When I think of sources of light in my life, I think of the brightness of the sun on a summer’s day, I think of the flickering of a candle, I think of the dimness of a lamp at my bedside table. Upon arriving in Moss Beach, California for retreat, before the Coronavirus outbreak, little did I know that the weekend would bring to “light” another source of light – a source I did not need to look too far to discover.
Naturally, once we put our bags down, our first stop was to go down to the beach so we could catch the sunset. After being on the Reservation in St. Michael’s, Arizona, I couldn’t believe I was walking along the water, watching the waves crash on the shore, and feeling the texture of the West Coast sand between my fingertips. This was the perfect place for a retreat. This was a place where I could find God.
The retreat began with an opening ritual after all the volunteers said our hellos and reunited. As I looked at the opening ritual sheet, I saw Psalm 139 printed on the page. I had one of those moments as if God was right there with me and was giving me some kind of sign. This was because, earlier that week, when I led our community’s spirituality night, I chose Psalm 139 to reflect upon:
“O Lord, you search me and you know me…For it was you who formed my inmost being, knit me together in my mother’s womb…O search me, God, and know my heart. O test me, and know my thoughts…”
As we read Psalm 139 together as a group of retreatants, I felt connected to the greater Mercy community, in addition to my community members with whom I had shared these verses before retreat. In this moment, I was reminded of my desire to grow in my relationship with God in Moss Beach and beyond.
The beauty of the retreat weekend lay in the free time we were given to walk on the trails along the cliffs, to journal, to enjoy being on the beach, to have fruitful conversations with other volunteers – to just reflect on our experiences as Mercy Volunteers.
When using free time to think about challenges, or “dry bones,” (as taken from Scripture), I discovered that a lot of my feelings point to some level of self-doubt. Am I bringing enough to my ministry? Am I being the community member I am called to be? Do I feel like my gifts and talents are enough, or do I let my weaknesses and limitations overshadow my gifts?
However, despite these moments of overthinking, I realized that many things have sustained me and have given life to my “dry bones.” Friends, family, music, praying to my mom, who is my guardian angel, my community members, reconnecting with my counselor from back home, and God through Scripture have all reminded me that I am right where I should be. Although it is a process I must consciously commit to daily, I need to remember that my self-worth comes from God. I don’t have to “prove” myself to anyone. It is enough that we are His.
One of the blessings of the weekend was the opportunity for my community to visit the Sisters of Mercy Convent and Chapel in the San Francisco area. It was priceless to hear how appreciative the Sisters were of our commitment to service in the spirit of Mercy. I even met 92-year-old Sister Suzanne Toolan, who wrote the famous Church hymn, “I am the Bread of Life!”
The retreat ended by reflecting on how we could make our dreams come to fruition as Mercy Volunteers and beyond. Reminded of the “Ripple of Hope” theme, we each chose a quote from Catherine McAuley to write in the middle of a blank water droplet. The one that resonated with me was:
“We should be as shining lamps, giving light to all around us.”
Around the droplet were multiple circles, signifying the ripples that that one droplet makes. In these circles, we were asked to write ways in which we could live out the quote that we chose. Moving forward, I want to be a ripple of hope and be a shining light by showing myself unconditional love, by meeting those I encounter with a smile, by emanating kindness and compassion, by believing in my gifts and talents, and by becoming inspired by the beauty of my soul.
Standing in the midst of God’s creation in Moss Beach, I was nudged by God with a message:
I am light.
Colleen Hudak: St. Michaels Navajo Reservation, Arizona