A Letter of Gratitude

Below is a letter a frequent participant in our Ignatian Conference Retreats sent in response to a fundraising appeal we sent out this year.

Dear Sister Therese,

When you asked for a donation for the Jesuit Spiritual Center at Milford I was unable to refuse you, primarily because of the encounter I shared with you.  Yes, you have my permission to share this. Know that the presence of Jesus is very vibrant at the Holy place that is maintained for him at Milford. Never underestimate the grace and wholeness that can come from a half hour of Eucharistic Adoration. Thank you for all that you do, and I give thanks to all the good and Holy Jesuit priests that have awakened me to the presence of God.

I have been making a yearly Saint Ignatius retreat at the Jesuit Spiritual Center at Milford for close to 30 years. I believe it was my 3rd retreat that had the most profound effect on my life. I was sitting on the Miami River on that Saturday afternoon. I am an emotional guy, and I have shed a lot of happy tears over the years. That afternoon the tears that I was shedding were not happy tears. This is the only time in my adult life that I can actually recall shedding painful tears. This was also the only time I painfully missed my mom and dad since their passing. How I ached for their love and their guidance as I sat there in my pain and loneliness.

The past 18 months of our marriage had become a living hell. We had tried everything that we could think of to make our marriage whole again. We prayed, we went to marriage counseling, we read all the books that the marriage counselor suggested, and we worked through the workbooks, but our resentment for each other had grown so deep and so toxic, we just couldn’t seem to get past it.  I didn’t know how much longer that we could continue to be together and maintain enough emotional wellness to function at a normal level. We had 5 children at the time ages 4 through 15, not a good time to be ripping a family apart. 

As I left the riverbank, still feeling pretty hopeless, I came back into the center. I noticed a signup sheet for the all-night adoration. There was one half hour opening left, from 3:30 AM to 4:00 AM. My thought at that time was, what the hell, I’ve tried everything else. I’ll give this a try. When I was in front of the Holy Eucharist on that quiet Sunday morning, I wasn’t sure what to do. I hadn’t done anything like this before, so I said a Rosary. I looked at my watch and I still had twenty minutes left. I picked up the Bible and stared reading it. I started saying another Rosary. My thirty minutes was up, and as I was walking out of the chapel, I heard a voice that said, “Do you mind If I say something?” I looked around and It appeared that I was the only one in the chapel. I heard this voice again say, “Do you mind if I say something, have a seat.” I sat down in the 2nd to last seat on the street side of the Chapel.  The voice said,” I will heal your marriage, but there are 3 things you must do to maintain it.”  I was told the 3 things that I must do. When the voice stopped, I thought about how I almost didn’t come to this retreat.  Before I left home Friday, I looked into the eyes of my wife, and the pain I saw was frightening. I wondered how long it had been there, and how long had it been since I had even looked in her eyes, and how I couldn’t leave her in this condition? She insisted, so I came. 

As was sitting there I experienced a vision as if it were real. It was my wife walking down the church aisle on our wedding day with her dad, and how happy and beautiful she looked. When I came home Sunday from the retreat, she was in the kitchen humming to the tune of a song on the radio. Her face was totally painless, and I saw a happiness in her that I hadn’t seen in years, As I hugged her, it felt as if the 18 months of our living hell had never taken place. Our marriage was completely healed. And since has produced 5 healthy and well adjust adults, 2 perfect son in-laws and one perfect daughter in-law, along with 7 perfect grandchildren, and a whole lot of happiness and Joy.

I can’t tell you how blessed I feel when my 3 sons and 2 son in-laws join me there on retreats. I sometimes wonder, where my life, and the lives of my wife and five children could have ended up without the presence of Jesus encountering me on that very special Sunday morning?  

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Thank you Jesus, and thank you Jesuit Spiritual Center at Milford.

-A devout believer.