Lessons From a Mandatory Retreat

Franciscan Mission Service DC Service Corps member, Julia Pinto reflects on the changes brought about by this pandemic and the insights she’s found along the way.

It has taken me six weeks to adjust to the changes brought on by quarantine living. We shifted to working remotely; our community shrunk from twelve to three as members went to be with their families; we were unable to attend Mass or Confession; and we had to find balance in scheduling phone/video calls, working, praying, new and old hobbies, cooking, exercising, job-searching, building community, and sleeping.

I’m guessing you have experienced something like this in your own way, so I know my story is not unique. But I’d still like to share some of my insights and takeaways from this “mandatory retreat.” I found inspiration for these from friends, spiritual directors, books I read, virtual Mass, quiet moments of reflection, and a beautiful hymn (which I’ll explain below).

  1. I need to practice my faith in God and use my frontal lobe (the reasoning part of my brain) more, so I want to take my worries to the Lord first, sit with and process the issues myself, and then go to family or friends for support if needed.
  2. It took me six weeks to adjust to this lifestyle change, so I want to be more patient with myself and others in future. The growth and transition processes take time – usually much longer than I am willing to wait.
  3. I tend to be an intentional and sometimes perfectionist person, so I want to take more time to sit back and have fun in the moment. (This is what dancing is for).
  4. I feel SO good when I eat well and stay active, so I want to persevere in choosing food and activities that are wholesome and beneficial for me and to have grace for myself when I fall short.
  5. Life is about balance – relationships, work, prayer, health, rest – and doing the best you can with what you have.
  6. My family and friends are amazing and love me so well. I am beyond blessed.
  7. Journaling and reflecting help me focus, stay present, organize my thoughts, and think deeper.
  8. God gives me what I need when I need it! I can trust Him to give me my daily bread. “Whatever comes my way, Lord, I know You and I can get through together.”
  9. I want to accept others the way Christ accepts me – unconditionally, patiently, gently, mercifully, and with thousandth chances.
  10. Sticking to my little box where I’m comfortable – and do only what I know I can do well – limits my ability to change and grow. God invites me to new heights, which can be scary, but that is where I find freedom to be myself, become more like Him, and discover new wonders in life.

About a month ago, this tune was stuck in my head, but I couldn’t remember the words or the name of the song. Then two weeks later, my mom called me and happened to mention a hymn in the book she was reading. She started singing it to me, and it was the same song!! It has been a frequent reminder for me during quarantine of the many blessings that I have taken for granted in the past but have now come to truly appreciate in this time of stillness and simple living, so I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!

“This Day God Gives Me”

This day God gives me
Strength of high heaven,
Sun and moon shining,
Flame in my hearth,
Flashing of lightning,
Wind in its swiftness,
Deeps of the ocean,
Firmness of earth.

This day God sends me
Strength to sustain me,
Might to uphold me,
Wisdom as guide.
Your eyes are watchful,
Your ears are list’ning,
Your lips are speaking,
Friend at my side.

God’s way is my way,
God’s shield is round me,
God’s host defends me,
Saving from ill.
Angels of heaven,
Drive from me always
All that would harm me,
Stand by me still.

DC Service Corps Member Julia Pinto

Reflection Questions: What has God been teaching you during this time that you want to remember and practice once life transitions again? What are some things that you are grateful for today that you have overlooked in the past?

Franciscan Mission Service (FMS) supports and accompanies individuals serving in Bolivia, Jamaica, Washington DC, and on the U.S.-Mexico border. Missioners walk with marginalized communities, sharing gifts, living faith, and learning from one another. For more information, please visit www.franciscanmissionservice.org or contact FMS at info@franciscanmissionservice.org.

Thank you for reading! The Staying Connected newsletter is made possible through the partnership of Catholic Volunteer Network and Catholic Apostolate Center.

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