"When I look at myself" - Insights from Otisville State

“When I look at myself, I see a person who is broken, disconnected. When I look at the way God sees me, I see a sunrise” - Retreatant, Otisville Correctional Facility, February 23, 2019

On Saturday, February 23, five volunteers and twenty-eight participants engaged in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius during their day-long retreat. The day was a moving experience as retreatants and spiritual mentors grew closer to one another.

Prayers, mass, meditation, and music brought everyone together throughout the day. Retreatants and spiritual mentors also engaged in powerful small group conversations about loving your enemy and loving yourself. For the retreatants, many found that in order to love your enemy, you must love yourself. Loving yourself means learning to love every part of you - even your wounds. This powerful theme affected the men as they recognized that even in their brokenness, God deeply loves and cares for them.

The impact of this retreat is best seen through the eyes of the retreatants. One retreatant likened God’s love to God seeing him, “as a baby.” Another retreatant described the power of love in transforming him to love others, especially his enemies, realizing, "as cold [indifferent to others] as I was, the people who planted seeds of love in my life, those seeds started to come out." Another retreatant expressed how, “When I look at myself, I see a person who is broken, disconnected. When I look at the way God sees me, I see a sunrise.” These words show the recognition of one’s worth. They realized that in seeing their own worth, they are able to love and forgive their enemies. The joy of this realization, as described by the spiritual mentors, could be seen through the smiles on everyone’s face and the new friendships that formed.

Everyone shared honestly and vulnerably throughout the day and many heartfelt laughs were had along the way. Some of the retreatants recently moved to Otisville and had attended retreats at other institutions. They were especially happy to see the spiritual mentors and to continue their attendance at Thrive retreats! It was a wonderful opportunity to create new bonds and to strengthen old ones.

Thank you for all of the prayers during these retreats. The next retreat is Saturday, March 23. Please pray for us on this day!

Jasmine, Sabina, Katherine, John and Fr. Jack, SJ
Spiritual Mentors @ Thrive For Life Prison Project

Axel de Foucauld