Spiritual Exercises for young men at the convent of the Discalced Carmelites of Aldehuela (Madrid), Spain.
In the month of May the Servant Brothers of the Home of the Mother organized spiritual exercises for young men at the convent of the Discalced Carmelites of Aldehuela (Madrid), where the body of St. Maravillas de Jesús is found.
According to Pope Benedict XVI, spiritual exercises are ' a strong experience of God, sustained by listening to his Word, understood and welcomed in one’s life, under the action of the Holy Spirit which, in a climate of silence, prayer and by means of a spiritual guide, offer the capacity of discernment in order to purify the heart, convert one’s life, follow Christ, and fulfill one’s own mission in the Church and in the world '.
All the participants ended up really happy with the experience. Here are some of their testimonies:
Each of the activities and meditations that we received during the Spiritual Exercises was so intense that I can't even express the effect that this depth produced in me. Now my relationship with Christ is different.
Since the exercises ended, I feel that I am a different person. On the train back home I felt confused, in another world, as if I were unaware of my own presence. I felt that my face was burning, and although at first I thought that it was due to how overwhelmed I was, yesterday morning, but the feeling persisting and I realized that what I really had was a ‘fever’. I believe that it can be said that Jesus’s Love has scorched me inside, and the truth is that I do not know how to take it all in.
One of the weak points of my spiritual life is that I find it hard to bear witness to my faith. However, since I did the retreat I feel the urgency to manifest it, to do something about it. I have learned not to rely on myself and to give myself totally and completely to the power of God. I think I am beginning to improve in this regard and there has already been a clear example of this: the Monday following the retreat I allowed God to act in me by entering into a debate about relativism and the need of God in morals with one of my agnostic professors in front of my whole class and almost during the whole time that the class lasted. I'm still amazed that God would do this with me. Now I know that I need to pray seriously to be aware of my frailty and my weakness if I want to continue to make progress in this aspect.
Perhaps it’s a little too early to say, but I think this weekend has meant a change in my life. Now I read the Gospel in a different way, I see the Eucharist differently and I perceive Mary as my mother, I hope that all this will continue to grow in me. I also experienced a renewed security in God. In addition, the things that I liked before the retreat no longer interest me at all. I no longer spend hours on Facebook or surfing aimlessly on the internet, to me it all seems like a big waste of time. I hope it continues to be this way. I am very surprised by it. That is why I can say that this has been a very enriching experience of inner growth. God has begun to replace my fears with fervor, and this retreat has taught me how to allow Him to continue acting in me in this way.
-Stephen Sharpe (student in Alcalá de Henares born in Maryland, USA, 20 years old)
How to sum up so many graces received in only three days, only three days. There is a beautiful song whose lyrics say: " Tell me what you brag about, sister death, since only three days, three long days, you have taken Him. Now he came, saving death, singing to life, more alive than ever... My friend, to you too, a third day will come". There’s no doubt the words are nice, but what it conveys when you listen to it is, more or less, what I was able to experience during the exercises with Father Félix.
When he asked me if I had had an experience of spiritual exercises, I answered many; and yet I had never received so much comfort or confirmation of my concerns as in this one. I came to the convent where St. Maravillas de Jesus is buried eager to meet Christ. And I think this is vital, because as the director of the exercises said 'the first thing is to want to do them.'
The first day was difficult, perhaps because my heart had been in so many things for a long time; when you forget about God, it is very difficult but later it becomes easy 'to be with Him'. For three years I lived a life without Christ, desperately seeking solace. But the second day was beautiful. I had met the servant brothers a few months before, thanks to Pepe (brother of Luis Escandell, who makes the Catholic Stuff videos), my friend from school, and little by little a restlessness sprouted inside me: to be a Servant Brother of the Home. That day, Saturday, Mother's Day, I had a strong consolation of His Son. For me it was a confirmation of that beautiful call of the Lord, 'If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me' Luke 9:23. That's the key that for so long I had not seen in my life, deny myself.
From that moment, the Risen Jesus enlightened me and gave me graces to go on; this is what I wrote at the end of the exercises:
•I came without God, I go back with Him. Without hope I began, with great confidence I remained.
•At the beginning, I wrote nothing. I was still contaminated with worldliness and unable to do interior and exterior silence. But I was restless, and that’s why I came.
•I realized that I was empty, alone, without love. Little by little you filled me, my God. You put in my heart great desires of love and my soul found you once again.
•What I was incapable of before, now I see as necessary: go to Mass every day, be alone every day with the one who we know loves us. Strive to fulfill His will, at home, in my studies, in class. Not to complain, since You “were sweeping the ground with the shavings of the wood”. Now I find real meaning to studying. To become holy. Now I truly understand. To order my life around You.
•Later you gave me a great consolation; you confirmed my worry about being your servant. I felt fire again in my chest, and praised you again; I was filled with joy to meet again with you.
•You also give me pain for my sins and all the lost time. You help me to imagine and compose the Gospel scenes, which are alive today. I shall live off of this, "internal knowledge of Christ, that for me He is going to do what He has to do".
•Loss of strength and will, I again feel at ease staying long moments adoring you on my knees.
•You remind me to "NOT BE AFRAID, I am with you, to guide you".
•You bring me close, my Mother, mom, to your heart and your Son’s. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in You. Sacred Heart of Mary, I consecrate myself to you, Welcome me in your love.
•FOR YOU THE GLORY, FOR ME THE CONFUSION.
-José Carlos Delgado (21 years old, Madrid)
In the month of May I had the pleasure of attending a retreat given by the Servant Brothers of the Home of the Mother. The main objective was to discover the will of God in our life, to order our lives so that God is at the center not only in theory.
For four days we had meditations, prayed together the Liturgy of the Hours, we had moments of prayer, moments of silence, and it was in those moments of deep prayer made from the heart, when Jesus spoke to us with power, to our worn out souls.
In my moments of prayer, I asked Jesus to bring up the subject of conversation, and we talked about it. We talked about my family, my commitment to my brothers and sisters, especially thinking about my sister, born on May 13; We talked about the addictions that enslave my thinking and way of being; we also talked about the need to bear witness to the world, the people around me. On building the church starting from love, about my every day plan, from dawn to dusk. Also about my relationship with people, about forgiveness, about spiritual building prior to the apostolate, and more.
The place for this spiritual retreat was appropriately in an isolated house, surrounded by the beautiful countryside of Madrid, plagued by ocher hues and sunsets that called us to reflection; I also remember the two poppies growing in the garden, and the bells of the nearby convent.
Among the meditations, which surprised me most was the one that dealt with the institution of the Eucharist, and to know that during the moments prior to his agony, before living the Passion, He loved us so much that He gave us in perpetuity his body and his blood so that our soul and our whole life always overflows with the love of the living God. I was also shocked to discover the Mystery of Redemption, which occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane, where we better perceive the Heart of Jesus, his suffering, delivered by his love, his obedience to the last second. I was able to meditate more on the lives of St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary. And I was thrilled to discover the meaning of Chapter 21 of the Gospel of John and the coherence of the whole message of Jesus Christ. And especially the image of San Pedro dragging the net with nearly two hundred kilos full of fish./em>
All in all, besides being an incredible and highly recommended experience, it was very helpful for me to better organize my life and to be aware that all efforts and penalties are offered to my Lord in the Eucharist.
-Antonio Saiz Bonet (21 years old, Valencia).