March 22, 2023

Surrender –

Francesca Silli
Italy, Rome

Lenten Retreat for Women in Rome

Saturday, 4th March 2023


“«Surrender» a precious gift the Lord has given me this Lent.

A surprise of how the Lord always works in my life and comes to me precisely with an encounter … providence that every time surprises me and that perhaps I will never get used to!

In this case the encounter with Sister M. Julie and the women who were present with me gave me peace, joy and the tools to be able to continue on my journey.

The beautiful sunny day and spring air there at the Shrine was a true gift.

Thanks to Sister’s words and testimony, I felt ‘human’ and aware that my fears, experiences and difficulties are not just my own.

It was an intense morning, full of emotions that gave me insights and strategies that I am experiencing in my daily life and that are bearing fruit.”

This is a short testimony from one of the participants who took part in the Lenten retreat for women at the Cor Ecclesiae Shrine in Rome on Saturday 4th March 2023. The retreat was offered both in the morning and the afternoon. The theme of unconditional surrender to God was introduced during the opening prayer with words of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross:

«I surrender myself entirely to your Divine Will, O Lord … Enkindle your love in me and then walk with me along the next stretch of the road before me…»

This the beginning, the beautiful beginning followed by a story of a woman who no longer wanted to carry her cross and asked Jesus if she could change it, a story that in many ways reflects situations or attitudes similar to ours. Then with our arms wide open, outstretched like those of the crucified, we were all invited to ‘surrender’ into the heart of the retreat. Sister M. Julie’s words gave us the direction to take, the way to approach this journey leaving behind everything that is not strictly necessary along the way. She gave concrete examples starting from her own personal journey and that of people close to her.

Then in the Shrine before Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament an opening song, the prayer of «Trusting Surrender» a short thanksgiving and an hour of silence for personal reflection and listening, far from the deafening noise in which we are used to live. Jesus was with us and in us.

We finished under the Roman walls, carrying one after the other and arch after arch the cross on which was nailed a wooden figure of Jesus, a bit wobbly, with a sharp face turned to the sky in an attitude of total abandonment that we held in our arms in turn and tenderly caressed or kissed along the Stations of a Way of the Cross with a stringy but moving content, profound and meaningful in this our dedicated day, which left a trace in our hearts.

Another woman shares with us the trace that was left in her heart from her experience of the day:

“As I drove to Schoenstatt there was a blue sky that just looking at it made me want to thank God … and I did. I could feel life awakening in me, I had a great joy inside that resonated like an echo and filled the emptiness of my thoughts … going to Schoenstatt was like going home, a safe haven, where I could be myself.

To take off the armour, which is required to survive in the jungle of the everyday, is to surrender … to surrender with trust to God’s love.

Seeing the little Shrine … friends, known and unknown, friends nonetheless, because they were united by an inner need and the conviction that there we could make it explicit without fear by seeking the answer together.

Sister M. Julie welcoming us, joyful as always, the sun on the flowering lawn that seemed to explode with daisies and ‘forget-me-nots’ … an image that seems rhetorical, instead it was all real and everything reminded me of the warmth and beauty of God’s love.

This was the context in which we gathered to reflect and pray, all together and each on her own, in our little house in intimacy with each other and with Our Lady, each free to kneel inside or walk outside. This freedom struck me. I loved the idea of doing the Stations of the Cross on the lawn choosing trees as stations because it opened our minds to the possibility of doing it anywhere. St. Francis talking to nature basically I think did that.

All this in an oasis where the noises of the world we hear were far away, as if the real world was in there and the walls separating the garden from the Aurelia Antica were enough to prevent it from entering.

It is we who have raised a barrier inside, between us and the world, in that silence we can listen to ourselves and surrender to God … the way to that ‘second conversion’ that makes me meanwhile say «Loving Father, today I surrender myself to you with all my heart and soul. Enter. I open to you the secret places and hold back nothing, for I trust! Dispose of me according to your will.»

If I leave it up to him, if I surrender to my understanding of how things should be, if I set aside my choice and my will I am sure I will discover wonders about myself.”