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!


Wotnop Dahc said...

I would love to, but something tells me that one of the kids wouldn't/couldn't be quiet for more than 5 minutes... Give you one guess who...

rustyrusticator said...

The beagle wouldn't shut up, though! And neither would Mom! I had to pretend I was working on the land-locked sailboat to get any quiet at all!

Seriously, I'm planning to do a couple of days of a silent retreat at a Trappist monastery; I just can't get away for an eight day one in Staten Island. In any case, I'm already doing the Spiritual Exercises, 19th annotation (bless St. Ignatius for thinking of us who just can't leave behind the day to day responsibilities!) The home health aide is already hired to check in on Mom for those two blessed days, as well as the pet sitter for the beagle. The Blackberry will be firmly consigned to the care of the retreat master until I'm ready to leave. And if anyone tries to call me, it had better be just after they made a call to 911! A new, larger print Bible was purchased for the occasion (kinder on my presbyopic eyes,) And my journal and brief notes from the Exercises are ready to stow in my carryon. I plan on sleeping all evening and hitting the road about 11 PM, just in time to make it to Night Prayer (2:45 AM) which is open to retreatants.

I think I have all the bases covered, and I can just imagine God guffawing at that thought of mine!

I'm up for this. I owe it to myself. More importantly, I owe it to God. Actually, I owe it to both of us: We haven't been able to spend enough time alone together the past couple of weeks.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim. Someone directed me to your vyou but you haven't been there in 5 days. Just thought I'd let you know it was nice to find your feed. I am an atheist-agnostic. I sent you a message there. Take care.