Last summer I had the opportunity to do something most people will never do in their life time. I went on a 30 day silent retreat (Ignatian Spiritual Exercises).
I had done silent retreats as long as 8 days before. The prospect of a whole month was daunting. I did have a “day off” once a week to enjoy the company of other humans, who were also doing the same retreat. These breaks were moments to go hiking, play some sports, and share our spiritual insights and experiences during our 30 days of prayer.
The real break, however, was the 30 days retreat itself. I knew I needed it, I had to force myself to do it, and I am glad I did it. It was the best and most rewarding prayerful experience of my life. I’m still reaping the rewards almost a year later — thanks to God!
The two moments that affected me most deeply during my 30 days of prayer were a profound meditation on Job and an ernest Salve Regina at the end of one of my daily rosaries. The Job meditation deserves another post and I may write about it when the proper occasion arrises. The Salve Regina developed into a recurring and deepening experience that altered my outlook on my life, myself, others, God, the world, salvation history, everything else, and of course, the intercessory motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I don’t believe I could ever do justice, with words, to the simple inspiration I received from that prayer. There is only one Word: Mercy.
Each one of us is a wounded pilgrim in this vale of tears. We long for compassion. We need hope. We find this compassion and hope for salvation in Christ, visibly and spiritually instantiated in the Icon of Mary the Mother of our Savior and Lord.
A frail creature who certainly endured the hardships of this life, as we all must do, Mary is an Icon of Mercy, Life, Sweetness, and Hope. For she is the Mother of Mercy, our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope.
That’s why we turn to her and ask her to turn her merciful eyes toward us. And we pray that, after this our exile, she will show onto us the Blessed Fruit of her Womb, Jesus. When we pray this and meditate on this, she gives us a glimpse of this vision here and now.
Christ gives us his mother, because we need this kind of consolation from time to time. When we know we need it, we can ask for it, and we will always receive it.
[Artwork by Br Luis de Avila, LC, Mother's Day 2012: This picture depicting "The Visitation" is part of Br Avila's series of drawings on the life of Mary. You can see more of his original artwork at LegionaryBrothers.com. This picture will also be posted there on May 31, the Feast of the Vistation.]