Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Silent Day

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and well wishes as I went on retreat.  I saw a number of you write that you were away on retreat at the same time -- How weird is that! We're in spiritual synch!

I've been slow to come back to blogging, and I think that'll probably continue until mid-late August.  Just getting the gas back in the engine.

Sometimes people ask me, what exactly "happens" on retreat?  The fact is, it's different every year. Sometimes it involves a lot of scripture, sometimes more just being still, listening, savoring the bird call and the breeze.

But in general for me at this point in my life it's a time of rest in the fullest sense of the word "rest". That is, not just sleep but a putting down of the things I've been holding on to (or better put, having God help me put those things down).  A time of release from the shackles that I have somehow managed to bind myself up in.

It's interesting, too -- many of the things I was holding on to, be they experiences or feelings or compulsions (hello, Facebook, my old friend), I often don't know are there at the start of a retreat.  So a big part of the blessing is just to see what is there, to see the cage as it were.  St. Ignatius talks about how evil spirits don't want to be known, don't want to be seen. Because if you can see them or talk about them (that is, talk about the fears or temptations they're feeding you), then they are brought into a much bigger universe and have way less power over you.

So often to own us the evil spirit has to make us forget that there is that bigger (and kinder) world...

So that's another way of talking about retreat: a retreat is a time to place your own life and world in a far bigger context and see it through the eyes of God.

Or to put it even another way: A retreat is a time to gain in freedom from sin and despair, and to grow in hope and life. It's meant to offer liberation.

If you've never done one, you might think about it.  Everyone thinks the silence is a nightmare, but you try a weekend retreat and you discover it's not only not bad, you even like it.

And if you don't believe me, try this: have a day when you and those you live with don't talk other than when you absolutely have to. A Silent Day.  Now don't choose a day you have to work, because that's just going to be crazy. And don't make it a shopping/day to see movies day, because that sort of defeats the point. (Although, excellent try.)

But at the same time, this doesn't mean you can't do anything that day.  It can be very very interesting to be "on retreat" while wandering through a mall, for instance. Just don't shop. Watch. Listen.

Maybe that sounds crazy. But having a meal together with people you love in silence can be very rich. And having a whole day of that silence -- mmm.  It can be a little spiritual feast.

So that's your assignment.  If anybody tries it, I want to hear how it goes!