Lindsey Weishar: Preparing for the Enkindle Retreat and tending to our humanity

The weekend retreat of artistic renewal is open to all women above 18 in the Diocese of Peoria.

My Vocation is Love / Lindsey Weishar

God-willing, Sept. 30-Oct. 2 will be a weekend of artistic renewal for the women attending the Enkindle Retreat at St. Matthew Parish in Champaign. You may remember my writing about this retreat in my May column when I thought it would be happening in June. You know what they say about telling God your plans. He will most certainly rearrange them to better fit his timing.

One beautiful result of the movement of this retreat’s date was the concurrent decision to open the weekend up to all women above 18 in the Diocese of Peoria. I ask for your prayers. The weekend’s themes are rest, vulnerability, beauty, and evangelization. My hope is that Enkindle is just the beginning of a renewed conversation about the arts in our diocese and church.

At the parish I often attend in Kansas City, we open Sunday Mass with a prayer to the Holy Spirit that begins, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.” Being a bit of a word nerd, I recently turned to the Online Etymology Dictionary to get a better sense of the meaning of “enkindle.” I discovered that an Old English root, kindel, refers to the “offspring of an animal, young one,” “to give birth,” “to bring forth, produce.” I love that the word refers to “young ones,” birth, and the act of bringing something into existence. It’s a reminder that there is a certain labor involved in enkindling, and almost paradoxically it is also essence, being, a gift freely given by God and stirred into flame by the Holy Spirit.

OUR GREATEST TALENT

Part of the source material for Enkindle will be “God is Beauty,” Pope John Paul II’s retreat for artists that has recently been translated into English (see The Catholic Post’s July review of this book). Whether or not we view ourselves as artists, John Paul II reminds us that we all have a responsibility toward creativity. As John Paul II says in his retreat: “we have to admit that the greatest talent (referring to the parable of the talents) of all that we possess is the talent of our own humanity. This is also the truth of the Gospel. And if God is going to judge us on how we used our various talents, he will judge us on how we used our one basic talent: the talent of our own humanity. This is the greatest talent.”

The temptation, however, is to bury both our talents (e.g., juggling, writing, sewing) and the talent (gift) of our humanity. I was recently asked to write an article about what failure looks like in the artistic life. For me, failure involves a kind of burying — when I don’t create because I’ve allowed busyness, fear, or hopelessness to take root in me. How tempting it is to hide, to say, “I really have nothing to offer here.” This is something I experience not only artistically, but at the level of my humanity. In a world so steeped in sorrow, what can a poem bring? And perhaps even more essential is the question, “What can I bring?”

MAKE OF OURSELVES A GIFT

The answer is — our gifts and our humanity are the vessels by which we can bring God to others. This ability to make of ourselves a gift comes from the reception of God’s gift of himself in prayer and the sacraments. John Paul II reminds the artists during his retreat of this giftedness: “The idea is for the person gifted with talent to create works of art, to incarnate Beauty, and in creating these works, to incarnate Beauty so that it serves others.”

The hope fostered by incarnating Beauty is a good antidote to the fear and hopelessness of our times. Each artist present on this retreat has a special way of seeing the world that God has granted her to incarnate Beauty, a gift given to bless others. Please keep the women on this retreat in your prayers this month. And if you know a woman who might be interested in Enkindle — or if you yourself would like to be involved — email me at lweisharwriting@gmail.com.

Come Holy Spirit!

Lindsey Weishar

LINDSEY WEISHAR is a poet, freelance writer, and native of Champaign who has a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is executive assistant to the president at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas. Write to her at lweisharwriting@gmail.com.

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