"I know," he responded, smiling. "You don't have a baby with you."
For practically every silent retreat during the past fifteen years, I had been either pregnant or nursing. I had gotten used to rearranging the furniture in the tiny retreat house bedroom, so the baby could nestle safely between my body and the wall while we slept at night. This year, my sixth and youngest child had already turned five years old. I wasn't sure what to do with myself on retreat without a baby.
To my astonishment, I could barely keep my eyes open for the whole three days. I nodded off during the lectures, dozed through the Rosary, and snoozed at Mass.
"Give your tiredness to God," advised my spiritual director. "He is happy with whatever we give him."
So I imagined sleepily cuddling with the Baby Jesus. I thought of how much loving care a baby takes, and how constant care can turn into constant prayer.
Many times in the past, feeling sorrowful and broken, I had imagined myself held on Blessed Mother Mary's lap, like the body of the adult Jesus in Michelangelo's famous sculpture, the Pieta. But this time, sinking again and again into rejuvenating slumber, I wrapped my arms around the Baby Jesus and invited him into my maternal heart.
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