I spent the weekend serving at our community’s Road to Damascus Retreat (or RTD, patterned after the Life in the Spirit Seminar) at the very same retreat house where I attended my own LSS almost 20 years ago. Of course, it looks nothing like it did back then; it seems as if a new wing has sprouted up at each direction. But the beautiful chapel and the lush gardens were enough to get me reminiscing about that long ago retreat.
I remember how, just 2 months shy of 15, I was very much still a child. Yes, I’d like to think I was mature for my age (I have a few friends that would even attest that I looked it), but if my openness during that weekend was testament to anything, it was that I was very much still a child at heart (thank God for that).
Thinking hard just now, I realize that I don’t really remember any of the talks. But one thing I do remember is the worship. Even after the talk introducing the topic on charismatic worship, I had no idea that what was about to happen in the next few minutes would introduce me to a way of praying that was to change my life forever.
For the RTD, we try to look for people who can share experiences the participants can relate to. For the talk on Praise and Worship, naturally, we look for someone who went from squirmy (sometimes violent) discomfort to freely raised hands, finally finding exhilaration in worship anointed by the Spirit. It is therefore no surprise that I’ve never been asked to share for this part, as I’ve never felt out of place in charismatic worship. The moment I tasted it, I knew I wanted more, and that I wanted it forever.
The songs were simple–no fancy harmonies or complicated progressions; the words likewise weren’t too deep or flowery. But there was a Presence that was unmistakable–an awareness that I was there, singing, praying, existing for God, and that He was there listening, embracing, beholding. Long before I ever even read or knew about how God makes His home in our praises (Psalm 22:3), I already felt it, and believed it. I found the experience so amazing, that when they invited us to attend weekly prayer meetings that always started with worship, I couldn’t believe my ears. They did this every week?! How could I ever miss a Friday?!! As I was made to worship God, and was destined to make worship my heavenly occupation, I was determined to get as much “practice” as I could every single day of my life.
It was only natural that this new appreciation for worship should find expression in “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC#1324): The Eucharist. It was as if my ears were opened for the first time to really listen to the beautiful prayers I had been hearing every Sunday of my life! Every word pierced my heart, making me want to raise my hands and shout, “Amen! Yes, Lord, that is my prayer!!” While I never actually went that far, I did close my eyes a lot, with hands clasped together over my heart. Sometimes, my hands would be lifted up ever so slightly, but most of the time, a LOT of times, I would be so moved by the Liturgy that I would cry. At every mass. Every day of the week.
Whether I was at a prayer meeting, or at Mass, or in private prayer, the offering of my heart in true, spiritual worship was given the reward I ardently sought: the Presence of God. To this day, I can say that the best compliment I’ve ever received was from this friend’s friend (we were never more than acquaintances) whose family I’d always see at weekday evening mass whenever I would go. It was recounted to me that when my name popped up in a conversation he was having with a common friend, he said of me: “when she prays, she looks like she’s really talking to God.”
And how can I stand here with You
and not be moved by You?
Would You tell me how could it be any better than this?
(“Everything” by Lifehouse)
(There’s more to be said. Go on to read Part 2.)