January 18, 2013

Grow closer to Christ to find healing, piece of mind and heart, speaker says

Dr. C. Vanessa White speaks to 70 African-American Catholic women during an Advent day of reflection on Dec. 15 at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

Dr. C. Vanessa White speaks to 70 African-American Catholic women during an Advent day of reflection on Dec. 15 at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

By Mary Ann Garber

Sometimes both faith and courage are needed to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, Dr. C. Vanessa White told 70 African-American Catholic women attending an Advent day of reflection on Dec. 15 at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis.

But when the pain of daily life situations becomes greater than the pleasure of being alive, she said, growing closer to Christ is the only way to find healing as well as peace of mind and heart.

White, an author and faculty member at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, was the keynote speaker for the first black Catholic women’s retreat sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Multicultural Ministry.

The day of reflection was organized by Franciscan Sister Jannette Pruitt, project coordinator of multicultural ministry, and a committee of volunteers in response to the Church’s international Year of Faith.

“What more faith can we show than to touch the hem of his garment?” Sister Jannette said, citing the Gospel story of the woman with the hemorrhage who was healed when she touched Jesus’ cloak (Mk 5:25-34 and Lk 8:43-48).

“This program was designed to help enrich the fabric of who we are,” she said. “African-American women have a deep faith. We know that God is our Savior, and we believe that anything we ask God for will come to pass.”

White’s presentation encouraged the women to look closely at their personal needs to achieve balance in the midst of busy schedules and stressful life situations.

Take time to think about how you are using your time and energy, she said, and what problems challenge you each day.

“Name it and claim it,” White said, then—if necessary—change it.

Next, reflect on how God is working in your life, she said, and whether Jesus is your primary focus.

“What are you thirsting for?” she asked the women. “What may be standing in the way of you reaching out to Jesus and really beginning to care for yourself?”

Consider ways to strengthen your spirituality, White said, which will enhance your joy in life.

“Love your life,” she said. “Live your passion.”

Praying the rosary is a powerful Catholic spiritual practice because this Marian prayer “allows the [Holy] Spirit to work” in your life, she said. “Spiritual practices are transformative. … They lead you to a new way of life.

“Jesus said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength,’ ” White reminded the women, “and the second part is ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these’ ” (Mk 12:30-31 and Lk 10:27).

“But how are you loving and caring for yourself?” she asked. “Scripture says to treat your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. It’s about balance and wholeness. … Women are good at loving and caring for others, but we are not good about loving ourselves.”

Honor your body, White said, in order to be the nurturing, loving, Christian woman that God has called you to be.

The best ways to do that are to pray more, she said, be grateful for God’s blessings, drink a lot of water, eat the right foods in moderation, get enough rest, and make time to enjoy recreational activities or hobbies that renew your body and spirit.

Divine Word Father Charles Smith, a Catholic chaplain at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Indianapolis, was the celebrant for a Mass in the retreat house chapel.

“We cannot forget that God is in the business of helping us to redeem who we are and whose we are,” Father Charles said. “There’s been a lot of tragedy in our world, a lot of sickness and pain. But God is still able to help us to have some hope despite the misery and the pain. So let us rejoice. Let us give praise. … God is the Savior of the universe.”

Holy Angels parishioner Cheryl Shields of Indianapolis, a nurse who cares for nursing home patients, said she liked White’s suggestion to take Sabbath time for rest and relaxation every week.

“We, as women, are so nurturing and giving that we very seldom take time for ourselves,” Shields said. “But if we don’t take that time for ourselves then how can we [continue to] give to others and provide for others? I’m going to try a Sabbath day once a week.”

Angel Ingram, a tax manager who also is a Holy Angels parishioner in Indianapolis, said the retreat gave her tools that she can use to grow in her spiritually and deepen her relationship with Christ.

“I think this has been a great opportunity to get together with women and take some time out to reflect on our faith,” Ingram said, “and how we can take better care of ourselves and [focus on] what we need to do for God.” †

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