SHHHHHHHH Silence is Golden

Katie Lucchesi's picture

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy talking. I’m a BIG talker. I pretty much spend the majority of my day on my cell phone, online sending emails or iming, facebooking, sitting and talking to people in between classes, or sometimes during classes (oops!) in meetings, catching up with friends, all the usual places where you hear people chatting wherever you go.However, this past weekend, I went on a silent retreat. Now I’m sure you just stopped for a minute and if you know me at all thought, Katie, Silent? For how long!?!? Yes yes, now let the shock sit in and realize that yes, I did not talk, for FOUR DAYS! I repeat for FOUR DAYS I WAS SILENT. Yup, I hated it and loved every second of this retreat. It was challenging. It was rewarding. It was awakening. It was rejuvenating. It was hard. It was easy. It was different. And yet I am so happy I did it. I have such a hard time finding the words to describe this experience; maybe it’s because I haven’t been talking…Every year SLU gives students an opportunity to experience a silent retreat, one which is based upon the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. If you don’t know what any of that means, look it up, I promise GOOGLE will help. The silent retreat focuses on one’s personal relationship with God, and is pretty much unlike any retreat you’ve ever been on and any you will go on in the future. We were silent. No words at all to each other. Our outlets, if you can even use that word to describe it, would have been when we went to mass daily (which was when I would sometimes find myself very loudly proclaiming all the responses with the congregation and singing at the top of my lungs) and the daily 45 minute meeting with our spiritual director.You see a spiritual director was someone assigned to each retreatant depending upon the information you had turned in about where you were in your needs for your spiritual life and how the Holy Spirit guided the team’s decision for each participant. My director was an insanely busy and active woman in ministry, the director of campus ministry for SLU. She was wonderful. Her heart was full of the Spirit, and she listened to me about where I was in my prayer life, or my relationship or lack there of one, with God, all the while offering me prayer guidance.I spent time in prayer a lot, obviously. That and sleeping. My director, Lisa was so funny. The first day I got there she said, what did you do last week, in detail? And I looked at her, laughed and said um… I led a Luke 18. She goes oh my gosh, SLEEP!! She said you need to spend time in prayer, yes, but you need to take care of your mind and body to retain much of this active prayer time. As she put it, you listen and you pray, but it is an extremely ACTIVE prayer time which one must be attentive for, and hey, I did not object. Sleep? On a retreat? That NEVER happens! I was really pumped up. I took a few naps each day, but I left feeling incredibly refreshed and in a totally new place within my spiritual life with my Lord.But then I experienced some awkward moments. Picture this if you will: 30 people sitting in a mini cafeteria, 2 people per table, cutting their food, drinking, eating, and not a single person talking. And then, to make it more awesome (sarcastically) my boyfriend went on the retreat with me. As much as I believe that retreats for couples are absolutely beautiful experiences to help bring Jesus to the center of your relationship, silent retreats are a little different. Let me put it this way, after two years of dating Jason, I know what he sounds like when he walks, when he clears his throat, when he sneezes, and when he is sitting behind me in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It’s not that he was a so-called distraction to me, but I would definitely notice his presence above anyone else’s when I was near him. Okay, so it was a little bit of a distraction, but who doesn’t pray with distractions these days. He was still a blessing to be around. (Side note, if you’re dating someone, go pray with them, it’s a beautiful experience).So would you like me to get on with the whole “moral” I’m supposed to tell you about? I guess I could do that for you guys! Here’s how the retreat went. A talk, some prayer time, a meal. A talk, some prayer time, a meal. Repeat. You met with your director in there, spent time napping, but literally had free reign on the grounds, rooms, chapel, to go and pray during the free 4-7 hours you’d get each day. Sounds like a lot of free time, but it does fill up. After each talk they gave you some scripture passages, different methods of praying, meditating, or ways of sitting in the silence of God’s presence. I get the idea that I’m supposed to be listening to hear God speak to me. Funny thing, I guess I expected a burning bush, or