Recently I led a half-day retreat for Directors of Religious Education at a nearby parish. These are the men and women who work hard all year through, helping to care for the faith of others. They are nearly always “on duty,” organizing, running, and problem-solving within their parish faith formation programs.
The weather had finally, finally come around to spring qualities. We were at an expansive retreat center with lawns and water and trees and stately buildings. I had come with sort of a plan, but I nearly always finalize plans as we go, reading the audience and the situation and designing the kinds of exercises and activities that seem to fit best. I took one look at the 20-plus DREs and knew what the first assignment would be. First, I read from The Church of Mercy, by Pope Francis:
Let us also remember Peter: three times he denied Jesus, precisely when he should have been closest to him. And when he hits rock bottom, he meets the gaze of Jesus who patiently, wordlessly, says to him, “Peter, don’t be afraid of your weakness, trust in me.” Peter understands, he feels the loving gaze of Jesus, and he weeps. How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus—how much tenderness is there! Brothers and sisters, let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God!
The assignment: Spend 20 minutes outdoors and focus only on this: God’s gaze upon you. Meditate on what it means that God gazes on you with love. If any other thoughts arrive, say, “I’ll talk to you later—good-bye,” and send them on their way.
I leave you with this same assignment: Spend time basking in God’s gaze.
- How do you bask in God’s gaze? Do you sit still, walk, say prayers, do some kind of meditation?
- How would you describe the gaze of God?
Vinita Hampton Wright is managing editor of the trade books department at Loyola Press. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places with HarperOne and Days of Deepening Friendship and The Art of Spiritual Writing for Loyola Press. Vinita is a student and practitioner of Ignatian spirituality, and she is a blogger at dotMagis. For the past few years, she has co-led small groups through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. She lives in Chicago with her husband, three cats, and a dog.