A couple of years ago, my friend Nicola asked me if I could recommend any Catholic schools in the area, since she was considering pulling her kids out of public school. She researched and I asked around, and she settled on St. Dominic's in Benicia, CA. Several months ago, she asked me if my parish had an RCIA program, because she was thinking about becoming Catholic and she hadn't yet heard back from the program director at her kids' school. By the time I got her the information, she had heard back and was under way in her classes. A few months ago I got a text that read "So, I guess we are supposed to have a sponsor. Would you consider being mine?" (Or something very close to that.) My answer was, of course, YES!
I was so honored. Really, truly, touched. I have God children that were entrusted to me as infants. I have a God daughter who requested me to be her Confirmation sponsor as a teenager. I have a full-grown, made-the-decision-to-do-this-all-by-herself adult who has asked me to be with her on her spiritual journey. I am so incredibly blessed.
When Nicola first told me that there was going to be a retreat for the RCIA candidates and their sponsors, I got the impression that she was worried that I wouldn't want or be able to come. (I keep forgetting to ask you, Nic, if this is true.) She mentioned it a few times after that first invitation, each time making sure to say that she would take care of every needed for the retreat, and each time I got the mental image of a girl slightly bouncing on the balls of her feet as she waited for an answer to a question that she really wasn't sure what the answer would be. This could very well have all been in my head, but I did my best to make sure she knew I would be there for her. She was eventually reassured, and even sent me a text the day before we left that said "17 hours until freedom!!!" because at this point we had already had the conversation that no, it is not a bad thing that we were looking forward to getting away from our kids.
Nicola has been away from her kids before, but it is usually for work. The last time I was away from my kids was for my grandmother's funeral, nearly 4 years ago. So excited about the prospect was I, that I willingly got up at the crack of dawn. Granted, I had been promised Starbucks, so it wasn't totally selfless.
I learned my first lesson of the weekend from that cup of coffee...don't hold the cup between your knees to adjust your coat or seat-belt. Fortunately my wool coat was on my lap and took most of the mess (which magically rolled off and didn't leave a mark) and for the rest, it was dry by the time we got there. Poor Nicola. It was totally not her fault but she was so worried!
The rest of the drive down to Menlo Park was less eventful, at least until we passed the entrance for the Facebook headquarters.
We were soon in the neighborhood of the Vallombrosa Center, where the retreat was held. We got a little lost. BUT, in this day and age of GPS and smart phones, it didn't last long. While we were figuring out where we needed to be, we decided to take a look at the nearby homes for sale app that Nic has on her phone, because every single property we passed was just beautiful and enormous. We did find a single property for under $1,000,000...a cozy 700 sq ft apartment. Yeah.
(Okay, I have been meaning to finish this post for over a year...bad blogger, I know. Part of the reason it has been so long is the fact that the login for this blog platform is a pain in the tuckus. I primarily use Gmail and it won't let you log in with a Gmail account. Which means using the Yahoo address that I haven't used in years. Anyway, I will do what I can to remember all the thoughts that were in my head when I started.)
One thing we did on day one was take some time to wander the grounds. I have a few pictures that I will add on, of some amazing fungi.
Another activity was to take an oversized piece of paper and write down anything and everything that was weighing on our hearts. At first I wasn't sure what I would write down, but I finally found something. Then I found another, and another, and soon my page was full of things thay I had long forgotten but that had always been an irritation on my subconscious. You know the kinds of things I am talking about; memories that will float to your mind on nights when you can't sleep or thoughts that will seep in when you are dealing with some other grief. These and other things that were too present in my mind, all found way to that paper.
Later that night, we had a ceremony where each of the candidates and sponsors stood in a circle and added our papers to a bier. The priest who was guiding our retreat said some prayers and then we all watched in silence as they burned down to ashes. It was the most cleasning and freeing experience I have ever had.
There were so many other wonderful moments that weekend and a few weeks later when my friend and all of her fellow candidates were initiated at the Easter Vigil Mass, which is probably my favorite ceremony of the Church calendar; I love the symbolism of all the candles lighting up the night, and so much more.
So now that I have finally added to this post that was begun so many months ago, I think it is time to wrap it up. I know that this was long, so if you are still here...yay!