Rays of Joyful Hope | Eden Invitation Retreat 2023
For four beautiful days in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Eden Invitation made space to receive 75 participants at our largest retreat ever. Our in-person events often feel like family reunions; we take time to catch up with each other, eat, pray, and celebrate the beautiful things God is doing in our lives. We also take time before God in the Mass, praise and worship, and adoration. As one of our retreatants described it, “There really are moments where it feels like a taste of what the communion of saints will be like, because it's a space where we can receive each other vulnerably, authentically, and joyfully.” This year in particular we dove into our value of Joyful Hope, and what it means to persevere in hope.
Joyful Hope is the third of our three core values because it naturally flows from the first two– when we accept our life as a gift from God (our Beloved Unrepeatability) and reverence our own life and the lives of others in Mutual Belonging, we can better receive the “future of hope” in God’s plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11). With Joyful Hope, we can grow in “placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strengths…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1817). To really dive into hope though, we have to first acknowledge that we need it– we need to face the areas in our life that feel hopeless.
Friday morning started with a talk on “Dealing with Dissonance.” Often when we struggle in the spiritual life, we can start to think there’s “something wrong with us.” This isn’t always the case! There are several recurring stages in the spiritual life, and struggle is part of that. That period, through God’s grace, can bear good fruit in our lives. When we are facing difficulties and there is something wrong, we don’t always know where to turn to. So later in the afternoon, our retreatants heard from a priest and a counselor from our Pastoral Team about mental health, spiritual desolation, and finding expert resources. In Saturday’s talks we moved to “Life beyond Disillusionment” –examining the ways we misplace our hope and reflect on how we can mature in hope in our daily lives. One community member shared, “God worked in a beautiful way through the talks to help my battle with discouragement.”
Growing in our relationship with God and learning to live in Joyful Hope is a lifelong process, and we all need people to walk with us on the journey. Along with these talks, we had small groups meet at meal times to check in and share how these talks particularly impacted us. The groups are a blend of new participants and ongoing community members. Kristen, who has been coming to retreat since the first one in 2019, shared that on this retreat “God did a big work in revealing some lies I've been living by for a long time. He prompted me to renounce those and I'm moving in the direction of freedom.” For community members like Kristen, the fruits of retreat go beyond the weekend, “On the way back from the retreat, we got stuck in Atlanta for another day. Eden Invitation people really came in clutch with rides, feeding us, and housing us. I've found some of my dearest friends through this community.”
While these retreats are a beautiful time to catch up with old friends, we are a growing community– new people join us each year! Most people join Eden Invitation through our online Book Clubs, but Blake and several others took the plunge and joined us in person for retreat. “I had my Story Call only a few weeks before this retreat. I resisted for some time to reach out.” Blake shared that he was nervous to come on retreat because he has often felt out of place, “I thought I was too Catholic to be gay and yet also too gay to be Catholic, but [at the Eden Invitation Retreat] I felt a sense of genuine care and compassion. We had so many amazing conversations in my meal group. I had a lot of my questions answered and made many new friends.” With the support he found in community on this retreat, Blake experienced healing in his relationship with God: “I came to the realization that I was pushing Him away from me. I had been holding on to so much guilt and pain… [In Eden Invitation] I have encountered a very welcoming beautiful community of gentle souls seeking to live out our call to holiness. I am so inspired by the core values of Eden Invitation and I hope to live in that Joyful Hope for the rest of my life.”
God has set a powerful light of Joyful Hope in the lives of Blake, Kristen, and 73 other unique and unrepeatable lives through this retreat. We are so grateful to all of you who made this possible through your prayers and support! We look forward to seeing what God will reveal through this mission and community as we continue to grow in Joyful Hope.