Like the woman at the well

Last night, I slept in a bunk bed – the first time in 27 years, sharing a dormitory with 9 other women, living a simpler communal existence focusing on the spiritual.

I am attending the Conversion Experience Retreat #56 at the Catholic Spirituality Centre. I was really blessed to get into the retreat – balloted in February and got in on the first attempt (#113 of 120!).

When I checked in to the retreat yesterday morning, I found I was assigned to the group Patience. Hmmm, was this a breadcrumb message from God? After all, I have been praying to grow in patience (God only knows how much I need, being a mother of 4 girls!).

They have said that this was a special retreat – God calls you when it is the right time to catch the wave on your spiritual journey and He will set people on your path for reasons He knows in His plan for you – so I have been told. What is the wave I am going to catch? Who will I meet?

Some of the answers came soon enough. At the first session in the morning when I walked into a sea of strangers in the hall, I came across an old friend from my past – Uncle Alex from St Vincent de Paul – someone who had been key in my formation as a newly baptized Catholic pulling me into the Choir ministry at the time, and who was the person who pulled together the hymns for my church wedding. He was someone who played a supporting role in the romantic phase of my love story with my ex, bringing my past back into this retreat.

And when Archbishop William Goh opened the session with John 4:5-42, It was the passage of the woman at the well. I was shocked.

When I got the ballot into the retreat a month and a half ago, I did think there would be healing involved to do with my failed relationship. But at the time, the future seemed hazy and I was still early in the stages of discerning what I had wanted to get out of the retreat. Fast forward to last weekend and I knew exactly what I wanted to ask and discern. I knew how broken and hungry I was and how upset I was with how my life plans have been thrown into disarray and I felt angry with the Catholic Church.

For here was the rub: As I was married in Church sacramentally, whilst I am now divorced in a civil process that was triggered by me in response to my-ex’s infidelity, I am not free to remarry and find love and companionship. Doing so would be considered committing a mortal sin of adultery.

“How unfair!” I had thought to myself. How can a God who loves me allow this injustice to happen. To be a good Catholic, I am being asked to choose to remain celibate after my ex had cheated, our live plans scuttled and broken to pieces, trusting my affective needs to God and God alone. It seems so much like a further insult to a deep wound.

So I walked into this retreat an angry and hungry woman seeking for answers to the above. And God answered hard and fast and tenderly. He is speaking and I am listening. Do pray for me, brothers and sisters, as I try to quieten the storm in my heart to allow God to heal and make whole again. ATM!

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