Vallombrosa Retreat Center by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra


We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
— Aristotle

I had an awesome time on retreat over the weekend with other young adults.  It exactly what I needed.  I'm feeling refreshed, energized, and complete again.  I've met some great people who are passionate about service in our community and also looking to get more involved.  Our small group was made up of members from a few different parishes, so we will hopefully be able to draw more numbers to each of our service events.  I think it's hard to gather enough young adults from one parish (in Silicon Valley) to create a regular service group.  I think with this small network structure, we will have a much better chance of creating a team to serve.  I look forward to seeing where this small service network will take us.

Photography of the Grounds

Vallombrosa isn't huge or my favorite retreat center, but its facilities are set up perfectly for being able to accommodate both large and small group gatherings.  The place has a lot of character with their Civil War era mansion and 200 different tree types.

All of the images were taken using my IR camera.  Some of the images were processed using alternative processing techniques to get more pleasing blue skies.

The Chapel

The architecture of the Chapel was pretty interesting because its spire was completely stained glass.  I did a small study on this to see how the light would effect the look of the building at different times of the day.  The last image in the gallery above includes the largest Ginkgo tree in the US.

The Garden

The garden is so lush, that with the alternative processing the images almost looks like snow is covering everything.  The last statue in the gallery was located in a dark and overgrown area of the garden.  I had recently watched the Doctor Who episode with the Weeping Angles, so I couldn't help but feel a little bit unsettled.. naturally I decide to capture that same feeling in the photo.

Back to Work!

Even though I may have taken the time to slow down, reflect, and gain some perspective, life certainly kept going while I was gone... which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, it is good.  It means that my heart will never rest in this world and get too comfortable with it.  I may not ever want to come down from the mountain, but it is where God wants me.  Restlessness evokes action.

There is within us a fundamental dis-ease, an unquenchable fire that renders us incapable, in this life, of ever coming to full peace. This desire lies at the center of our lives, in the marrow of our bones, and in the deep recesses of the soul. At the heart of all great literature, poetry, art, philosophy, psychology, and religion lies the naming and analyzing of this desire. Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with that desire. What we do with our longings, both in terms of handling the pain and the hope they bring us, that is our spirituality . . . Augustine says: ‘You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.’ Spirituality is about what we do with our unrest.
— Father Ronald Rolheiser

True Friends by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

My friends from my home town came to visit me at my place in the Bay this weekend.  I feel truly blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.  My friend, Hollie, gave me a mug for my birthday with a quote that resonates as just too true, "Friendship is God's way of loving us though someone else."  My friends have not only been there for me, but followed me into battle and stuck with me until there was peace again.  I broke of my engagement a year ago and it was one of the most difficult things that I had to do thus far in my life.  My friends have seen me not only at my best, but my absolute worst- yet they still love me.  That's nothing less than God's love showing through them.

There isn't just light at the end of the tunnel, your true friends will be there waiting there to guide and welcome you back into the light.

Light to Shadow our Illnesses by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

I was reviewing some of my ministry notes and came across a journal entry that I would like to share.

Background Info
After my diagnosis of celiac disease, I felt called to serve the sick by bringing the Host to them. Since I can only consume communion through the cup, I understood this deep longing that people in care homes must have also for the Eucharist.  My role in the ministry is primarily to act as a substitute minister once or twice a month.  As a result, I end up meeting new people all the time by visiting the different care homes in Stockton.  This is a short entry about one of those encounters.

July 28, 2013
There was a man laying down in something that wasn't exactly a wheelchair, but more of a mobile recliner.  He didn't move the entire service and his eyes were distant.  He may have had MS, as he didn't look that old and not appear to have much control of his body.  It was also apparent that his mind was on the way out.  I couldn't tell if anything I was saying was reaching him.  When it came time to pass out the bulletins, I realized that this person may not even be able to hold the pieces of paper I was about to offer.  I stood there and then he looked up at me.  I smiled and gestured the bulletin towards him.  He immediately lit up with joy that someone wanted to give him something.  We smiled at each other.  It was beautiful.  I may not be able to offer much help, but simply being there seems to make a difference sometimes.

While putting together this giant jigsaw puzzle of our lives, sometimes we will encounter pieces that don't fit.  This is because they actually don't belong to us at all.  Recognize that piece of you that needs to be shared with someone else.  God bless.