The ending and beginning of the new year is a blessed time, a threshold moment.
Endings and beginnings…
How many times have we moved through, beyond, into.
Left behind, let go, forgiven, lost…
Found, looked into, leapt into, decided, longed for, yearned for…
This retreat for the new year is your time of grace. Time to rest, to remember, to recall…
A slow time…
To pray, to meditate, to ponder, to wonder…
To begin again…
This retreat takes place in 5 “moments.” Each moment is a short segment of the retreat. For each segment you can plan for 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the way you wish to work through the material. Over the last week of 2022 and the first few weeks of 2023 you may wish to work through these guides provided for each of the moments, following with freedom the way the Holy Spirit leads you.
- Set up a retreat space where you can retire to be alone with God and with yourself.
- Let people around you know that you will be on a retreat as the new year begins. If you are comfortable doing so, let them know when you are working through one of the moments of the retreat and that you would be most grateful if you could devote that 1 or 2 hour time entirely to prayer and reflection, to being with the Lord, and returning home to your own heart.
- Sometime before beginning each segment, read through what is included in that moment. If you want to make some modifications, plan what those will be. Gather what you will need, so that you will be focused and at peace during the actual retreat time for that moment.
First Moment: Settling In
Begin with the magnificent prayers found in the book of Psalms. The four Psalms listed below reflect various emotional states you may find yourself in as you begin this time of resting in the Lord. You may pray with any of these Psalms or a favorite Psalm of your own choosing. Pray slowly, perhaps settling in to just one or two lines after you read the Psalm through. How does God seem to be drawing you?
Psalm 4: Give me relief from my distress
Psalm 9: I give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart
Psalm 16: Lord, you alone are my portion and cup
Psalm 18: From his temple the Lord heard my cry
Sit quietly in God’s presence. Here is a soaking song you can listen to while you pray: Most Wonderful Name by Alberto
Notice: What’s bubbling up for you? Write about it for a few moments in your journal.
If you can, go take a walk outside for twenty minutes. No listening to podcasts or audiobooks or music. It’s a time just to walk, see what is around you, and let your mind rest.
When you get home, go back to your retreat space. Reflect on your walk and journal about it. What came to your mind, what did you notice about your surroundings, where did you see God’s hand?
Second Moment: Your LifeStory Map
When you are ready to enter into this second moment of the retreat, plan for a slow and relaxing meal. Whether the meal is fancy or simple, make it yourself. Enjoy the process of preparing the meal, setting the table in a spot where you will be alone, perhaps choosing music. Give yourself ample time to enjoy the meal slowly and cherish this intentional time just for yourself.
After the meal, leisurely wash the dishes and put everything away.
Using the My LifeStory Map 2022 handout, map your spiritual journal over the past twelve months.
The seasons and liturgical seasons of the year are marked on the timeline at the top. Along the left side of the page are listed a number of lenses through which you can make a kind of matrix of the elements of this past year’s spiritual journey. Take your time and allow the memories of the past year to surface. What have been your dreams and disappointments, your major spiritual insights and gifts of spiritual growth. Honor what have been your losses and hurts. Identify positive influences as well as negative influences on your life. And finally, notice when did you felt closest to God, and when you felt the farthest from him.
Take a few moments to journal: What is it that you desire in this retreat at the threshold of a new year, as the past twelve months begin to fade into the past. What situations are you carrying over from the previous year to 2023? What do you need God to know?
Scripture Passages for reflection at the turning of the year:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7)
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jer 29:11-13)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (Prv 3:5)
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Mt 7:13-14)
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17)
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:19)
Third Moment: Spiritual Reading
The Courage of Fragility
(Excerpted from In Camino with Maestra Thecla October 2022)
[On the threshold of a new year] we want to reflect on the dimension of fragility, which can be manifested in various ways in life: as physical or psychological fragility, fragility due to human limitations, structural fragility…. We all feel more fragile and vulnerable these days, especially in this time characterized by war and the pandemic situation. Points of reference we used to consider firm and reliable have collapsed like sand castles, but true strength matures from weakness. [St Paul and the Word of God show us how not to] transform fragilities into resignation or victimhood, but into opportunities to witness to the fact that everything comes from God and we are simply earthen vessels that hold a great treasure.
A sense of being fragile can open the door to frustration or else to redemption. The Christian vocation is to transform human situations, traversed by dynamics of fragility, into environs of resurrection and life.
An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, with which she went to the stream daily to fetch water. Each pot hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck.
One of the pots had a crack in it through which the water leaked, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full because it couldn’t hold all the water.
For a full two years, this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the purpose for which it was made.
But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and felt miserable that it could only accomplish half of what it had been made to do; it was a pot that was meant to hold water, not to leak it.
After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.
‘I am ashamed of myself because this crack on my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.’
The old woman smiled, ‘Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side?’ She asked.
‘That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.’ The old woman continued.
‘For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.’
Moral of the story
Beloved friend, each of us has our own unique flaw. But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.
I know that we’re meant to improve our flaws to look better and more perfect; that’s important for character flaws. But when they are cracks born out of life experiences and difficulties, don’t be ashamed of them; they might serve a purpose we don’t know of.
To pray about and write in your journal:
Where have I felt fragile in this past year? Where have my cracks shown?
Where do I foresee that I will experience my flaws in the year to come?
What is my unique flaw?
