As we begin a new retreat season here at Saint Paul of the Cross, I want to express our gratitude to all of you who joined us for a retreat during the past season, as we reflected on the theme Bringing Hope and Compassion to a Hurting World. It was our experience that many of you found this theme to be enriching, timely, and personally meaningful. Deeply rooted in Sacred Scripture, this call to be bearers of hope and compassion has consistently been a theme of Pope Francis’ homilies and addresses.
During this new retreat season, we will invite you to think about another theme that Pope Francis has focused upon in many of his talks and writings, one that he addresses specifically in his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel. This is our call to grow as disciples of Jesus, formed by his teaching and example, so that we might advance his mission to transform the world and to further the reign of God. “On the basis of (our) baptism and confirmation,” Pope Francis says, “all are missionary disciples.” (cf. The Joy of the Gospel, nos. 119-121)
In the coming months, we will invite you to think and to pray about three specific aspects of this theme: Called to Grow in Discipleship. First, growth in discipleship must be enriched by
and rooted in prayer, as we listen to the voice of the Lord and accept the direction that God offers to us. Prayer is at the heart of our journey toward a deeper relationship with Jesus and our desire to follow him.
A second aspect of discipleship is related to Pope Francis’ invitation to the entire church to participate in a Holy Year of Mercy. Asking us to reflect on our experience of the mercy of God and the challenge to extend mercy to one another, the pope reminds us that “mercy is not just a pastoral attitude; it is the very substance of the Gospel message.” (Letter Commemorating the Centenary of the Catholic University of Argentina, March 2015)
Finally, an important dimension of discipleship is our willingness to forgive those who have hurt or maligned us in any way. The Gospel challenges us to extend forgiveness often, even when it seems to be undeserved.
Called to be disciples of the Lord, we become a community that reflects the very life and mission of Jesus, centered in prayer, renewed by the mercy of God, and called to be merciful and forgiving in our relationships with one another. As we consider these important dimensions of discipleship, let us pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we enter into this new phase of our spiritual journey.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Gerald Laba, C.P.
St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center