Take off your shoes! You are on sacred ground.
Every couple of years, the Cenacle Sisters, Aotearoa organise a weekend for the whole Cenacle family (sisters and companions) from Aotearoa and Australia. This is a chance to get together, to share stories and experience, to have time for guided meditations and prayer and to learn and dream and grow. These weekends are so packed with richness and joy that people are starting to count the days ‘til the next one as they journey back home again.
So much happens to the heart and soul that it is hard to believe, each weekend that is held, that it is possible to be as new and fresh and relevant again. And yet, this is what happens – testament to the willingness and open hearts and minds of the family and to the amount of growth and activity each person brings to the weekend every two years.
The weekend began on the Friday night and finished at midday on the Sunday. Two auspicious signs were that the venue was the Capital Gateway Motor Inn in Wellington (and gates and gateways were an important topic in one of our sessions with the spell-binding Sr Linda Lizada) and that there was an upper room for our gatherings.
After early evening refreshments on the Friday, and a light meal, enabling everyone to catch up, be introduced and reunite with much talk and laughter and celebration, we all went to the upper room. There the weekend truly began. Firstly, after welcomes and introductions, were we shown the memory table that we had walked passed to enter the room. On the table was a Lampedusa Cross. This and others like it were made by Francisco Tuccio, an Italian carpenter living on the island of Lampedusa, from the wood of ship-wrecked boats that landed on the coast of Lampedusa; boats that had carried, to their deaths, refugees from Eritrea and Somalia, desperately seeking safe land. Pope Francis carried one of these crosses at a memorial Mass commemorating people who have died and Cardinal John Dew loaned the Cenacle sisters his Lampedusa cross for the Cenacle Family weekend. It had been a hard year for the Cenacle sisters and companions this year of 2017, with many losing loved ones and one of our companions had suddenly fallen ill before the weekend and was unable to attend. Everyone had been invited to bring a picture or memento of their loved ones to place on this table. It became a sacred space before which to pray and remember; to feel the closeness of those lost and include them in the weekend.
The weekend was opened with the most beautiful mediation and reflection by Susan and Michaela – The Place where Journeys Meet. From Exodus 3: 1-5, Susan tells us “Take off your shoes for this Place on which you stand is Holy Ground.” Before us was an evocative setting designed by Michaela and surrounded with kete prepared by Shirley “They are empty now but by the time the weekend is finished they will be full”. Everyone was then invited to share something of the journey to the place and their hopes for the weekend and to take off their shoes. It was a powerful start to a rich and nourishing weekend.
And then we had Linda. Oh my goodness, Linda – she shook it apart. There was so much she shared, so many ideas, so much food for our hearts, so much discovery, so much to go forward with. A curriculum for the School of the Heart she called it. She quoted from Pope Francis:
“Look to the past with gratitude,
Live the present with passion.
Embrace the future with hope.”
We journeyed to the school of the heart with Linda. She talked to us of vulnerability and the intelligence of the heart. She talked to us of kintsugi, an astounding Japanese art technique where cracks are sealed with gold. The cracks are then the most precious part of the pot, the strongest part. And she quoted from Nikita Gill:
How much more you are than an object.
Your survival, your journey,
Your scars deserve to be treasured too.”
Then we got to the curriculum for the School of the Heart well and truly and she talked of the eight gates. These are eight gates made out of different materials – gates that beckon us out of our comfort zones and invite us to pass through each gate as we acquire the necessary gifts and learnings required for each stage of our journey.
As well as these rigorous sessions with Linda were so many other ideas and graces – the cards we all received to write about our weekend and post to ourselves (so we would receive this a couple of weeks after the weekend as though from a friend – beautiful cards each showing a detail of Merrilyn George’s Set Apart fibre artwork inspired by the life of Suzanne Aubert), there were the paper plates on which we all wrote of our dreams and visions for the future of the cenacle family, there was the tree where we attached our leaves with our hopes written on them. There was the joy of our talented musicians, Carol and Clare and Sarah, effortlessly accompanying our singing with verve (including improvisation). There was the singular blessing and grace of Mass being celebrated with us by Fr Alan Roberts and there was such marvellous food, sharing, laughter, tears, hope; Christ was in the room.
On the last day, Ray and Carol prepared a meditation and beautiful evocative display for us on the environment. Ray lit the lamp and led us into a wonderful guided meditation, so very beautiful (and which is here on the website for all to share). There was so much to absorb. At the end, before our last morning tea, Mary led us into a very peaceful, levelling guided mediation to allow us to slow down and gather ourselves.
There was not a thing in the whole weekend that you could have left out. It was a perfect whole. As Anne said of the weekend:
“It was a blessing to be able to share at a deep level in our various small groups.
It was a blessing to have Linda invite us into the Gateways and to know that there are calls for us to explore here.
It was a blessing to celebrate that meaningful Eucharist with Alan.
It was a blessing to be together as Cenacle Family.”
(by Clare Barrett, companion and attendee)