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A New Eden

While I was at the Jesuit Retreat Center (JRC) on an 8-Day silent retreat, I sat in the courtyard on a bench with a figure wrapped in a blanket—much like many of my neighbors at home in Los Angeles.

I reached down and felt the nail marks in the feet. My hand could not leave for some time as I sat with the sculpture of Christ in distressing disguise.

At JRC, a new Eden, there is safety and beauty but also a challenge to answer the call of the people who are suffering. Fr Greg Boyle, who recently spoke there, has answered the call with gang members through Homeboy Industries. Others help the sick. Some help homeless people to find shelter and suffering alcoholics to find sobriety and recovery. We all need to be restored occasionally so that we can carry the message of God’s love and healing power to those who are still wrapped in their blankets of despair.

JRC offers time for prayer and meditation. In my time there, I found that my petitions to God did not change the world but they changed me. Instead of seeing the pain and death that COVID brings, I see the healthcare worker tending the sick in a COVID ward and consoling a bereft family. Instead of the sea of homeless folks on the sidewalks of Skid Row, I see the staff of missions taking in homeless persons to be fed, clothed, and given meaningful work. Many emerge into a renewed life of purpose. Through prayer and meditation my perception of the world shifts to the goodness that exists so abundantly.

El Retiro (JRC) meets us where we are and helps us to see God’s world and the direction that God has for each of us. The unspeakable beauty in the 38 acres calls us into gratitude for all that we are given. We are renewed on the hill at Los Altos and can go back out into the world and serve God and our fellows. I owe much to El Retiro, its staff, the spiritual directors, and to God for leading me there.

Marilyn K. Slater

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