“Renewal” is one of the aspects of Lent that always causes me to pause and reflect. When you look back over the past year since last Easter, are you pleased with everything you did or did not accomplish? I know I have too many things that did not happen as I had hoped, and there are many things that I did, that I wish had not. However, that is life, and our greatest challenge is to embrace it all while striving to always have the love of God as our guiding force. This Lent has a much deeper meaning for me this year, but I still face the same challenges of opening my heart and finding the light of the season to guide me. One of the ways that I have found to be most effective to help me open my heart is spending time at Nazareth Farm.
One of these years, I will pray through Holy Week at the Farm, but otherwise I have enjoyed the Farm at most every other season of the year on more than one occasion. Each time I experience the Farm, it is different, and my faith experience grows because of that difference. With each season there are new plants and views which trigger different memories of past visits, joyous moments, or sad reflections. Almost every year the staff members are different, and those interactions generate memories during conversation where thoughts and life experiences are shared with one another which then in turn causes other internal reflections guiding my faith renewal. During times when volunteers are around, those interactions are, of course, different and add another reflection opportunity to my Farm “renewal.” I like to think of my time at the Farm as my faith recharge, and it is certainly very much what Lent is, but can be during most any time of the year at the Farm.
Not all of my visits are as much of a faith recharge as others, some are just quick stops, but the visuals while there always spark the faith memories I need at that point in my life. Sometimes a short walk to the grotto for some contemplative prayer helps to focus my thoughts and open my heart to Jesus for guidance. Other times, it is with a cup of coffee sitting on the porch swing while day is breaking. One of the most constant is during group prayer, whether the group is large or small, the faith sharing experience is always rejuvenating. Occasionally it is during a home repair project where you witness the strength of love in the form of another person putting all of their effort into building, fixing, or improving whatever the project requires. It can be during community night when you have the opportunity to interact with the local friends of Nazareth Farm, by listening to their life journeys and sharing yours with them. Those are some examples of how one can experience “renewal” at Nazareth Farm, and there are many, many more, always changing, always there. I’ll let you in on a little secret -I have not yet had a faith “renewal” experience during a bucket shower!
If you have not yet been to the Farm, I encourage you to connect during an appropriate time for a retreat experience. If you have not been in some time, reconnect during one of the adult, college, or family times during the year. The beauty of faith renewal at Nazareth Farm is constant for those who open their hearts to the cornerstones of Community, Simplicity, Prayer, and Service.
By Rick Lewis, current Board of Directors Treasurer and past volunteer