Retreat “House of Ruth” March 3-7 2014
At the Carmelite Center Burgstraat 46 Ghent
House of Ruth Retreat in Ghent, Belgium - Day 1: After lunch, we gathered. Deacon Jetty introduced the theme of the retreat, abiding in Christ. We had made bound books including all of our scheduled events, including liturgies, Bible Study, films, etc. Mo. Martha+ spoke about time, temporal/linear time and eternal time including past, present, and future as we celebrate it in the Mass. We discussed how our experiences of time change with age, how a child can barely differentiate today, yesterday, and tomorrow. Time seems to stand still and move slowly. And even for adults there are times that never seem to end, be it watching the clock at a despised job, or feeling trapped in some other ways. Then there are moments we want to hold on to that slip away too quickly. As we age, time seems to pick up speed. As we enter into Holy Space, so-called 'Ordinary Time' is truly extraordinary! We come together to experience Holy Time on Holy Ground with the Lord and one another, forming deeper community bonds and developing our shared spiritual path.
We also shared a block of time for teaching, where Mo. Martha+ and Deacon Jetty described the roots and development of the ECC. We talked about the Old Catholic Church in Europe, its origins, as well as OC in America. We talked about the independent Catholic (IC) movement in the US, its characteristics, and how St. Matthew's ECC Church began, how several IC parishes came together, writing a Constitution and by-laws. We talked about the three-legged stool of governance and the particular roles of Bishops, House of Pastors, and House of Laity. Our goal this week was to help participants understand the overall polity of ECC. There was a lot of good discussion about the political/institutional/legal structures in Europe and its history of ECC development, its unique challenges that are quite different than seen in the US.
Tonight we will watch a three-hour film in which the only spoken words come directly from the Gospel of John. We will give you a little summary of each day's events and will post the daily homilies on the House of Ruth website. Please pray for this little community seeking greater spiritual and organizational development.
House of Ruth Retreat, Days 2-3: We celebrated Mass in our own little private chapel here on day 2 and again on day 3. It's acoustics are wonderful for our music which sounds like a choir of angels as Jetty plays guitar and has taught them a lot of music: it is noticeably better than last year. Today we talked about the meanings and tradition of ashes and we burned our Palm Sunday Palm leaves and all of us were given crosses on our foreheads. We continued a session on building community, starting with those who are within their immediate influence. Interesting discussion on observed 'post-Christian' mindset with which they deal among some of their relatives, extended families, or acquaintances. Others have heavy work and family lives with schedules that hardly allow spare time to participate in church life; some thought being discussed about how to structure better availability and access. Jetty's long stated observation is that in Europe there is a lot of healing needed regarding traumas related to church experiences in childhood + adulthood before there can be strong community development among those so disaffected: HOR members discussing their own unique trajectories through institutional catholic and Protestant backgrounds, followed by involvement in the last several years in very unstable independent catholic groups in Belgium where clergy including bishops would inexplicably change plans and drop groups; some have gone through this 2-3 times and hence see ECC as potentially able to stabilize this situation and create meaningful community if clergy have adequate formation and are committed to being pastors who will 'stay put.' Parishes or individuals have histories of being abandoned. How personal and church life are intertwined and challenges seen in small groups seems similar to what many of us had gone through in the US in the IC movement. Based on their growing understandings from Vatican II and ECC ecclesiology and polity, I see them starting to grapple with issues of their own self-definition and future missions as a community. They want to be supportive of other European missions as well as supporting their ongoing project with inner city poor / children in Phoenix, where Jetty ministers two months a year. They are also undertaking local charity work with Mothers for Mothers, a non-profit which provides used clothing and toys for children. Tonight Jetty will lead a Bible Study on abiding in Christ which is our theme for the week. Thank you for your continued prayers for House of Ruth! Blessings, Martha+ ('Associate member' of House of Ruth and Deacon Jetty, Pastor of House of Ruth
House of Ruth Retreat, days 4-5: it is difficult to pick just a few things to give you a flavor of what went on here, but I will try. Yesterday we watched the movie on Bonhoeffer's life. The discussion afterward was profound for me: I posed a question as to what they felt had been the impact of World War II on their families, their grandparents and parents. They shared stories of family members being required to work for the Germans, the severe deprivations suffered ... Meat being reserved for male laborers who had to have it to function...children might get meat once a month...two people would share an egg...
Jetty's mother, now age 83, as a 14 year old would proudly wear a long skirt with pockets inside to smuggle butter to trade for sugar, apples, or whatever...secretly bartering 'black market' exchanges among local people because the Germans would appropriate such items for themselves.
And the post-war childhood years of House of Ruth members were also very poor. Loss of trust with religious authorities in the RCC was common because of their perceived deal-making with the Nazis. The emotional fall-out seemed to have been one where feelings were very numb and constricted. The Church was seen as very rule-bound and impersonal. So their spiritual hunger has emerged over their lifetimes. Attempts at communities outside the institutional Church still left feelings that they experienced a lot of instability. They talked about IC clergy several times arbitrarily and inexplicably dropping small parishes or individuals in need, with no apparent effort to obtain coverage for Laity left in the lurch -- who felt completely powerless.
It was almost worse than the institutional RCC in its impersonal approach because relationships that developed in IC communities were simply abandoned on multiple occasions.
One can see their growing strengthening spiritually and taking on responsibilities -- with pride in being in the Order of Laity who nowhave a say in what happens to them.
Today, our last session was very special -- sharing what we each learned and experienced this week individually and corporately. It was my privilege to pray over and to bless each of them for very specific needs and issues. While we had to vacate our house by 10:30 AM, we went on to explore the Monastery, the Church, art gallery, and the grounds...and to talk over a three-hour lunch. Then we delighted in saying goodbye to several of the obviously well-fed, collared, Monastery kitties that roam the properties, coming into our private yard. What a blessing this has been for me to witness this little community forming and deepening! Martha+
Thank you so much Mother Martha+ for writing our daily sharing
Pastor and Deacon Jetty Van Den berghe
Diane Van Damme Soetheer
Mcke Marie-Christine members of our Community House of Ruth
may all be blessed by our sharing and find a way of healing and growing in your relationship with your God
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Ik wil jullie graag meenemen op de pelgrims reis van mijn leven,een reis, die zich laat zien in verschillende facetten. Maar ik wil niet alleen aan het woord zijn, want christen zijn is delen, en dat wil ik graag met jullie doen...
Daarom de bewuste keuze in naam"Kerngroep Ruth"want als wij samen opweg gaan, dan wordt er toch een stukje ziel gegeven. Voel je thuis... Jetty
I'd like to take you with me on the pilgrimage of my life, a journey that shows up in several aspects. But please share with me. Because,to be a christian, means we share, and this I want to do with much happyness.
Thats why I named my coregroup "Ruth" if we share, we give always a piece of our soul to eachother....
Feel home, on my blog, Jetty