Vila São José
I was filled with awe, anxiety and joy when looking back at the Advent Open Day held at Vila São José last December. It was meant to be an invitation for all faithful to come and experience the birth of the Infant Christ. The retreatants were now gone, returning home with hands full of gifts. As “Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself “ (Luke 2:19), I, too, was blessed with the grace of contemplating the journey with the companionship of Mary.
Two months before the Open Day, I had been looking for guest speakers to present the theme of Luke 2:16: “They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.” In a usual morning prayer, a verse caught my attention: “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). The Holy Spirit aroused in me a gratitude exercise I learned recently from two friends as well as teachers of mine. Following the prayer, I told them right away the joy I got in the practice. What if the retreatants joining the Open Day could have a taste of that too? Could they come and enrich the retreatants?
Another time I experienced an encouraging move from the Holy Spirit when attending a daily mass. Fr. Rafael Gemelli Vigolo was at that time presenting his sermon on the prayer life of Mary and Martha. He then went on inviting us to go deep in the bible with Lectio Divina. Would it be wonderful if Fr. Rafael agreed to share with the retreatants the art of encountering the Word of God? As I looked at the complete guest speakers’ list, each one seemed another angel Gabriel sent by God giving us both a surprising and grace-filled visit!
God never ceases to work. Just when we were pulled away by all we had to do for the Open Day, the three-minute video introduction of Vila São José prepared by the diocesan multimedia production team lifted our hearts up. The last shot done on a drone camera not only allowed us to see the retreat house from an eagle-eye perspective, it also drew us to contemplate on the Incarnation with the Trinity from on high. The Father was looking, listening and feeling the momentum of the human race. Through Mary’s “Yes,” the Son was soon to be born as a human being! What did it mean to us and to the retreatants joining the journey with the shepherds? Were their hearts changed in their encounter of the Infant Jesus? Did this encounter move them to say “Yes” to God like Mary? Could they remain faithful in their everyday task having seen the faith of Joseph?
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your encompassing love, for your grace to make all things possible, for gifting us with your Son Jesus and for grounding us through the companionship of our Blessed Mother!