By Davlyn Duesterhaus
The gusty 50 mph winds could have discouraged participants in the NACC Day of Reflection to even want to continue the day’s journey. But those who did go, and who even ventured onto the walking trails, felt the mighty wind of the Spirit moving, pushing, and even unbalancing them during the times of reflection.
The director of the Norbertine Spirituality Center, Meg Ashcroft, led us in the journey to reveal new depths of meaning in Luke 24:13-35, the scripture for the conference theme: “Hearts on Fire: Our Own Emmaus Journey.” With quotes, reflection questions, rituals, music, poetry, sharing times as well as silent periods, Meg gave each of us freedom to go inward, remain within, then to resurface hoping the Spirit burned anew within our hearts.
“Lightening the Load” (a poem by Fr. Francis Dorff, O.Praem.) encouraged us to “dump the thousand things we’ve brought along” to set the tone for the day. Following some silence, Meg read from Luke 24:13-21a. In a lectio divina way, some spoke of a word or phrase that stood out; mine was “while.” Quoting from Edith Stein, “walk with me along the next stretch of road before me,” Meg invited us to experience Jesus “drawing near” during the time for reflection. Personally, Jesus was near in a fellow retreatant as we walked together part of the time. In our conversing, the “while” of the unknown in my life became comfortable through the peace that Jesus was truly near.
Meg proclaimed the second selection (Luke 24:21b-27) and discussed how chaplains — and those in ministry — give and give and give but fail to be generous to themselves. Leading the group into the next reflection, she prepared a quote from John Churchman: “Companioning one through the mystery of suffering begins with a simple yes. … simple yes when called upon … end(s) up being graced in my helping of others.” That line, and the questions given, helped us ponder experiences from personal or other persons’ suffering, pains, and dying to self.
The final section (Luke 24:28-35) was read, followed by singing, “Stay with me, remain with me, watch and pray, watch and pray.” Meg directed us to reflect on the question, “What do you most want to ‘go and tell’ the people who are in your life?” The sharing could take any form — story, song, insight, affirmation, image, dream, poem — and she asked us, when returning, to bring a stone or pebble for the closing ritual.
With permission from another retreatant, I write a summary of her story about being in a desert of life, and that in this desert of New Mexico, a companion was praying with her for physical healing. Her chaplains’ department had been downsized, leaving only and her companion as full-timers. The news upset her emotionally and physically, and she became very ill. As the two were conversing and praying, she heard a voice ask, “What do you want?” It was as if Jesus drew near and heard all she was going through. His presence overwhelmed her, bringing relief and tears of comfort. The voice was “Jesus” in another chaplain, who seemed to feel the angst, and spoke to her from behind. And Jesus drew near…
For the closing ritual, each person placed his or her stone creating, a cairn as seen in the picture taken by another participant. God invites you to participate, also.
In reading this glimpse of the NACC Day of Reflection, may you experience your own Emmaus journey anew. May your hearts be on fire as Jesus draws near.
Davlyn Duesterhaus, BCC, is a chaplain at BSA Hospice in Amarillo, TX.