Saturday, October 30, 2010

How Can I Keep From Singing? (Fall Retreat Recap)

The following is a reflection written by Michaela Pease, one of this year's North House Volunteers.

How can I keep from singing?

Last weekend was Fall
Retreat and if there is one thing that keeps going through my head its: "How can I keep from singing?" The mass on Sunday with all the Amate Community has been my favorite mass since moving to Chicago. The Priest, the readings, the music and the community made the mass so meaningful to me. Towards the end of mass the priest started singing "no storm can shake my inmost calm, while to this rock I’m clinging, when Lord is love over heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing." Since the retreat I have found myself humming "how can I keep from singing" while riding the L, walking around the house, driving down Lake Shore Drive, and even working. I feel so blessed to be living this life of an Amate Volunteer.

Friday afternoon myself and five other housemates squeezed into our six passenger car followed by the big blue suburban with my seven other housemates. One thing to note: I love
road trips but even more I loved being squeezed into the car with my wonderful community members! Before the trip really even started we were singing and laughing- I knew then the weekend was going to be amazing. As we started our road trip to Michigan down the beautiful Lake Shore Drive I couldn’t stop proclaiming how much I love North House, Amate & Chicago. I was so excited to spend a weekend away with all the volunteers and the staff!

The weekend was structured around discovering our individual strengths, seeing how they help us to be leaders, and how they play a role in our daily lives as individuals and as comm
unity members. We also had time to relax (which meant different things for everyone). Some people journaled, took naps, went on a run or walk, listened to music; where as some people played sports, went paddle boating, knitted or did some reading. The weekend was absolutely wonderful for so many reasons! The retreat center was a perfect place to reflect and relax from the daily happenings of the big city! Being surrounded by the beauty of nature, the fall leaves the serene pond and also being surrounded by the beauty of the Amate Community. Really taking time to recognize each others strengths and how that impacts the community made me realize how lucky I am!

I truly feel I am exactly where I am meant to be! The retreat helped me to see that
I wasn’t taking enough time to reflect and to fully recognize God's presence in my life. Sunday morning's mass was exactly what I needed. The priest talked about how we need to be filled with God's love so that we can pour His love unto others. He talked about how when we recognize Gods love in our life then "how can we keep from singing"! I have personally challenged myself since the retreat to take the time to recognize the gifts that God has given me as well as to see the gifts in my community members and make sure to point them out to that person. I hope that when the bumps in the road do come and things get difficult that I can remember to sing " "no storm can shake my inmost calm, while to this rock I’m clinging, when Lord is love over heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing."

Interested in seeing some pictures from Fall Retreat? Follow this link.

Amate House Fall Retreat 2010

Click here to view these pictures larger

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Discipline, Challenge, and Grace

The following is a reflection written by Krista Peterson, one of this year's Little Village Volunteers.

Today I find myself starting anew, but starting anew with discipline. It is eight o'clock in the morning and I am sitti
ng in a church pew with over four hundred students, all under the age of fifteen. A crowd of blue shirts and dresses, dark hair, wheat brown skin, backpacks and lunch boxes fills every pew. When they sing it is done with sleepy affection. They know the words to every song much better than I. They are Catholic in a way I never will be - the cradle kind. And in this place, a tiny church in a tiny village in one of the largest cities in the world, I have found something.

Thousands of miles away from my own childhood church and school, I have found home. I close my eyes and remember to take a breath. Remember to calm myself. Almost pinch myself to see if its real. Two months ago I was not a teacher. Two months ago attending any eight a.m. mass was absurd, let alone on a weekday. Two months ago I kept my faith well-hidden. Two months ago I stood at the doorway to something unk
nown, and I placed my conflicted heart into the hands of God. My whole heart. I prayed that the beauty of that single act would impress upon Him how much I needed to grow.

The discipline this year requires is the real challenge - facing myself constantly and with grace. Placing myself and my needs at the mercy of others before I have an opportunity to second-guess myself. The discipline of being a role model - to children and to my outer world. Discipline is exhausting, but it is a marathon, not a sprint.

As I walk out this morning, amidst the hundreds of reverent students, I suddenly feel the rewards. Every child knows my name because I teach them all. The sidewalk, once empty, is now filled with waves and shouts. They know my name! I hold the door open and bow my head humbly. If Jesus could call our names himself, it would sound like this.