St. John the Baptist and Holy Family parishes in South Bend were overjoyed to welcome John Beaulieu, director of evangelization and engagement at Franciscan University of Steubenville, for a three-evening Advent renewal retreat Dec. 17-19. This preparation provided the opportunity to renew and deepen one’s own conversion.
After beginning each night with a few songs of praise, Beaulieu introduced himself by speaking about his love of oceans and their meaning to him.
“The oceans provide the best example of our life in Christ,” he opened. Similar to interacting with the vast oceans, he said mankind has a tendency to stay solely on the surface of a relationship with God.
The preference to comfort indicates that the shallows are safe. But God explicitly calls for a dive into the deep. The denial of one’s comfort is necessary.
“When we don’t [take the dive with God], we rob ourselves of what it means to be Christian,” he said.
In keeping with his oceanic analogy, Beaulieu dove deep into the human response to God – specifically, what holds most back from fully doing so. Ongoing conversion, that to which all Christians are called, is paramount for combatting sinful habits and misguided priorities. Beaulieu offered this wisdom to the large crowd, as well as a way to embrace conversion through three crucial pillars: prayer, fasting and renunciation.
Each pillar involves denying oneself, something that Christ asked His disciples to do. The reasoning, however, is not punitive. If one reduces temptations, such as social media, from consuming daily life, the discipline will allow more room for the soul to embrace Christ and His will. The person becomes more willing to think of others and to willingly sacrifice. “We rob ourselves of joy when we don’t live a life of joy and sacrifice.”
With less than a week left in Advent, Beaulieu challenged his listeners to pray and ponder where they could still give time, give up habits and integrate more ways of intentionally preparing for the mystery of the Incarnation. In his words, practicing these pillars makes all the difference. Followers of Christ must “deny and go forward” to become the most intentional disciples they can be. The deep dive with God is essential to discipleship.
In a season that often seems rushed – the end of school semesters and a generally busy time –comfort has a tendency to stay on the surface. Beaulieu issued a parting challenge to bypass this comfort and plunge deep into a loving relationship with God, lifting their hearts to Him and striving to be His more fully this Christmas.
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