Serving a retreat can be just as much an emotional rollercoaster as being on a retreat. You’re being asked to serve on a really big level. And it takes a lot out of you, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I brought two sets of prayers with me to the retreat: one was the series of meditations for the renewal of my Marian Consecration and the other was a small book of prayers dedicated to St. Joseph, since I was in the middle of a St. Joseph Novena and wouldn’t have access to internet. Throughout this weekend, Mary and Joseph were with me, leading me to Jesus.
I prayed 2 prayers a lot during the weekend: The Memorare and this simple petition “Mary, Mother of Jesus, give me your heart that I may receive Jesus.” I was currently nursing a broken heart and couldn’t really talk about it because I didn’t want to ruin the retreat by whining. If anyone could understand a broken heart, it was Mary. In spite of the pain I had, my prayers to Mary gave me the strength to carry on in spite of it.
There were times during the retreat that I felt left out. I have MAJOR problems making small talk with people. Oftentimes, there would be conversations about stuff I was never a part of and I felt awkward because I had nothing to contribute. There were other times that I felt outright invisible, when I felt as if people only saw through me. I also made some mistakes during the retreat, like forgetting things. And I wanted to cry or get angry or just leave and go home.
But I didn’t. I thought about times that Mary and Joseph probably felt invisible or inadequate. After all, people overlooked Mary’s importance in The Wedding at Cana. Yes, Jesus was the one who changed the water into wine, but it took Mary to ask him first. I also remembered that Joseph and Mary both forgot Jesus at the Temple. My time at the retreat was similar to their exile into Egypt, a time of growth away from the dangers of the world.
Whenever I asked for the intercession of Joseph, that prayer was quickly answered with an action or a sense of consolation. Prayers to Mary helped when I woke up restless in the mornings (lack of sleep is something retreat staffers know all too well) and needed some peace. (Now I’m wondering how many nights Baby Jesus woke Mary and Joseph up with his crying.)
I had small periods of consolation throughout the weekend in between the heartbreak and the interior struggles. I cherished my time in Adoration and found great joy in celebrating Mass. But the best consolation came from making new friends and rekindling some old friendships. I was reminded why I love serving retreats: I help people in the process of growing, giving them the same experience I received as a retreater. One friend I made from a previous retreat told me that she was entering the convent. I felt so proud of her for finding her vocation.
There were two other things that I learned during the retreat, aside from how amazing the intercessions from Mary and Joseph can be. I learned that when you grow up, you are responsible for yourself for better and for worse. Nobody’s gonna be there to remind you about something. You have to hold yourself accountable, ask for help when necessary, and make the best out of a bad situation. I also learned that a vocation isn’t something that you aspire to be. It’s something you live everyday. I know that someday, I could be married to a man (preferably one who’s gone through the Marian Consecration; liking Taylor Swift is optional, but highly recommended) or I could live in a cloister or I could be a consecrated virgin/teacher/novelist/blogger. But right now my vocation is what I’m doing now: writing about what I love and using my gifts of writing, teaching, and intercessory prayer to serve God and serve others every day.