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JRS Online Retreat: Day 21 – A Journey from Death to Life: We Are Never Alone
Sunday, November 21, 2010

“When we have survived our own cross, risen alive from the grave of its despair, we begin to know that we can survive again and again and again whatever life sends us in the future.”

As you begin your prayer today, remember that you are in God’s holy presence. Become aware of how God gazes on you all the time, how tenderly and powerfully God regards you. Ask God for what you want in prayer:

Ask the Father to draw you into a deep experience of the Risen Jesus who will call you to a life of deeper compassion.  

Reflections for Prayer

Jenny Cafiso
Director, Canadian Jesuits International
(Former International Programs Director, JRS

Toronto, 21 November 2010 – In the late 1990’s I sat with a group of Liberian refugees in a refugee camp in Guinea.  They had fled there from the war raging in Liberia. We sat under a thatched roof, in a hastily build refugee camp, where people were living in appalling conditions.

They told me stories of pain, of suffering, of despair. There was the woman who had to run for her life: she saw her husband shot to death just behind her, but could not go back for him as she ran with her children to safety while the armed rebels chased them. I could sense her pain as she remembered the shame and guilt of leaving her husband behind without burial. Others spoke of losing family members, of leaving behind their homes, businesses, loved ones as they escaped the violence of the senseless war. Now they found themselves in a refugee camp away from home, with nothing except the clothes on their back. Conditions in the camp were very basic.  For some, this was not the first time they had had to escape. The prospects of return to their county did not seem high.

As I sat listening to their story and looking at my surroundings, I felt overwhelmed with despair.  I asked, “Is there a high level of suicide in this camp?” I assumed that, at least for some, this might be the only way out of this hopeless situation. They looked at each other, they wondered, tried to remember. In the end no one could remember anyone who been led to this ultimate act of despair. Uncomprehending I asked, “Why?” They did not know. They had not asked themselves that question. One person suggested a possible answer: “Maybe it is because we are never alone!”

My eyes were suddenly opened. Why did I not see? After so many years of meeting refugees I still did not understand the hope, the strength, the determination, the sense of community that is often present among them. As often happens in refugee camps, families had taken in children who had lost parents, new babies were being born, teachers were volunteering their time to make sure children continued their education.

But I, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, did not recognize the presence of our creating God amongst the people — creating new life in the midst of death. Was not my heart burning? 

Address God as a friend speaks to a friend. 

Talk to God about your response, your own needs and your deepest desires.

End your prayer with the Our Father, the prayer Jesus taught us.

Suggested Reading for Prayer

Luke 24: 30-32

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" 


"Darkness is a very spiritual thing. The cross is supposed to take its toll on us. When we have survived our own cross, risen alive from the grave of its despair, we begin to know that we can survive again and again and again whatever life sends us in the future. It is this hope that carries us from stage to stage in life, singing and dancing around dark corners." ~ Sr. Joan Chittister