Monday, January 17, 2011

Extravagant Love of God

Every year I take 9-12 college students from the college of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University on a dog sledding eco-spirituality retreat in Ely, Minn., at Wintergreen Lodge. Wintergreen is owned and operated by SJU alumnus Paul Schurke. In support of the colleges and the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict, Paul gives us a deep discount.

This is my fifth year taking students dog sledding. Every year I come away in awe of the retreat and full of wonder at how each group forms community and becomes as bonded as the previous groups. Today, I was wondering what contributes to the quick bonding on this particular retreat. My conclusion: extravagant relationships and extravagant generosity are the key ingredients.

Bonding takes place immediately with the dogs. How could you not respond to a creature that unconditionally howls when you arrive, looks you directly in the eyes and wags its tail, drawing up next to you waiting to be petted.

These dogs all want to go sledding; every day they howl “Take me! Take me!” Part of the Benedictine eco-spirituality retreat is getting up early in the morning to feed the dogs and clean up frozen poop from their pens. Believe it or not, the students relish being greeted by the crisp winter air, watching the beauty of a colorful sunrise and caring for the dogs. They come bounding back to the Lodge, sharing how they love this or that dog, hungry and ready to be fed breakfast. They have a sense of accomplishment from work and are anticipating dog sledding.

It’s a magical piece of the retreat that isn’t contrived: it happens again and again. So is the extravagant love that God has for us. We are all chosen by God. He loves spending time with us, nourishing us and caring for us. It’s fabulous when we encounter the tangible love of God and pure joy when we can extend the tangible love of God to one another. The good zeal discussed in the Rule of St. Benedict calls us to love one another extravagantly. Be of good zeal and tangibly share your love.

To view a video of dog sledding, click here to go to our home page.
photo: 2011 dog sledding group, including Paul Schurke (back row, third from right); Sister Janelle Sietsema (front row far left), Sister Lisa Rose (front row, far right) and Sister Trish Dick (back row, center, left of Paul).

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