To the south-east of Rome, perched high on a hill, sits a solitary building that gazes down upon rolling woodland, antiquated homesteads, and the serene waters of Lago Nemi. From the vicinity of this establishment one can experience the refreshing calm of grand vistas and the delicious sensation of drawing breath from the crisp mountain air; while within its walls the sounds of a chorus of voices can be heard as they pronounce in one accord, “Maranatha” — “Come, O Lord!”
Such was the setting for The Lay Centre weekend retreat to the Centro Ad Gentes – which shares its name with the mission-focused Vatican II document that underwent part of its drafting process there. The weekend started with a meandering bus trip into the nearby countryside, where our Lay Centre residents, many newly arrived and comprising thirteen nationalities, looked forward to an experience of spiritual renewal and bonding.
The spiritual exercises ranged from discussions of expectations for The Lay Centre community as well as exchanges of blessings between residents for the coming year. All of this was nestled within the larger theme of each person’s role in God’s creation, as supported by the accompaniment of reflections, for example, on Psalm 104, “ Make me an Instrument of your Peace” prayer (in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi’s spirituality though not by him), and an excerpt from the Holy Father’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si.
Between the singing of hymns and the observation of Holy Mass, there was also plenty of time for residents to get to know one another. By its end, the weekend sojourn seemed to have had the intended effect as participants expressed their pleasure in a successful retreat and deeper feelings of community. It is therefore with a renewed vision and the hope of acting as an “instrument of peace” that our Lay Centre community enters into a new year.
Photo: Hansol Goo