Scripture tells us of the balm of Gilead, a medicinal resin known for its ability to heal. Yet the soothing salve of which scripture speaks flows far beyond the ancient groves of Palestine. A spiritual balm, it courses through centuries and across oceans. It wells up through the Holy Spirit within, and is passed along through the ministering presence of others. It pours through prayer and spiritual song, comforting hearts with the healing touch of Jesus. And it surges from the words of Sacred Scripture.
This balm flows freely at St. Mary of the Pines Retreat and Renewal Center in Chatawa, Mississippi. While in Chatawa for my 30-day retreat, the healing balm of our dear Lord poured generously through the prayerful hospitality of the School Sisters of Notre Dame who live, pray, and minister in Chatawa. It coursed through the tranquil landscape and peaceful wooded paths of the Retreat Center. It streamed through the ministering presence of a wise and insightful retreat director. It flowed from the deep silence afforded by a simple, comfortable hermitage nestled alongside the woods. And it poured especially freely from page after page after page of Sacred Scripture.
I am told that the name ‘Chatawa’ means ‘sparkling waters.’ But to me, after these days of retreat, ‘Chatawa’ will always mean ‘balm.’