before had to be guided and helped to find the room. It was as if all these tasks had a halo around them.
I have wanted so much to communicate to my new friends here in Ohio even a taste of the beauty that I have seen and experienced elsewhere. I have wanted to hold out my hands to them, and show them a treasure. But up until now, I felt this desire like a responsibility that I didn't know how to shoulder. I seem, to myself, such a poor vehicle for such beauty. But lately, I have seen something amazing, something I don't really expect anyone to believe -- how can anyone believe it? Because what I've discovered is that I am not the vehicle for this beauty! Mine are not the hands holding the treasure. The treasure is already in my friends' hands -- they are the vehicle for me! I have nothing to show them, nothing to reveal. What is required of me is to look, really look at them, and to listen, really deeply listen. They hold the treasure, they have held it all along. I don't communicate or show them -- they communicate it to me.
I think that even before the Advent retreat, I had intuited this phenomenon in an unconscious way, and this is why I didn't feel stress or anxiety, despite the seeming impossibility of my work. I think that I must have known that regardless of whether I could complete all my tasks on time, my friends would continue to show me this gift.
And so it happened. A completely gratuitous outpouring of gifts -- from His fullness we have all received grace upon grace. All that I need are the eyes of a child and faith that what I am looking for is already in the midst of my life.
Fr. Roberto spoke, and I will be absorbing his words for weeks, maybe months, to come. The Mass was also beautiful, and rich. The convivenza, despite all the practical details that needed attention, was permeated with an incongruous peacefulness. It was incongruous because all the usual human noise and bustle and misunderstanding were there, too, and yet...the faces of all these people had one message for me, a declaration of a love so great that it can generate a new Life in this world, something unforeseen and unplanned by any person: the divine in human form.
By Jesús Colina
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 21, 2008 (Zenit.org).- ... Father Cantalamessa, the Pontifical Household preacher, has written a weekly commentary for ZENIT on the Gospel of the Sunday liturgy for three years, covering the entire liturgical cycle. Today his last commentary appears in this dispatch.
Q: What is your advice to Christians who want to meditate on the Word and draw lessons for their own lives or make useful decisions in life under the gaze of God?
Father Cantalamessa: It depends to a degree on the state, on the duties of the person. If it is only a question of personal use of the Word of God for one's life, the best thing is to begin to use the Word of God that the Church offers us through the liturgy: the Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, etc, because often when the Lord speaks he uses the Church's choice, the readings of the day.
To be attentive to the readings of the day often reveals that it is an answer to a particular problem. A word seems to be made to measure for us to the point that one is constrained to say: "This was written precisely for me!" Hence, one must greatly value not the personal, but the community choice made by the Church in the liturgy.
Q: What do you say to ZENIT readers who will miss your weekly column?
Father Cantalamessa: I intend to publish all these commentaries in a volume, because I have been requested to do so. In part it will be comments published by ZENIT, but in part they will be new, or those I have done on television. Comments in the same style, brief, of a page each, and will be issued in a volume. In due time ZENIT's readers will come to know them. Thus, whoever wishes to will be able to go back to these comments. However, if you have the possibility of their being continued by someone else, I urge readers to read and listen to the new commentator.