Retreating in Malawi

A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to lead a retreat for our Catholic student group at the college. We decided to center the retreat on one of our favorite themes: Theology of the Body. Theology of the Body is based on a series of lectures given by Blessed John Paul II at his Wednesday Papal Audiences. Through these lectures he developed a beautiful theology of how our bodies reveal to us the truth of God’s intimate relationship with us. We in turn are able to imitate God’s loving relationship in how we relate to and share our love with others.

The retreat lasted only one weekend so we had tons of profound spirituality to pack into a short time. We started by sharing about the how the nature of Trinitarian love calls us into communion both with God and all others around us. We then moved on to speak about how we can use spiritual disciplines to train our bodies so that we can form good habits and live to the potential God has created us for. Finally, we spoke about how God’s free, total, faithful, and fruitful love for us is reflected in our sexuality.

Joining in on the retreat were the Comboni pre-postulants, a group of young men discerning the priesthood or brotherhood. Their presence enhanced the experience and discussions as it allowed us as a community to look at how celibacy and married life complement one and actually depend on one another. The students and prepostulants formed great connections together over the weekend and presented a picture of hope and collaboration for our future Church.

One of the highlights of the weekends was when the retreatants put on skits about what they learned from Theology of the Body. All the skits were fantastic but one in particular had us rolling with laughter. In the drama, one guy came to complain that the priest at his parish was in love with someone named Trinity. The priest even went so far as to call her Holy Trinity! It took a while for the others to explain to him that in fact the priest was in love with God just as he should be.

The retreat turned out to be one of the best we had ever been a part of and without a doubt the lowest stress event we have ever led. One of our favorite parts of African culture is how laid-back and go-with-the-flow everyone is. We never worried about down time or getting off schedule. Anytime the retreat came to a natural lull the group broke out into spontaneous song accompanied by keyboard and drumming. They even held an impromtu talent show of singing, drama, and poetry recitation. Although not planned this way, the weekend happened to land on Pentecost Sunday and we certainly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit gracing our time together.