You may wonder why the silent part is in quotes. A truly silent retreat, I believe, is absolutely the best way to stay in contemplative prayer with God and hear what he has to say. However, I have yet to accomplish this practically so I always feel compelled to admit that I do not do a very good job of maintaining silence as I so love to discuss the things I am thinking about and learning...and when your roommates feel similarly it is quite difficult to keep things totally quiet up in the room. Perhaps I will do better with that in the future. And perhaps not.
But either way, I absolutely loved these few days away where I could sit in front of the blessed sacrament, listen to meditations on all kinds of topics, truly consider my future and that of my family, and just read. I was able to thoroughly think through things that concern me and come to peace with them. This retreat was completely different for me than any I have been on over the years simply because my life is so uncertain at the moment and I am processing things much more simply. This made for some powerful connections and moments of clarity that will keep me going for quite some time. (If I can remember them next week, of course...but I DID take notes so I can re-take this retreat every few days if need be!)
One of my favorite parts of this retreat was reading more about Bishop Don Alvaro, successor to St. Josemaria, founder of the Opus Dei. As many of you know, I have been requesting his intercession since my original diagnosis and remain completely hopeful that we can get our needed miracles aligned--his for ultimate canonization and mine for a complete cure and a long life to raise my family and serve my community. (For those of you unfamiliar with saints and canonization, saints become officially recognized, or canonized, by the Church when there becomes proof that they have obtained miracles here on earth for those who have asked them to intercede on their behalf. The day I was diagnosed I received a prayer card for Don Alvaro and have been asking for his help in heaven ever since.) God, of course, is the only one who heals and cures, but having those nearby him join you in asking for help is just like asking our friends here on earth to pray for us. The hope is that Don Alvaro is right there nearby so he can hear him really well.
At any rate, I learned through my reading that while the Rome headquarters of Opus Dei, called Villa Tevere, was being constructed in the 1960s, it was Don Alvaro's job to be sure that the workers got paid every Saturday. This was no small project, and the building forged on and continued on faith even when they had absolutely no idea from where the salary for the day would come from, sometimes even hours before these men were due their wages and their families waited to buy groceries. In the meantime, Don Alvaro struggled with his health, coupled with this great stress of providing from nothing, week after week. But somehow, every single week, he managed to find the money and pay each bricklayer, or to rearrange the debt in a way that could carry him to the following week with no one going hungry. This was never easy and in retrospect cannot even be understood really, but he did it and Villa Tevere was completed. It cheered me greatly to know that Don Alvaro just may be a last minute kind of guy, the kind that works best under pressure, so rather than becoming impatient to feel better NOW, as I am apt to do, I may just have to wait until Saturday to get paid, holding faith that somehow he will come up with that wage. It's hard to explain how much I enjoyed reading about this and applying it to my hopefully pending miracle.
And perhaps when I am healthy, I can go to Villa Tevere myself and visit the tomb of Don Alvaro to thank him. Sounds nice, eh?
Another thing I really enjoyed about this particular retreat was how much more comfortable I felt being there versus the first one or two times I went. The retreat center at Trumbull Manor is a beautiful old Victorian home, three stories with a big veranda and classic shutters. The outstanding food is served, silently as you listen to a tape, family style. You are truly pampered in surrounding and generous care but the first few times you are there, at least for me, I was overly concerned with protocol and spent a lot of time watching those around me for clues as to what I was supposed to be doing. This is naturally distracting to your purpose there and it is so much better to have a grip on how everything works and what is expected.
Many people sign up for a "job" or two as we live family style to keep things running. The first year I went, probably 8 years ago now, I was so nervous. I did not know anyone (so I was actually really silent) and didn't know how to ask about how some of the jobs were done, but I signed up for something I was sure I couldn't screw up: rising slightly early to open the big beautiful plantation shutters on the outside of the veranda and then close them as dusk approached. Well, that didn't work out so well for me. The first morning someone had beat me to it and I was horrified that I had failed to do my job and not sure if I should talk to someone and explain or stay silent. How insecure I was. But that wasn't all. That night, determined to not screw up again, I hovered in the living room until I was sure it was the right time to begin the shutter closing process. I raced outside, went to close the first heavy shutter and to my complete dismay had trouble with the hook and ended up ripping the entire shutter off the side of the house. What to do? TELL someone in my silence or wait for someone to notice? I had no idea and was so completely horrified that I was paralyzed.
As I sat on the veranda yesterday afternoon remembering this now fondly, I realize how much I have grown as a person, in faith, as a mother. I still have tons and tons to work on, but I am so encouraged that as we examine ourselves over time we can see that if we do begin each day anew, with a genuine desire to please God, we will. Miniscule steps, some even backwards, but all ultimately bringing me along to the better person I so want to be.
If you have not been on a retreat before, consider one. If you are too busy to even consider it, then I double insist. Without interior life we cannot become who we are meant to be.