In what ways has God redeemed that flaw? How does he use it for his glory?
A reading from St Paul: 2 Corinthians: 4:7-15
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Our fragility, our vulnerability prompts us to place our unconditional trust in God with unfailing hope, even in moments of darkness and fatigue. Awareness of fragility and hope in God are like two sisters who go hand in hand in order to help us make rapid progress in holiness and to persevere through trials.
Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
How long will you assault me?
Would all of you throw me down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
Surely they intend to topple me
from my lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion
or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.
One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done.”
Fourth Moment: God’s Love Carries Us
“Often we want to be able to see into the future. We say, “How will next year be for me? Where will I be five or ten years from now?” There are no answers to these questions. Mostly we have just enough light to see the next step: what we have to do in the coming hour or the following day. The art of living is to enjoy what we can see and not complain about what remains in the dark. When we are able to take the next step with the trust that we will have enough light for the step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go. Let’s rejoice in the little light we carry and not ask for the great beam that would take all shadows away.” – Henri Nouwen
What will your next step be?
How can you grow in confidence that with God you have enough light for the way?
Fifth Moment: Entrusting the Year to Mary
The new year begins with the Feast of Mary, Mother of God. Take some moments to journal about what your hopes and dreams for this new year might be. Where do you need Mary’s motherly guidance? In what aspect of your life do you hope to experience the presence of God with greater intensity?
Take a moment for spiritual reading: These seven attitudes the Virgin Mary teaches us on the Annunciation can be a guide for us as we enter the new year (the entire article can be read on Catholic Link)
- Mary shows us Interior Silence
Mary is overwhelmed by the visit of the angel, but she is able to receive and understand the message that he communicates to her because of the deep silence that fills her interior. She is used to meditating on the words of the Lord, she is used to Divine language, and she grasps it with deep meditation. Let us learn from Mary to have that interior silence that allows us to be in tune with the Lord even in the midst of our daily activities.
2. Mary models Careful Listening
Mary listens reverently to the angel. She is not thinking about herself or what she has to do or what things she will have to let go of in order to be the Mother of Jesus. She listens and allows herself be touched by the words of the angel Gabriel as she meditates on them in her heart. Let us learn from Mary to listen to God in silence and in the midst of the circumstances of our life. Let us ask Him to help us keep our hearts open to His word.
3. Mary shows us how to Receive the Word
After listening to Gabriel’s words, Mary welcomes them. Words bear fruit within you and take root in your heart when you allow them to do so. Let us learn from Mary to have a humble acceptance of God’s Plan in our life. May she teach us to accept Divine designs with love and not want another for our lives.
4. Mary models how to Wonder
Mary to wonders about the deep meaning of the words of the Messenger of God at the time of the Annunciation: “How will this be, since I do not know a man?” Her question is not the result of doubt, but the result of a desire for greater light in order to discover the depth of God’s mission. Her desire is to respond with greater fidelity and generosity. Let us learn from Mary to have a restless heart that does not rest until we give glory to God with our life.
5. Mary shows us how to be Open To God’s Plan
Mary is totally open to do what God asks of her. This attitude is that of a heart that has been educated to say yes to every little thing, a heart that has been educated to think first of others rather than of itself. Let us learn from Mary to have that openness, that unmeasured generosity that gives herself completely and out of love for God and others.
6. Mary models Trust In God And His Promises
Since she was a child, Mary has meditated on the promises of God to the people of Israel. She knows them and knows that He has always been faithful despite the weakness of the people. Her confidence is not blind, it is based on the actions of God. She has allowed Him to be the center of her life and she has opened herself to his love. In these promises are the hopes and struggles of a people that, although fragile, have believed in God. Let us learn from Mary to trust that God always keeps His promises. He will never abandon us because He is infinitely good and faithful.
7. Mary shows us Courage
Mary does not shrink from the exceptionally great mission that the angel Gabriel announces to her. She is afraid, yes, but she boldly sets out to fulfill God’s Plan. Although she is just a teenager, she deeply trusts in the grace of God that magnifies her small efforts and is capable of recognizing the value of her yes, the value that God gives to the free surrender of our humanity. Let us learn from Mary to trust that God can do great things with our littleness when we give ourselves totally to Him.Luisa Restrepo, Catholic Link
Relax a few moments. Take a walk, listen to music, or pour yourself a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Take some time to journal: Which of these attitudes of Mary speaks to you as you entire the new year?
A prayer to entrust this spiritual year to Mary:
Receive me, Mary, Mather, Teacher and Queen, among those whom you love, nourish, sanctify and guide, in the school of Jesus Christ, the Divine Master.
You identify in God’s mind those whom he calls, and for them you have special prayers, grace, light and consolations.
My Master Jesus Christ entrusted himself wholly to you, from the Incarnation to the Ascension.
For me this is doctrine, example and an ineffable gift. I too place myself entirely into your hands.
Obtain for me the grace to know, imitate and love ever more the Divine Master, Way and Truth and Life.
Present me to Jesus, for I am an unworthy sinner, and I have no other recommendation to be admitted to his school than your recommendation.
Enlighten my mind, fortify my will, sanctify my heart, during this year of my spiritual work,
so that I may profit from this great mercy, and may say at the end: “I live now not I, but Christ lives in me.”
End your New Year’s Retreat with a celebratory meal shared with others.