The general theme of the retreat was Living the Sacraments: Being a Sign of What We Believe.
Day 1 was “Story as Sacrament”. Basically, as a sacramental people we come to understand that there can be no sacrament without story: that the story of our lived experiences is connected to the story of God’s covenant of enduring love for all people of faith.
Day 2 was “Relationships as Sacrament”. This too was an equally powerful and moving theme. Several things jumped out at me that Father Lou shared with us:
First, Jesus hung out with sinners! Throughout the New Testament are examples of Christ’s love for those that society considered “unworthy”. The Paralytic and His Friends (Mark 2: 1-12); The Man Born Blind (John 9); The Woman Caught in Adultery (John 8: 2-11); and The Leper (Mark 1; 40-45). Yet, how often do we choose not to hang out with those we consider “unworthy” either because they have “wronged us” or do not meet our standards or expectations of being a good “Christian” a good “parent” or a true “friend.”
Yet GOD loves us unconditionally, with all our faults. It is a beautiful dance that God does with us…He shapes us and molds us and wrapping His loving arms around waltzing with us then steps away allowing us to make our own choices; choose our own dance steps. Sometimes we stumble and fall, yet God is there to pick us up and wrap His loving arms around us; to be our dance partner once again regardless of the wrongs we have done.
Yet, in our humanity we are frail. As a sacramental people, we must understand that regardless of the wrongs a person has done (to us, to others, to themselves) they are a creation of God and therefore sacred in God’s eyes. It is not for us to judge (not to be confused with appropriate justice in terms of criminal activity) and withhold our love, forgiveness, etc.
Another important point during Day 2 of the retreat was the necessity of us as Christians to learn to “Breath Under Water”. According to Richard Rohr, OFM, “Every moment, though barely realizing it, we breathe into our being the questionable values and multiple additions of our society.”
And then it hit me: how much faith and credit had I been giving the medical community rather than God for the conception of Mary Catherine? A lot for sure. Certainly, I have always shared with people that I thought God was the ultimate “Great Physician” when it came to our in vitro success, but gradually…over the years…I have come to rely more and more on the medical community and less and less on God to oversee the well-being of my pregnancies.
Especially so with Baby #3. I have been so caught up in the what-if scenario from the prenatal testing that I almost forgot to factor God into the formula. And if I believe that all of God’s people are sacred, than this little being, even if s/he has Down Syndrome is a sacred soul in God’s eyes.
(I thought this necklace was so sweet. It was created by a young man in honor of his sister who has Down Syndrome. It is a symbol of chromosome 21 in triplicate, otherwise known as Down Syndrome or Trisomy 21.)
As we wrapped up Tuesday night’s session we were asked to ponder over what thing in our lives we were powerless over. Geeee….I don’t know…the outcome of this pregnancy? We were then asked to think about how we can turn this powerlessness over to God and how this weakness can become our strength.
I decided right then and there to turn this whole situation over to God. As I went to sleep that night, I prayed that God might take this anxiety from me and that I would have the courage to walk into the perinatologist’s appointment the next morning with grace and strength. And I did.
Ironically, as I was up early getting ready for the 8 AM appointment I caught Beth Moore on television. Her theme: Do You Turn Over Your God-Confidence to Other People? Meaning, instead of believing what God speaks to you about yourself, do you believe what others tell you, even if it isn’t the truth? WHOA! It was like another sign from God saying, “Valerie, listen to me…Baby K will be fine; stop putting your faith in “tests” and put your faith in Me.”
Since last Wednesday, I have felt an incredible sense of calm and peace about this situation. (It also helps to have an incredibly loving, supportive, and optimistic spouse for a husband!) At the appointment, not much could be seen (soft-tissue markers) for Down Syndrome, but what the specialists could measure was completely on track and normal for a 14W6D baby. As it was today, it will be tomorrow, completely in God’s hands.
Blessings to you all,