A recent retreat helped Sherry Hayes-Peirce appreciate the need to be open to change in new circumstances.
Like so many during the season of Advent, I seek opportunities to withdraw from my daily grind to slow down, soak in silence, and spark changes in my life that draw me nearer to Christ. While the majority of my activities are daily and online for convenience, I opted to take part in a three-week in-person retreat too.
The leader for the retreat is a very holy woman and I am biased because she also serves as my spiritual director. From the beginning it felt as though she was merely a conduit for the Holy Spirit to use her to guide the group. Many of us are or have navigated significant changes in our lives, that we have had to lean into our faith to endure. As part of the structure for the retreat we reflected on Scripture, the words of the saints, and poetry to focus on the message from God we had been called to hear.
One of the poems from John O’Donohue was read by our leader and the words “May the sense of something absent enlarge your life” immediately sparked thoughts about how the absence of my husband could possibly enlarge my life. The words resonated for a number of the women in attendance, who had also experienced the loss of a loved one, job, dreams, expectations and empty nesting. All of these experiences change who you are and as we shared our thoughts on another line from the poem that inspired the title of this blog, “May you enjoy the critical and creative companionship of the question 'Who Am I?' and may it brighten your longing.”
Before my “Dude” died I cherished being his wife. It was my identity and it shaped how I lived my life. While he will forever be my husband, the world sees me as his widow, which changes “Who am I now?” Others spoke about how the absences in their lives also changes how the world sees them and, sadly, how they saw themselves. One of the amazing women attending the retreat redefined herself as an “overcomer”! I loved that and struggled to redefine myself in a single word like she did.
The second week of the retreat commenced and again the Holy Spirit focused each of us on what we needed and for me again a line in another O’Donohue poem was read “May you be able to see the fruits of suffering … May you know tender shelter and healing blessing when you are called to stand in the place of pain.” The two weeks of retreat were clearly a call from God to prepare the way for our Lord to seep into my soul!
Our reflection on Scripture that drew tears to my eyes came from the prophet Isaiah:
Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. (Isaiah 35:4)
My mind was consumed with finding a word and a friend said instantly, “Evolver”! It was so perfect as the word is not finite and connotes ever changing and does not redefine my title or role, but frees me to be open to change in my new circumstances. As you read this I hope it serves as a message for you to be open to changes in your life too.
Womanhood is such a gift and in the month of December we celebrate not only the birth of Jesus but also His mother, and her yes to God’s plan for her life. Pray a Rosary for women in your life who are struggling with the question “Who am I now?”
Thank you for reading my thoughts on a page this past year; you are gifts that feed my soul.
Copyright 2022 Sherry Hayes-Peirce
About the Author
Sherry Hayes-Peirce is a Catholic social media strategist, blogger, conference speaker, podcast guest and contributing author of the Ave Prayer Book for Catholic Mothers. She serves as Digital Engagement Coordinator for American Martyrs Catholic Community in Manhattan Beach, CA, and St. Monica Parish in Mercer Island, WA. Sherry has a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and is grateful to be a digital disciple of Christ.