“In the Presence of the Living God”
A Retreat Experience with the Carmelite Sisters
St. Teresa of Avila wrote in her autobiography that one day, when she walked along one of the
corridors in her cloistered Carmelite monastery, something extraordinary happened. Something spiritual. Something that changed her entire life. As she turned, she saw a statue of Christ crucified with its huge, protruding thorns piercing His bruised and bloodied face. In a flash of insight, she received an interior enlightenment from God. Although St. Teresa had walked by this same “Ecce Homo,” of Christ crucified many times during her almost twenty years as a Carmelite nun, on this particular day, in a moment of grace, God allowed her to see and understand the great love which He had for her and the great horror of what sin really is. St. Teresa, writing about this now famous “Ecce Homo” conversion, states that the sight of the vivid statue “broke her heart,” and she fell down “before Him” with “the greatest outpouring of tears” (Life, 9, 1). Why that particular day? Why that particular statue before which she had walked so many times?
Each one of us, as we go about our ordinary, daily lives, experiences moments of God’s powerful presence. Sometimes He enters into our lives unexpectedly and prayerfully, almost unnoticed, like the gentle breeze experienced by the prophet Elijah on Mt. Horeb. At other times, our very souls are pierced intimately by the Holy Spirit in a sudden manifestation of the powerful presence of God. This happened to St. Paul on his way to Damascus when he was knocked off his horse.
Retreats are grace-filled moments par excellence.
The Carmelite Sisters offer retreats for people in all stages and walks of life that they may enter into the mystery of an ever-deepening experience of God’s grace. In military terminology, the word retreat is a verb indicating going back, a withdrawal that often signifies defeat. In the spiritual life, the word retreat is used as a noun. The dictionary defines a spiritual retreat as a period of quiet rest and contemplation in a secluded place – a period away from normal activities, devoted to prayer and meditation, often spent in a religious community. Offering this atmosphere is Sacred Heart Retreat House with its Saint Joseph Campus, located in Alhambra, California.