Last weekend, members of the Awake community gathered for a three-hour mini-retreat to prepare for the season of Lent.
Held at the St. Bakhita Catholic Worker House in Milwaukee, the retreat included people who have experienced harm in the Catholic Church, members of the Awake Leadership Team, and other concerned Catholics. The gathering was facilitated by Laura Gilmartin Hancock of Soulcare MKE, who built the retreat around the metaphor of doorways.
“I was inspired to use the image of the doorway as a threshold into Lent because when I was first praying for the retreat and reviewing my resources, my eyes landed on one of Joyce Rupp’s great books, Open the Door: A Journey to the True Self,” Hancock explained. She found the door to be an ideal image, as something that is “simultaneously accessible and mysterious.”
Early in the retreat, Hancock read several scripture passages about doors, including this one:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter their house and dine with them, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20)
Hancock also framed the morning’s activities with a quote from the late Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., an American Catholic monk and priest. Drawn from his book, The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience, Keating’s words suggest that healing is central to both Easter and the season of Lent:
“Easter, with its grace of interior resurrection, is the radical healing of the human condition. Lent, which prepares us for this grace, is about what needs to be healed.”
Doorways to Healing
Hancock had placed an array of images of doorways on a table at the center of the room and invited attendees to choose one that spoke to them. They could use their photo as a prompt during prayer and reflection time, considering questions such as, What attracted you to this door? What details do you notice about it? In a guided meditation, they considered who might be standing at their door and why. They also shared some of their insights in small group discussions.
Many attendees found the doorway metaphor to be particularly meaningful. Hancock reported afterward that she found the experience moving as well. “Although I knew the door images were beautiful, as I prayed with my own chosen door during the retreat, I was surprised at how attached I became to that image,” she said. “It felt really important. While my hope had certainly been for the door images to serve as a helpful ‘threshold’ into prayer, I hadn’t realized just how significant they would be.”
Venturing into the Presence of God
Hancock is a member of Awake’s prayer team, which works to provide welcoming opportunities for people to pray for and with victim-survivors of abuse in the Church.
A few days after the retreat, she shared some of her goals for this particular experience. “I have a deeply held belief that God and the human soul long to be in relationship with each other,” she said, although she acknowledged that “sometimes the very thought of being in relationship with God is scary and we may be resistant to the idea.”
“Similarly, I believe that each person has a deep well of wisdom within them that can be accessed by getting to know themselves through the loving presence of God,” she explained. “As such, my hope is to help create the conditions for a person to venture into the presence of God. Once that happens, I trust that Love will provide what is needed for each individual, in a very personalized and particular way.”
“My hope for the retreat was that each person would experience a taste of ‘just what they needed’ to deepen their relationship with God, even just a smidge!”
Awake’s next prayer opportunity is a virtual one. We will gather for the Way of the Cross with Survivors at 7 pm on Wednesday, March 29. You can find more information and register here.