We were enjoying the cheese and wine reception after checking into our rooms when I glanced at the schedule: “Silence beings after the first session tonight.” I quickly scanned through the week and found that it wouldn’t end until after Eucharist six days later. My friends and I looked at each other in horror. Completely silent? When we signed up for this six day silent retreat, we assured ourselves that certainly they didn’t mean absolute silence, who could do that?
We looked at each other and laughed at our folly. Three little Anglicans at a Catholic retreat. We hadn’t known what to expect. We were in for it now. Other participants assured us that the silence would be the easiest part of the week, but we were skeptical.
What attracted us to this retreat was not just the silent part (none of us had ever been to a silent retreat), but that each participant was assigned to a spiritual director we’d meet with for an hour each day. At least we were going to be able to talk to someone during the week.
The first twenty four hours were the hardest. With no distractions I became rudely aware of the million thoughts circling my brain. Fortunately, as I shifted focus onto scripture, the beauty of creation, and the simple pleasure of a good meal, my thoughts quieted and I became aware of God’s presence all around me. My body relaxed and my mind let go. I reveled in the short teaching sessions, communed with God through journaling, excitedly shared insights with my wonderful spiritual director, and thoroughly enjoyed each evening mass.
My friend Leslie summed up the week when she said, “We are always inviting God into our world, but being away on this retreat was God inviting us into His world.” There was such peace, a sense of timelessness, no pressures or duties to fulfill. The silence was freeing in so many ways, and each of us came away with a deeper understanding of God’s love and presence with us. This week was a time of true rejuvenation. I came home refreshed, restored, and ready to engage with life.
Whenever I share about the retreat, the first reaction is always “I could never do that”. But I want to assure everyone that the silence is the easiest part. Entering God’s world is a spiritual spa for your soul and everyone who comes away to rest in His presence will be refreshed. My friends and I plan to make this spiritual trek a yearly pilgrimage.
So the next time you have an opportunity to participate in a silent retreat—go for it!