I suppose a big booming voice from the sky for me to be able to “hear” God. Funnier thing, He doesn’t work that way.I rush through life, and in rushing through life every single day  I am constantly TALKING everywhere I go. (PS— I am in no way against talking, I’ve just recently become an advocate of listening). I had such a hard time grasping the idea that it wasn’t about actually “hearing” something in the sense most humans think about, but rather learning the art of just sitting and BEING in God’s presence. It is through sitting in silence and reminding ourselves that we are in the presence of our Father that we experience the listening part. Furthermore, through reading the Sacred Scriptures, slowly and attentively, asking God for the grace to understand what He wants us to hear, is another way of approaching the whole “Oh yes I hear you God” kind of thing. I did not experience this version, but music, song, and chants can also be teachings of what God would like us to hear from Him. The most important lesson I learned this weekend was to actually sit and be still with Him. Hard yes, rewarding, absolutely. We are human BEINGS, not human DOINGS. Keep that in mind in all you do and in all moments that you simply, just be. Also, remember that just because you sit in silence for hours, days, or even weeks at various times and hear nothing, does not mean God does not want to speak to you. He may not want to tell you something just yet until you are ready for that, or that He is ready for it.By Friday I told my director that I was getting lonely ( I know, I’m pathetic), which I assumed was mainly because I am so used to being around people and since I am an extrovert, much of my energy comes from those whom with I surround myself. I told Lisa that I experience God most often through other people, which although it may be true, it is never going to be enough. I need to reach down into my heart and find the intimate part of my relationship with God for me to continue to see God through others. Totally sure of myself on that one, I walked into the next talk, about bringing about the Kingdom of God. It is a must, an absolute must that if we are do succeed in such that, we must empty ourselves of our own kingdoms and let go of our egos. Woah! Then Br. Patrick continued by saying, I hope at this point you are starting to feel lonely, and disturbed by the silence, because it is probably your ego feeling lonely with lack of stimulation. BAM! There it was, my big A-HA moment, my booming voice from the sky, my burning bush, God spoke to me.I learned at that moment that I am too egotistical, as many people in this world find themselves at times (by the way, this is kind of hard to post online lol, but I’ll keep going for the lesson’s purpose). Think of it this way, when you are looking in a photo album, or on facebook, whose face in the pictures to you look for first? How selfish are you when you insist on getting what YOU want? Do you live your life for yourself, or for the love of God you have? I’m saying all this because I learned that if I am to bring about the Kingdom of God, I need to start with my personal relationship with God and I need to let go of everything that is of me, while asking for more of Him, always. And then the retreat ended. The silence ended, and I returned to my normal life, without any sort of closure. But then I realized that retreats aren’t necessarily supposed to be this life altering and a total change type of experience. They introduce you to what needs to change in your life, but that is only the start. I felt a little uneasy that everything wasn’t technically “solved” when I left that morning, but things were in progress. Prayer life is a journey; you may rollercoaster in it or keep it steady for quite some time, but no matter what, you can always return to our Father. He loves you so unconditionally. He loves you so much it’s unfathomable for the human mind to even come close to try to comprehend, but He loves you. That’s the best I got for you.Thanks for listening to me go on and on and on about this retreat experience. If you’d like, please feel free to email me, I’d love to share more! The only thing I want to reiterate is that sometimes we need to step outside of our boxes to figure out a little bit more about opening up our hearts in to our great Lord. There is something mysterious in just sitting and BEING with the Lord. If you have 10 minutes to give to your friends each day, you should have 10 to give to God. Pretty simple to say, hard to live by. Take it from a girl who lives a busy life, constantly talking to people; listening is one of the best things I’ve ever stopped to do. Better yet, stopping to listen to God and just simply BEING in the silence with Him. It was a great retreat, for as challenging as it was, I truly learned how golden silence in my life can actually be.