The Courageous Journey to Renewed Hope: October 16, 2021
Mary Elizabeth Ilg, Co-Director, Benedictine Center
On Saturday, October 16, 2021 the Benedictine Center hosted a retreat group for a day of prayer and reflection focused on courage and hope. Christine Jurisich, a well-known retreat leader from California (retreatreflectrenew.org) spent the morning talking about courage. Courage comes from within us, when we are connected to God, she said. Courage is “the place where fear and trust meet.” As the poet Maya Angelou wrote: “Courage is the most important of all virtues—we cannot practice any other virtue consistently without it.” Christine also shared helpful quotes from the popular writer, Brene Brown, about honesty and being authentic: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of courage.” She shared an example: if you are trying to “tough it out” through a difficult situation, acting in a hard-nosed way as a means of self-protection and wearing your business suit like a kind of armor, this lack of honesty in your actions or behavior can ultimately backfire and lead to worsening feelings of inadequacy. When you stop trying to control situations and impress other people, and focus instead on accepting yourself as you are, being your authentic self with your various gifts and imperfections, this is where real growth can occur, along with freedom from fear.
After lunch and time to walk and reflect outside on a glorious autumn day, Sister Paula Hagen shared with us her views on Hope. She finds hope through her vow of Stability and praying the Liturgy of the Hours daily with the monastic community. She also finds hope through the practice of Centering Prayer, where we receive God’s healing presence through silence. Sister Paula and many other Sisters and Oblates attend Centering Prayer groups online, minnesotacontemplativeoutreach.org, a practice we began out of necessity in the long months of quarantine during the pandemic, when prayer groups could not meet in person. The peace found in centering prayer is an amazing, life-changing gift.
Another tool Sister Paula shared for dealing with difficult situations is to recite the Jesus Prayer whenever we are disturbed: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Have Mercy on Me, A Sinner.” After several months of saying this prayer, difficult problems vanish.
The retreat closed on Saturday afternoon with a group prayer movement, “I Arise Today” by John O’Donohue, in which we formed a circle of women who became swaying trees, raising our arms like branches to the sky, shaking out our nerves and fears and receiving the gift of courage and renewed hope, from encountering Christ in one another.