Log-book: September 1998
|Making a retreat||Holidays|
|Partenia: some figures|
Making a retreat
Each retreat is a spiritual event. Something always happens. Praying together, listening to the word of God, sharing the Word and receiving it from someone else : all these constitute a call, and an invitation, to openness.
What one was not expecting can happen.
To make a retreat is a chance to put down our burden, to look back over the road we have travelled, re-read the story of our life, make connections between the various events that have marked us, and look towards the future.
When I am listening to the retreatants, I realize that they are carrying very heavy crosses. But I am amazed at the way the Holy Spirit is at work in their lives. I thank God for these men and women who, in spite of the burden of their experience and their trials, continue to believe in Christ with admirable fidelity.
An invitation to a meal -A coloured man came up to me in the bus in order to talk to me. He was from Bangladesh. He shared his difficulties with me : finding somewhere suitable for his family to live; his wife, who is an Iranian, works; he too; his two sons, aged 15 and 17, are getting on well at school. But their apartment has only two small rooms with a kitchen corner; and they have been there for 10 years. He begged me to come and have supper with them one evening. His sons knew me and would be delighted. I accepted the invitation and got off the bus.
Two weeks later, I went to his house as promised. The man I had met on the bus was waiting for me in the street. He was delighted to see me. His sons had made a bet that I would never come to eat with them!
The apartment block was old and noisy, but their own apartment was very neat and tidy. When there is very little space, everything has to be kept in its place!
The mother, with her two tall sons standing beside her, was delighted to welcome me. The two lads were obviously embarrassed. But they soon got over that. They showed me their tiny room, with bunk beds. The younger boy goes to bed early. The older boy works late into the night with a small lamp. They asked me to write a few words on a piece of paper.
In the other room, a table had been set against the wall for the meal. There were only four chairs. The father remained standing in order to do the serving. It is in this room that the parents sleep, when the table has been folded away.
I sensed the pride the parents take in their two sons. They are doing everything they can to enable them to succeed. The family is a sacred value.
I shared with them the bread of friendship in the privacy of their little home. I had the feeling that I had become part of their life. Sharing makes brothers and sisters of us all.
Baptism and weddings - Summer is a good time for the celebration of those sacraments which bring together families and friends. A young couple whom I did not know and who had drifted away from the Church got in touch with me. They had no link with the institutional Church, but human love and a birth invite one to go beyond oneself, prompt questions about the meaning of life, and can open people up to a spiritual quest. These young people were not looking for rules and regulations but for meaning. They have had the experience of travelling a particular road, and they want to be true to what they bear within them.
When we assemble in the Church for the celebration of a Sacrament, I like the couple, the interested parties, to speak first, to explain to all present the reason for the step they are taking. This what happened at this wedding, where the young married couple said to the assembled guests : "You must be wondering why we have come to Church to be married. It is true that we do not agree with some of the official lines the Church takes. We also know our own weakness and our doubts with regard to the faith. But in spite of everything, we want our love to be blessed by God and we entrust our word to the fidelity of God". Thus the tone was set, and the assembly felt itself involved.
To be on holiday is to live somewhere different and in a different way. To change one's habits in order to discover others and rediscover oneself. Every year, I join my family on holiday by the sea. It is a family which keeps on growing. At each new birth, I discover with delight the change that comes about in the young parents : maturity, a sense of responsibility, a sense of wonder before the burgeoning life of their child.
The ocean is always there, immense and elusive. I never tire of gazing at it.
By the water's edge, some children are wearing themselves out pouring the water from the ocean into a hole they have made in the sand. Some holiday-makers are bathing without going too far from the shore. Others, with their raft and sail, are not afraid to go far out and to brave the wind and the waves.
Then there are the ocean adventurers, who think nothing of touring the world on their own. They make the dreams we all dream come true. Their achievement makes us want to go beyond ourselves.
All of this can be applied to our approach to God, can't it ? Some speak freely of God, but He remains outside them. Others are willing to trust God in their lives; they go quite a distance in order to find Him. Yet others are God's sports enthusiasts, the saints who carry us with them on their adventure of faith. They are the lighthouses.
And what about the children who are playing on the beach, endeavouring in vain to pour the water of the ocean into the hole they have made? Are they not there to remind us that the mystery of God is always beyond us ?
Request for prayer -
I was just going down the steps to the métro station when 4 young
people called me by name. Surprised, I turned and went back up the steps
to join them. They were obviously delighted to shake my hand and to talk
to me. I gladly put my signature on the piece of paper that they handed
to me . It was quite late in the day, and they confessed that they had had
a few drinks, and asked me to pray for them. "Me especially",
one of them said, "My name is George. I really need you to pray to
God for me, because things are not good at all. I have a job, and somewhere
to live, but things are not OK with me at all. Will you do it ?" "That's
a promise, George. Before nightfall, I will have prayed to God for you".
The four youngsters disappeared into the crowd but I remained in touch with
them through prayer and friendship. I looked again at their faces in my
heart. In the noise of the métro, George's request sprang to my lips
: "Lord, the one you love is sick".
PS: Partenia some figures, 1997
Total number of pages published monthly on the WEB last year: 175
Total number of pages presented in seven laguages on the WEB last year: 63'875
Total number of visitors last year: 92'000
Increase of visitors last year: 22'000
Monthly average of visitors: 7'660
Number of e-mail messages received by Bishop Jacques Gaillot: 2'300
Number of e-mail messages received by the Webmaster: 346