Thursday, February 24, 2011

For Greater Things You Were Born

Last weekend I was in Alhambra, California giving a retreat to 94 women at Sacred Heart Retreat House. This evening I'll be giving a retreat to about 50 men at the Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago near Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

While the retreats in Oshkosh always follow the "Spiritual Exercises" of St. Ignatius, the ones in Alhambra have a different theme every year. This year's theme is "For Greater Things You Were Born," a quote from Mother Maria Luisa de la Pena, also known as Mother Luisita, the foundress of the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus who run the retreat house in Alhambra. Archbishop Jose Gomez, who will be installed as the new Archbishop of Los Angeles next Tuesday, quoted Mother Luisita when he was installed as the Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles last year. Before the retreat the Sisters provided me with a quote from Archbishop Gomez that helped me prepare the five talks I gave. Here's the quote:

Venerable Mother Luisita will tell everyone, "For greater things you were born." That's it, my friends. That is the Good News we are called to proclaim to our city, to our country, throughout this continent and world, "Para grandes cosas hemos nacido." Each one of us has been made for love and for great and beautiful things. There is no soul that God does not long to touch with this message of love. But He wants to touch those souls through us. So let us make our lives something beautiful that we can offer it to God. Let us do everything, even the little duties of our days, out of love for him and for the love of our brothers and sisters.

As I prepared my talks, I couldn't help thinking how well this quote captures the spirituality of the Apostleship of Prayer. Here's a brief summary of the retreat:

Talk 1: "Put Out Into the Deep" Using the challenge of Jesus (see Luke 5: 4), which Pope John Paul II took up in his Apostolic Letter at the turn of the millennium (Novo Millennio Ineunte), I spoke about the call that all Christians have to go deeper in their prayer lives. The Sacrament of Baptism has transformed us. We are now called to be who we have been made to be--children of God. We are called to be holy as our heavenly Father is holy.

Talk 2: "Your Sins Are Forgiven You" In this talk I spoke about the obstacle to holiness--sin--and how in the Sacrament of Reconciliation Jesus waits for us in order to forgive us. In going to that Sacrament we give Jesus the pleasure of healing us spiritually, the thing that He most enjoyed doing when He walked this earth.

Homily at Saturday Mass: "I Believe. Help My Unbelief" I talked about how faith is a virtue, a spiritual muscle, which, like any muscle, physical or spiritual, needs to be exercised in order to develop and be healthy. Faith, like all the virtues, is not an "all or nothing" reality, nor is it a feeling; rather, it is an act of the will, a decision, a choice.

Talk 3: "Abide With Me" This talk was given right before a long period of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. I talked about the amazing gift of the Eucharist and how, according to Pope Benedict's Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, the Eucharist is a mystery to be believed, celebrated, and lived. I focused on what we believe and how we celebrate the Eucharist.

Talk 4: "I Am With You Always" In Novo Millennio Ineunte, Pope John Paul said that in order to go deeper in our spiritual lives our parishes and communities need to be "schools of prayer." I went through seven ways of praying that the Holy Father mentioned: "imploring help," "thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly 'falls in love.'"

Talk 5: "Be A Living Sacrifice" Here is where I talked about the Daily Offering as a practical way to implement Archbishop Gomez's challenge: to do everything out of love for God and love for our brothers and sisters.

Homily at Sunday Mass: "Be Perfect" Sometimes "the perfect" can be the enemy of "the good." The devil loves to discourage us and make us think that we should give up our efforts because the ideal of holiness to which we are called is too high for us. It is. We are weak. But God's grace is powerful. What is impossible for us, is possible for God who gives us His grace through the Sacraments. With our eyes fixed on our goal of holiness, we walk one day at a time, not giving in to discouragement but striving to make progress little by little.


  1. Fr, I love the "Greater Things" quote & plan on passing it along to my kids & grandkids! Also, reading this post made me wonder if there's a difference in leading retreats for men & retreats for women in your experience?

  2. Good question! I find that women are more responsive, more demonstrative of what is going on in their interior. Men tend to be more guarded. That would be the biggest difference.

  3. I was looking for something concerning this Mother Luisita quote and the Carmelite's song with that title for a friend who is discerning a vocation as a nun. I found your blog and sent the link to her although I had more to find for her.

    I have been Catholic for just 4 years and have participated in a silent retreat with the sisters every one of those years. Men can be open with the right inspiration. I took St. Therese's name as my confirmation name and the Carmelite sister's published an abbreviated version of my story about her impact on my becoming Catholic. I was more than a little reluctant to share that story because it wasn't exactly a "guy thing" sort of story. At the retreat, just a few months after the story was published, many of the guys got wind of the story and read it. For the rest of the weekend I was on the receiving end of many whispered comments about similar experiences in their lives. Men may not share so openly but they do experience significant spiritual events. All it seems to take is the right inspiration to open up, if only in private conversations.