Most of my recent weekends have been spent with groups of people on weekend retreats and the most recent of these was last weekend at the Trappistine Abbey of Our Lady of Mount Matutum near General Santos in the southern part of the Philippines.
I am aware every time I visit the Philippines of the great contribution that people born in the Philippines are making to the life of Aotearoa, and each time I work in the Philippines I do so with gratitude for the generosity and participation of so many Filipinos in the the neighbourhoods and Church in New Zealand. I hope that in some little way I might be offering something in return.
In ten visits in recent years I have formed friendships with many in Manila, Cebu and GenSan. At each visit we bring together people from all across the country, people who share the common desire to grow in maturity of Christian faith.
The theme of this retreat was We fix our gaze on Jesus, who is the origin and fulfilment of our faith.
In our reflections we became aware again of how easy it is for us to make the mistake of reducing the beauty of faith to religious practices and goals with the reciting of prayers, easily losing sight of the abundance, the beauty and power of living in relationship with Jesus who is God with us.
The Mt. Matutum monastery is a great place for a retreat. The almost forty young sisters excel in hospitality. They joined with the twenty of us for the reflections and we joined with them for prayer. The rhythm Abbey life is driven by and rotates around prayer both communal and personal. The regular tolling of the bell is an unmistakable reminder that life is prayer and prayer is life, even with its first ring of the day at 3.00am.
I’m inspired knowing that sisters of an enclosed contemplative community can sit alongside married and single men and women of all ages realising that while our usual daily routines might be different our unity is strong and our strength is tangible when we together gaze at Christ who is the origin and the fulfilment of our faith.