A few weeks ago I went on a silent Ignatian retreat. The Betrothed is a big fan of such things, but had never tried one. To me, a retreat means campfire singalongs, craft projects, and talking about feelings. I was a little skeptical about being trapped alone in silence, but the weekend ended up being fantastic. Even if I did get lost on the way there because I was so busy rocking out to Mumford and Sons that I missed my turn in the rainy dark.
I was afraid of silence. I was afraid that I would go crazy with my own thoughts. Instead, it was the perfect break for an introvert like me. I didn't have to make awkward small talk over breakfast, I didn't have to worry about sitting in the wrong place and breaking up a conversation. It was great to just read, think, pray, and do whatever I felt like.
Also, I was not in silence alone. The priest's talks throughout the day had wonderful insights about prayer, discouragement, and the desires God has placed in our hearts. Once we could talk on Sunday, I met some great people whom I may run into again. And of course, God was there the entire time. He was easier to hear than usual.
I took some photos around the Arlington Diocese's lovely San Damiano Retreat Center. It was built as a Franciscan novitiate house in the 1960s, but has been renovated. One of my favorite parts was the collection of photos of Arlington churches that decorated the hallways. The cozy library with free books was just the icing on the cake.
If you're curious about silent retreats, I highly recommend giving one a try. Bring a good map, but don't be afraid to crank the Mumford and Sons. Their lyrics can be quite appropriate.
Don't leave me alone at this time/ For I'm afraid of what I will discover inside.
Now let me at the truth/ Which will refresh my broken mind.
Stars, hide your fires/ These here are my desires/ And I won't give them up to you this time around.
There is a design/ An alignment to cry/ At my heart you see/ The beauty of love as it was made to be.
Get over your hill and see/ What you find there/ With grace in your heart/ And flowers in your hair.
Lead me to the truth and I will follow you with my whole life.