success stories

Book: A Retreat with John the Evangelist
Author: Raymond E. Brown, SS
St. Anthony Messenger, Cincinnati, OH, pp. 102

Excerpt from Introduction:

Twenty years ago I made a weekend retreat at a Franciscan house on the coast of New Hampshire. The retreat director's opening talk was as lively as a long-range weather forecast. He told us how completely God loves each one of us without benefit of lively anecdotes or fresh insights.

As the friar rambled on, my inner critic kept up a sotto voce commentary: "I've heard all this before." "Wish he'd say something new that I could chew on." That poor man really doesn't have much to say." Ever hungry for manna yet untasted, I devalued any experience of hearing the same old thing.

After a good night's sleep, I awoke feeling as peaceful as a traveler who has at last arrived safely home. I walked across the room toward the closet. On the way I passed the sink with its small framed mirror on the wall above. Something caught my eye like an unexpected presence. I turned, saw the reflection in the mirror and said aloud, "No wonder he loves me!"

This involuntary affirmation stunned me. What or whom had I seen in the mirror? When I looked again, it was "just me," an ordinary person with a lower-than-average reservoir of self-esteem. But I knew that in the initial vision I had seen God-in-me breaking through like a sudden sunrise.

At that moment I knew what it meant to be made in the divine image. I understood right down to my size eleven feet what it meant to be loved exactly as I was. Only later did I connect this revelation with one granted to the Trappist monk-writer Thomas Merton. As he reports in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, while standing all unsuspecting on a street corner one day, he was overwhelmed by the "joy of being . . . a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate . . .There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun." . . . .

As general editor for the retreat series, I pray that readers will, by their questions, comments, doubts and decision-making, fertilize the seeds our mentors have planted.

Excerpt from Book:

The First Disciples

At the beginning of my "Gospel Message," I described Jesus' encounter with disciples of John the Baptist who in turn would become Jesus' disciples. The Baptist's task had been to testify to Jesus in order to reveal him to Israel, and he fulfilled that task when he pointed out Jesus to two disciples who in turn spoke of him to other disciples. Here let me call attention to how Jesus dealt with them when they started following him I do not mean simply walking along with him but committing their lives to him.

His first question was "What are you looking for?" That is still the first question he asks of all who would be disciples. He is always looking for us, but do we understand what our true needs are? The first disciples answered, "Where are you staying?" and he said, "Come and see." We must be willing to "stay" with Jesus a while and "see" for ourselves who he is and what following him means.

The former disciples of John the Baptist (one of them Andrew), after staying with Jesus one day, already recognized that he was the Messiah, the anointed king who would carry out God's plan. They did not keep that to themselves; and as they shared it with others, even deeper insights about Jesus emerged. That is a fundamental factor in the following of Jesus: No one is given the gift of faith for himself or herself alone; whatever we come to know must be shared with others. The Word speaks through our words; and in proclaiming Jesus to others, we ourselves grow in perception.