All of us at one time or another have basked in the rays of God’s love. Perhaps we felt it at Mass when we received Holy Communion, or when we watched a majestic sunset, read a passage of God’s Word, or received tender unconditional love from someone. Whenever it was, all of us have experienced God’s love and how real it is.

I have been blessed the past four months to live In-Residence at St. Anthony’s with eight other Franciscans. I found out about the Retreat Center at a Regional Franciscan gathering for Secular Franciscans in Minnesota two years ago or more. I had prayed and discerned for months- this summer I connected with Sister Jolynn and Deacon Bryan about the program. I toured, visited, and prayed some more. Then, in September I moved in with immense help from individuals at St. Anthony’s.  In the weeks following my move-in, I received much needed respite, my balance was restored and my inner vision and spirit were refreshed by being surrounded by this peaceful dwelling place that has been covered in prayer by the Capuchins.

It was apparent meeting retreatants, other residents, staff and volunteers the love and connection each have for St. Anthony’s. Some have shared the gratitude for the people here when they have been discouraged or were in ‘desert periods of their lives.’  If you ask people what their favorite parts of St. Anthony’s are, the answers would vary. Mine would have to be the outdoor Stations of the Cross, the grotto, and the “hidden room” above the main chapel. Here are a few of my favorite photos from my time here.

 

A huge chunk of snow came off a tree right in front of the altar as I snapped my picture… Or it looks like the Holy Spirit… Whichever, it seemed pretty magical to me.

One a trip to Rib Mountain one day, I stopped about a mile from the retreat center to bask in all the colors the Lord set before my eyes… Glorious!

I was pleased to get this shot one morning while walking across the street from St Anthony’s one crisp fall morning before school started.

Being here to witness the fall colors was spectacular. I invited a friend to come and visit and we rode the chair lift at Granite Peak in Rib Mountain State Park. But this winter far surpassed my greatest expectations. It is easy to see how God has touched / graced this area. I presumed I would hibernate this winter, but because of my solace, a renewed energy surged within me, allowing me to take long walks (or snowshoeing~thanks to Fr. Bob) on the grounds.

During the past four months I have experienced multiple blessings of consolation. It has helped direct my focus; it’s lifted my heart and has helped me see beyond myself.  I am grateful for the bonds of friendship I have made. In true Franciscan joy we eat, clean, laugh, cry,  and pray together!

In the short time I have been here… it has been a year of God’s grace and mercy, forgiveness, wonder and awe, finding joy, trust, unwavering prayer, listening, and going deeper. The more I reflected on going deeper, I understood this to mean “going deeper into the heart of God.”