Oh Joy! Thursday afternoon, I am leaving to spend four days in the silence and solitude of a retreat. I have loved retreats since that first one in highschool, which I pretended not to like, because my friends said it was boring and a waste of time. But God knew how I really felt. Maybe my friends secretly felt the same way….
My first adult retreats were not silent ones, but I thought they were heavenly… until I made my first silent retreat. That, indeed, was heaven!
I love the freedom to be silent, which is central to a silent retreat. There is no guilt about not wanting to chat with someone, no expectation to nod in greeting to others, no laughing in the hallways, no small talk during meals. Just precious, soothing, freeing silence.
As the silence takes hold that first night, it is like a soft, peaceful cloud descending over the retreat house. Everything and everyone seem to recede into the mist, until there is only God and me.
He always brings a surprise….a beautifully wrapped gift, the contents of which He slowly reveals to me as the weekend progresses. Years ago, I often found wondrous and unforgettable consolations in those Divine gifts. In recent years, they are more likely to contain an unexpected answer to a concern, a deeper insight into a mystery of faith or an indication of a new direction in my life. Often, there is a message which emerges, a message personal to me, within the overall theme of the retreat.
And even though my current, prolonged state of dryness in prayer is likely to persist on retreat, there is always still hidden within, some ray of Light….like a smile from God.
The most incomparable joy and treasure of any retreat is being allowed to dwell for a few days beneath the same roof as my Eucharistic Jesus. I always await my room assignment with great anticipation. On two past retreats, my room was right next to the chapel, and I was absolutely delighted. Other times, Jesus has given me the sacrifice of being on a different floor than He resides. No matter. He is there, and I can visit Him in the still and darkness of night. I can stop in for countless moments throughout the days.
This particular retreat has all night adoration on Saturday, and Jesus dwells in the monstrance, waiting for us to take turns coming to adore Him, rousing one another from sleep to spend time with the King.
All too soon the end comes. At the noon meal on Sunday, we are released from our commitment to silence, and the din rises in the cafeteria as friends are once more able to greet each other, share their thoughts about the retreat, and hurry home to loved ones.
I am always grateful that a two-hour drive home awaits me, because I feel as though I must decompress to return to the noise of the world. As the miles fly by, I feel my re-entry back into ordinary life so keenly. The quiet of heaven seems to disappear behind me as I travel down the road.
There were times when I would cry almost the whole way home, and then stop at the adoration chapel and cry even more. But Jesus taught me that this is not the way…that even a retreat is not heaven, not yet the time for absolute, uninterrupted communion with Him.
And everyday life… well, it is the moment to seek Him and love Him in others. It’s the season for doing those ordinary daily tasks with joy, and offering them up for His Glory and the salvation of souls. It’s accepting the cross and even trying to embrace it.
But yes, it is still the time for silence, but now it is a silence I must struggle for. It is not the misty, gentle silence of a retreat, but a silence wrestled free from the hum of everyday life. A silence within, when noise is all about.
But if I try, He never fails to come. And…..
“I hear my love.
See how he comes
leaping on the mountains,
bounding over the hills.” (Song of Songs 2:8)
To all of my blog friends, I will carry you in my heart this weekend and remember you in prayer throughout the retreat. I would be most grateful for your prayers as well. I truly love all of you!