by Clare O'Connor
Clare belongs to the Cenacle an international group of Catholic Sisters whose mission statement reads: "We work for the transformation of the world by awakening and deepening faith with and for the people of our times". She has been engaged in retreat work and spiritual companioning for more than 25 years.
Finding God in the midst of our daily life! How do we do this? Here is a reflection on some of the ways people discover God in the midst of life and an invitation to you, the reader, to consider some of these possibilities in your own life.
I often meet people who are searching for meaning in their busy lives, and who have a desire for solitude. The search takes people to different places. Some go to church, others to AA meetings, and yet others to the bush or the beach. Many are looking for a spirituality that helps them make sense of their lives. Are you on this search? Do you sometimes long for solitude, to have some space and time to get things in perspective again?
Traditionally, people have used retreats as a way of deepening their spiritual journey. The word retreat, according to the Collins Dictionary is "a place to which one may retire for religious contemplation, or a period of seclusion especially for religious contemplation". So retreat is a place or a period of time for religious contemplation or to use other words - a place or time for encounter with God.
One way many people encounter God is on a Retreat in Daily Life, which allows both the place and time for encounter with God in the midst of life. A retreat in daily life lets you attend to your daily commitments and include some time for prayer and reflection. So instead of having a "wonderful few days of silence away from work and family", the Retreat in Daily Life invites you to be in the midst of work and family and to deepen your God-connection.
Retreats in Daily Life give the opportunity to integrate spirituality and life, rather than separating them.
Here are some comments from participants in retreats in daily life:
"I've regained a sense of self worth and have a sense of purpose again."
"I met God in the beating of my heart, strong, pulsing and real."
"I feel as if God has found me."
"I've begun to be more open to my children and to listen to them again."
These comments are after one week of retreat in daily life, with a commitment to a half hour of prayer each day. It's a bit like physical fitness, it doesn't happen by just thinking about it; it requires practice everyday. Many discover a new relationship with Jesus who is no longer seen as far away, but as close and caring. You too can to relate to Jesus in the Gospels and use your imagination to enter into the Gospel passage. If you are curious about what Jesus is like, you might want to do the prayer exercise at the end of this article.
This type of retreat is not new. Over 500 years ago, Ignatius of Loyola used to accompany people on their faith journey. He taught them to notice in their life what it was that was lifegiving and what took life away. This whole process is one of discernment and enables people to discover where God is in their lives.
Time for a Change
We are targets of time
We are targets of time
We are targets of time
Another way people find God in the midst of daily life is in 12 Step programmes of recovery from alcoholism or addiction. I am inspired by their daily commitment to the God of their understanding. God, or a Power greater than ourselves, is mentioned throughout the 12 Steps and the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Step 11 reads— "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God..." I recently asked a group in recovery how they understood this step and this is one of the responses: "When I am restless and troubled with thoughts and unsure where to focus, I begin to meditate which creates clarity in my mind. Thoughts that follow are wise and questions get answered." This is surely an encouragement to take prayer and meditation seriously. It works.
A prayer used frequently in recovery circles is the Serenity Prayer:
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."
In other words, the person asks God for what they need for the day, serenity, acceptance, courage and wisdom. Many people find that prayer and meditation brings them back to God, the source of their being. So, the 12 Steps are another way for those who are seeking God in the midst of their lives.
So far I've mentioned retreats in daily life and 12 Step programmes as ways people find God in their lives. Others find God in creation, at the beach or in the bush. Instead of just talking about this, I invite you to experience it for yourself right now, using your imagination. The following poem expresses the presence of the Sacred in this land of Aotearoa. As you read this poem Visit us, let yourself be touched by an image:
in breath of wind
in endurance of cliffs
in glow of kowhai
in silence of stars
in solitude of moon
in eyes of the poor
in embrace of a mother
in pleasure of friends
in faith that does justice
————— By Anne Powell - Enough Clear Water 2001.
Do any of these images attract you today? Do you feel drawn to ponder one of the images a little longer?
This may be the way God is speaking to you today. For today, perhaps you will notice anew how God is visiting you as you consciously use your senses to be in touch with God.
In the Acts of the Apostles we read: "God is not far from any of us, since it is in God that we live and move and exist." (Acts 17:28)
Many people experience being in the outdoors, in touch with creation, as a way they can experience God. It is where they find God in their daily lives.
Questions I find helpful to reflect on in a world where violence surrounds us are:
What am I grateful for today?
How am I a peaceful presence in a world filled with violence?
How am I working for peace and reconciliation?
In a world where violence surrounds us, does our God-journey lead us to live justice and peace?
Try this prayer experience
Sit straight and comfortably in your chair.
Read the story of the woman at the well in John 4:1-42.
Receive the gift Jesus has for you today by the well.
Thank God for this time of prayer.
If you would like to have a conversation with Clare about Finding God in the midst of your daily life email firstname.lastname@example.org