Article and Photos By Graciela Etchart, Oblate Associate
Oblate Associates are encouraged to make an annual retreat or day of reflection. This year, I spent Holy Week in silent retreat at the Lebh Shomea House of Prayer in Sarita, Texas.
It was an enriching experience, reflecting and celebrating in silence in such a beautiful and peaceful environment, briefly becoming part of the House community. Not less enjoyable was the opportunity to share this time and to praise the Resurrection with the first Oblate I met, Fr. Paul Waldie, and who accompanies me in my walking as an Associate. I completed this experience renewing my commitment as an Oblate Associate, and thus a member of the De Mazenod Family.
That week, the weather in Southern Texas was warm but not hot. It had rained recently so the ground was carpeted with wild flowers of all colors. The air was filled with the chirping and tweeting of the birds, only disrupted by the occasional gobbling of the wild turkeys showing off their feathers. Deer wandered freely and trustingly. One even came to curiously sniff at my camera when I tried to photograph her. Although not exactly “a calf and a young lion browsing together,” as the Prophet has announced, it was easy to think of “the earth as … filled with knowledge of the Lord,” inviting to deeper communion with the Divine Presence within us.
For me, the most moving moment of these holy days is not the celebration of the Resurrection itself but the service of Holy Thursday, the washing (and kissing) of the feet and the stripping of the altar. I find washing somebody else’s feet to be a very humbling and intimate experience that makes people feel closer to each other, as if the ceremony itself changed us. When the altar is stripped of everything I always think of how lonely Jesus must have felt, knowing what awaited him and realizing that his closest companions were not able to fully grasp what was coming! In a way, nothing has changed too much … can most of us fully grasp what so many of our brothers and sisters in the world are going through even if we think we do …?
Taking time in silence to enjoy peace and share prayers without words, as St. Eugene has encouraged us to do, is an experience that I know I want to live again and soon.
(Graciela serves the Congregation as the Director of the Oblate Mission Sustainability, with offices in Seattle and Rome)