Retreat Jottings

by Melannie Svoboda SND on January 20, 2020

Last week I told you I would share a few thoughts from the retreat I made January 4-11. Here are some jottings from my journal—in no particular order.

A few days before I left for retreat, I “chanced upon” this quote from St. Isaac the Syrian who died in 7th Century Nineveh: “Enter eagerly into the treasure house (the heart) that lies within you, and so you will see the treasure house of Heaven. For the two are the same, and there is but one single entry to them both. The ladder that leads to the Kingdom (of Heaven) is hidden within you, and is found in your soul. Dive into yourself, and in your soul, you will discover the rungs by which you are to ascend.” I kept returning to these words throughout the week as I kept diving into my soul.

I made my retreat in Florida on the Gulf. Every evening God treated me to a sunset…

Another anchor for my retreat were these words by Sister Joyce Rupp: “You do not always have to be producing, creating, harvesting. Learn to be idle. Learn to rest.” (Sometimes I have to work hard to be at rest!) A third anchor for my retreat were these words from a very good friend. She said, “Just let your retreat unfold, Melannie.” I focused on that word unfold as I tried to let God take the initiative during the week.

A few months ago, I meditated on the 99 names for Allah in the Islamic tradition. I didn’t have those names with me, so I decided to come up with my own list of 99 names for God. I ended up with about 75. Not all the names are original to me, of course. Some are part of our venerable Judeo/Christian tradition. Here are a few of the names for God on my list:

Sweet One… Almighty One… My Beloved… Source of All Goodness… Comfort… Goad… Oasis… Comedian… The One to Whom Everything is Tending…

Unending Patience… Perpetual Persistence… Bread of Life… Life-giving Water… Best Friend… Humble One… Hiding One… Revealing One… Unending Movement… Primeval Flow… Divine Tuning Fork…

Breast of My First Nourishment… Grandma/Grandpa… Wise Farmer… Bridge Maker… Pathfinder… Life-long Traveling Companion… First Responder… My Ageless Playmate… Impenetrable Mystery… Lifeguard… Healer… My Primary Care Giver… Home…

With each name, I asked these questions: If God is this, then who am I?… If God is this, then how do I live my life?

Just how many shades of blue can Our Creator come up with anyway? (photos by Pexels)

And finally, I heard this true story from a priest on Epiphany. He was celebrating Mass on Christmas Eve. When he got up to give the homily, he noticed a 3-year-old boy squirming on his mother’s lap. The priest knew the boy and his mother. Suddenly the little boy broke free, ran up to the priest, raised his arms, and the priest picked him up. The boy excitedly pointed to the tabernacle and said, “Jesus! Birthday! Jesus! Birthday!” The priest said, “Yes, today is Jesus’ birthday.” The boy squirmed out of the priest’s arms, ran over to the bells that are rung at the Consecration, picked them up and rang them enthusiastically. The congregation smiled as the boy ran back to his mother’s lap. The priest stood there for a moment and then said, “Well, I’m done here. We just had our Christmas homily.” And he sat down.

For reflection:

Does anything stand out for your in these jottings? Do you have any favorite names for God that you’d like to share with us?

The video today is a short meditation on “The Ocean of God’s Love.” If you are living in the northern hemisphere, you are probably experiencing winter. Maybe you even have ice and snow. I thought you might enjoy this short video…

I invite you to share your responses below. We love hearing from you!

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas DeFreitas January 20, 2020 at 4:45 am

Mercy. Refuge. Shelter. Harbour. Haven. Balm of Gilead.

What a delightful story about the wee lad ringing the “birthday bells”!

I’m actually enjoying winter, and am not inclined to “fast forward” out of it just yet. (Talk to me in early February!)

Do you (Sr Melannie and readers) know of a marvellous book called The Promise of Winter, by Martin Marty? Photographs (luminous, beautiful photographs) and meditative texts. Worth finding in a used-book outlet (either brick-and-mortar or online).

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John E Hopkins January 20, 2020 at 7:04 am

Thanks for the book tip, Tom.

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Jean Canatsey January 20, 2020 at 10:27 am

Thanks! Just ordered a used copy!

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Deirdre Lewis January 20, 2020 at 4:55 am

It’s summer here so the video is particularly relevant. I love it.
One of my favourite names for God is artist. His painting with light is awe-inspiring! Thanks so much for this. I hope your retreat was deeply blessed.

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Kathleen Magiera January 20, 2020 at 5:29 am

Sr. Melannie,

After a weekend of blizzards (could not make it to Mass on Sunday), the phrase “learn to be idle” caught my eye. In my retirement, I need to continue to contribute but also need to be idle.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Stay warm.

God bless!

Kathleen

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John E Hopkins January 20, 2020 at 7:14 am

Good morning, Sr. Melannie….
Good morning, all……

Like Kathleen, I, too, need to learn be idle, or at least that it’s okay to be idle. Just daydream, give the brain a rest, look out a window….AND NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT!

What a wise priest to let himself be upstaged by a little boy! That’s exactly what Jesus would do.

A name for God? Morning Coffee…

PS: What an amazing retreat!

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Pete January 20, 2020 at 7:24 am

Yes! He is sometimes referred to as, “The big guy upstairs.” As a hiker, traveling along, I sometimes wonder what, “The big guy upstairs has for me around the next corner.” It is always a challenge and very rewarding. At least I know he is with me.

