Heaven on Earth | Reflections from Rome 2023
I am very fortunate and thankful to everyone who made the Rome Experience possible. It has been such a wonderful experience, especially because of the retreat. Prior to starting the retreat in Bracciano, one of the antiphons for the Liturgy of the Hours, to be specific, Antiphon 3 for Tuesday of Week IV reads: You, O Lord, established the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands (alleluia). Why do I mention this? Given that I have completed my sixth year of seminary formation and have been blessed to be able to participate in many silent retreats, this was the first time during a silent retreat that I was able to experience and see the Lord’s creation/nature in a tranquil and prayerful way. Even though heaven is not on earth, for the first time, I was able to say, “This must be a little piece of heaven on earth.” The Lord through nature was helping me be more prayerful and serene.
The retreat was very fruitful, thanks to God’s presence being felt the entire time during our stay at Villaggio Betania, not only because of His created gifts of nature including the beautiful scenery but also Father Eric’s retreat conference talks. God was always at the center, and continues to be guiding us now that we have made it to Rome. I feel that the Lord continues to be so loving, and merciful, but also very welcoming to all of us. This can only continue to be, for me and for everyone who truly chooses to give Him the opportunity to be the center of it all. Because without Him we are nothing. And it is not that God needs our approval or permission in order to do something, but if we don’t love, trust, and believe in Him, everything is lost, especially our faith, hope, and love.
I don’t know that I will ever have another opportunity to be immersed in Rome, the home of the Catholic Church, like I have been during this assignment and pilgrimage. What I do know is that I continue receiving new blessings, not only because I am in Rome, but because I continue to trust and believe in the Lord each and every new day.
Deacon Juan Mendez
Diocese of Dallas