“And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened . . .” — Luke 24:30-31
I recently attended a spiritual weekend retreat at Our Lady of Calvary in Farmington, Connecticut. I take this little reprieve from life every winter. Each time I go, I learn something new about myself. This strikes me as funny because I have known “me” for a very long time, practically my whole life! How can there still be things I don’t know?
When I first began to attend these mini-getaways, it was a conscious decision to take a well-deserved break from the chronic pandemonium that was my life – a.k.a. child rearing and housekeeping. As my daughters grew to be more independent and were doing much of the housework, I felt I still needed the time away with my sister and my friends, as well as a desire to use the opportunity to shake up my dull routine. Now I’m in the empty-nest phase of my life. My children are adults living on their own. My country home is surrounded by swaying trees and pondering deer. Why should I feel the need to leave this picture-perfect setting to attend a retreat where I must share a bathroom? The answer always comes when the weekend is over as I’m on driving home.
This year the retreat’s theme was “Blessed, Broken and Shared.” The visual was of Jesus
blessing, breaking and sharing the bread. The message was of gifts, heartaches and lessons learned. We all have blessings, brokeness and the opportunity to share with others. Most often the blessings and brokeness are not within our control, but the opportunities to learn from and share of these experiences are always within our grasp.
Since many of the quilts I have made were for people whose lives were broken in some way, I have witnessed brokeness in many forms. Young expectant mothers bring me their deceased mother’s clothing. If I can transform Mom’s favorite robe and cherished blouse into a baby quilt, it can feel as if the new baby will be comforted by Grandma’s embrace. A quilt made with Dad’s sports shirts offers special memories for a grieving child, while a quilt made with Grandmother’s handkerchiefs can go a long way to erase memories of her suffering through illness. The prayer quilts, upon which friends and family can permanently affix messages of hope and affirmation to their loved one, are especially uplifting during the most difficult times.
St. Paul wrote we should “boast of our afflictions” (Romans 5:3) because we will be stronger for having suffered. To this I would add we become stronger, too, for walking with others as they suffer through trials of life. On retreat, there is plenty of sharing among the retreatants, each of us at various stages of blessings, brokeness and sharing. We cry, hug, and also “boast” of how we kept growing in faith. We pray for miracles, but more importantly, we find ourselves in the midst of miracles. As we emerge from the despair from whatever difficult card we were dealt, we recognize our strength, we value our lesson learned, and we seek ways to help others. Many times we turn our suffering into something positive. That is a miracle!
During lent, my thoughts often contemplate Veronica (Stations of the Cross #6). She so deeply suffered seeing Jesus in pain as He walked toward crucifixion, she ran to Him to wipe His face with a cloth. It was all she could do. She could not stop His journey or prevent His death. All she could do was offer a small amount of comfort. Have you ever felt this way when you see someone you love suffering toward the end of life? Veronica probably wished she could have fought off the soldiers freeing Jesus away from His agonizing destiny. She probably begged God to make it all stop, but it was not to be. I know I have experienced those same feelings when facing the loss of a loved one, but, like Veronica, all I could do was give them a modicum of comfort. I did what I could do, as we all must do.
Through this quilting ministry, I listen to the stories of heartache and I witness the survival. I see the struggles, the healing and the coping. I have come to understand how God’s gift to me of creativity can play a role in the miracles following the affliction. I am very blessed!
Check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKiM4BshSds