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Mary James Kelly January 20, 2020 at 8:05 am

Thanks so much ! I love thinking of names for God. The new one for me was “First Responder”. I’ve many first responders in my family but I never thought of God that way and it reminded me that’s because I often don’t let God be that for me. I take charge too soon

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Donna Ariente January 21, 2020 at 9:48 am

I love that!

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Mary M Nausadis January 20, 2020 at 8:36 am

Living flame is a favorite of mine. John of the Cross and I became very good friends while I was going through the 2 year Spiritual Direction Practicum and the image of the Flame within has resonated with me ever since.
I could feel myself in the video…..we live very near Lake Michigan and I’ve had many experiences of approaching and being on the shore. There is something so contemplative about being near water for me…..the cadence of the lapping on the shore, just watching the movement and then the stepping into the water feeling the pulsing of the gentle or not so gentle waves…..all pure gift.

Thank you for always planting a seed for reflection, Sr. Melannie

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Lois January 20, 2020 at 8:41 am

The word “unfold” reminded me of this verse:
Psalm 119.130:
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.

Thank you for your meaningful jottings,
Lois

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Shirley January 20, 2020 at 9:28 am

My word or phrase, The Big Guy upstairs!

Loved that the priest enjoyed the little guy and what a beautiful homily it was!

Have a blessed week Sister Melannie!

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Jean Canatsey January 20, 2020 at 9:40 am

Good morning, Sr.Melannie!
My favorite names for God…..Daddy…..water…..peace…..
So glad you got to spend a week by the sea. We only live a little over an hour from the ocean and that is definitely my favorite place to just be. I’d never considered the many shades of blue…..all so peaceful.
So thankful to Tom for mentioning “The Promise of Winter”. My husband just ordered me a used copy on Amazon. The picture on the front could have been the view from our dining room window in Indiana. (Speaking of winter in Indiana, I just ran across a newspaper article listing the record low daily winter temperatures in January 1977. (-20 on the 16th & 17th). On Friday, January 28, when the air temperature was -11 at noon the wind chill factor was -65.) Made me grateful for the beach!
I need to learn to just be idle….

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Nancy Carman January 20, 2020 at 10:35 am

Words for God,Great Protector,Awesome One,Light InMySoul

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Carol January 20, 2020 at 11:31 am

Good morning from wintery Wisconsin!
It is sunny and bright–midst the snow-covered outdoors.
Many years ago, while on retreat, Fr. Donald Goergen, OP suggested we consider a name we have for God and a name God has for
each of us. Among all of the beautiful names for God in your list,
Melannie, I found mine, “Beloved.” And, I still cherish God’s name
for me, “Darling.”

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Josita January 20, 2020 at 2:39 pm

Dear Melannie ,
I love your quote from St. Isaac the Syrian and your unique and not so unique for God.
My favorite name for God is Sunrise….God is the light of my life and brightens my day in so many different ways…just as no sunrise is ever the same.
The Christmas homily was precious.
Thanks again for always inspiring. Josita. Happy and blessed 2020!

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Joanne Bennardo January 20, 2020 at 6:34 pm

Dear Sister,
While reading through your list of names for God, I paused at the notion of My Ageless Playmate. Rereading through the list again, the pause grew longer. It is saying something to me, but yet, I do not know for certain what. I will bring it to prayer.
In the meantime, I think some of my answer lies in your question about what does the name ask of me in my life. Simply, the name is asking me to play. Much like reminding ourselves to be idle, I may need to let the child within me play. After all, if we are people of Joy, then it holds that we enjoy! Thank you and God bless you. Joanne

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SisterMaryEamon Lyng January 20, 2020 at 7:46 pm

Melannie,
What a beautiful retreat! As I reflecting on yours, this theme and your questions for reflection would be a wonderful start for our sisters when you come next February. What a beautiful sunset to end each day. May you continue to live the grace of the retreat. Many blessings upon you.

Sr. Eamon

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svidergol, madelyn January 21, 2020 at 10:26 am

FRIEND

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Mary Therese January 21, 2020 at 10:59 am

I have come to this reflection late as I’ve been dealing with a water main break at the end of my already blocked-by-the-snow-plow driveway. That pile of road crust is now an icy glacier! Taking a break from boiling water and assuring my husband, who has dementia, that it will all be okay, I come to Sunflower Seeds and indeed feel the sun. I loved all of Sister’s names for God, the wonderful story about the 3 year old and the bells, and of course that warm video on the beach was a shot in the arm. However, what I’ve loved most are all of your response reflections. Thank you for sharing because each one touched my heart and made me feel hopeful.

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Mary January 21, 2020 at 11:39 am

Thank you! I LOVE that you call God “Sweet One”….. it’s my favorite name, along with “Dearest One”!

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Melannie Svoboda SND January 22, 2020 at 2:01 pm

Dear All, Thank you for your responses this week (and you can still respond below!) I especially appreciated the sharing of your names for God. That was wonderful! Thanks too for the book tip and your responses to the pictures and video. Your words enrich my blog each week. Keep them coming! Gratefully, Melannie

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Marty January 23, 2020 at 5:54 pm

Divine Intervener and Non-Consulter.

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Theresa January 28, 2020 at 8:32 pm

Indeed. Morning coffee. I would add God is serenity

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