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Posted September 20, 2010

Book: The Unsheltered Heart: An at-home Advent Retreat
Author: Ronald Patrick Raab, C.S.C.
Ave Maria Press. Notre Dame, IN. 2010. pp. 84

An Excerpt from the Promotional Flyer:

In the spirit of Henri Nouwen and Mother Teresa, Ronald Raab writes from the depths of his own conversion experiences. Living and working among some of the poorest and most marginalized people of Portland, Oregon, Raab wrestles with the meaning of the Incarnation in today’s fractured world and with his own identity as a Catholic priest who is called to promote the Gospel of justice.

Each day of this retreat begins with a reading of the preceding Sunday’s gospel text. The reader is then guided through these five steps:

1. Welcome the stranger called silence

2. Discover your story within the world

3. Connect to the waiting world: a weekly theme

4. Respond to the cry of the prophets

5. Prayer: writing your way to a new birth

Stories of Raab’s life and ministry, interpreted alongside the Sunday Gospel readings, bring startling clarity to the profound challenges facing Catholics today. This at-home, self-directed retreat is based on the Sunday Gospel readings for Cycle A and the life-anchoring lessons Raab has gleaned from them. His narrative style unsettles, challenges, and enlightens, yet in the end he offers the hope of Christ.

An Excerpt from the book:

Stay Awake!

Matt. 24:37-44

For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark.

They did not know until the flood came and carried them away. So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man.

Connect to the waiting world: Stay awake!

I wake up everyday to people living in relationships that are threatened or broken. I overhear the young mother begging for someone to help her because her boyfriend is back in prison and the streets are too violent for her infant son’s survival. I listen to a midde-aged veteran tell me that he has not entered his family’s home in nearly thirty years. A survivor of heroin slowly recaps his life to me as one by one all his friends and his family have disowned him.

Waking up to people’s stories is never easy for me. I learn, however, that mustering the courage to receive a person’s life is always another moment of grace. I need to listen to the stranger who finds himself severed from healthy relationships. These moments capture the real longing of people. These places of emptiness and despair carve out the place in which we all long for God to be born. I dare not take anyone for granted because the next relationship reveals the next lesson. These encounters teach me that people cannot be judged, nor should their stories be stored in some box and put on the shelf for later.

The authentic message for me in life and ministry is relationship. True and honest relationship is the core of Christianity. The reason for Christ’s coming is simply to be in loving relationship with people. People enduring poverty become the Advent reminder for all of us that God aches to find us ready for faith and alert to others’ needs. Among people living in poverty, the thief already has come. The robber is poverty itself, which strips away human dignity in the daylight. Poverty ravages the soul at night and leaves people vulnerable in early morning. Advent teaches me to build up the lives of people lost among the thieves of poverty, isolation, and neglect. In these moments, God is made visible, born among humanity.

I feel akin to the master of the house in Matthew’s narrative. Regret and hand wringing are present – if unwritten --- in the details of this story. If only he had stayed awake, the invasion into his house would not have happened. He lives in lament for his sleepiness --- at not being attentive and present. Perhaps if he had stayed awake, he would have saved his belongings and treasures, and even the lives of other people.

Table of Contents:

First week: stay awake!

Second week: make straight his paths

Third week: go and tell what you hear and see

Fourth week: God is with us