The annual retreat of the brothers in Timor Leste took place from 15 to 22 August, 2021, and as usual began with an opening celebration. The Eucharist was presided over by Pastor Venancio Pereira, SJ, who also accompanied the retreat. The retreat was intended for all the brothers in Timor-Leste, but because of government regulations related to the pandemic, only those brothers who had already been vaccinated against Covid-19 twice could participate. For those who were not able to attend the retreat in August, a second retreat will be organized later this year. Brother Francisco Maia reports:
We should be grateful every day to God, the Most Merciful, for all the graces He grants us. Especially in this difficult time, when East Timor is still affected by the COVID-19 virus, which increases day by day, making it difficult for us to carry out our mission. However, this situation is not an excuse for the brothers not to participate in the retreat this year, but rather a blessing for the 15 brothers who enthusiastically attended the annual retreat.
Living the Gospel of the day
The leading theme this year was: “Living the Gospel of the Day”. In religious life, including its challenges, we find the will of God. Every day can be lived according to the message of the Gospel. In opening the retreat, Pastor Venancio explained the tradition of the Ignatian retreat as a process of prayer and reflection, following the rhythm of revelation, sin, and reconciliation with the life of Jesus: from His suffering, His death to His resurrection. Father Venancio pointed out that Ignatian retreats are different from other Catholic retreats. It is a process of decision; aimed at transformation.
The love of God
The first day was dedicated to “my life in God’s hands”. Life is really a gift from God. God is the creator and sustainer of all life. The second day was about “God’s love for me, my freedom, my happiness and my salvation”. God is love. He cares about who we are and what we do. Because He is love, He hates evil.
The origin of our life
The theme for the third day was “God as the source and origin of life”. God created us to praise and serve Him, so that our souls may be saved by Him. God created all material things in this world to help us. As we search for God’s will in this world, we will eventually ask why these things were created, and we will use all possessions and wealth for the glory of His name, not to glory in ourselves. The third day we also reflected on “God’s will”. In our lives as religious, we search together for God’s will, not our own. We can then discover that it is His will to love one another, forgive one another, and not be hostile towards one another.
The fourth day we talked about change: “I want to be a new person, a reformer, a transformation. Everything can change, even God can change, the only thing that never changes is Love”. Love is forever.
Love, serve, forgive, save
On the fifth day we focused on “the mind of Jesus”. The four forces of the spirit of Jesus are to love, serve, forgive and save. If our lives are coloured by love, then this life feels very beautiful. The most important thing we have to do as religious people is to bring other people to meet each other, to bring people to God, and to bring God to people. The sixth day was also about love: “I am a lover. My own life is a sign of God’s love. Therefore, I too must be someone who loves others. If I do not love, I am automatically not a lover and God does not live with me.
Brother Francisco Maia, CMM