Canon law dictates that all those in religious life make 8 days of retreat each year. So, for the last eleven years I have been blessed with the time and space to do just that! It is such a gift. On July 23rd I began my eight day silent retreat and completed it on the 30th. Well, let me clarify. I did meet with a spiritual director once a day for about 30 minutes but other than that… I didn’t have any other conversations. It was heaven! In our convent, when you are on retreat you can make your own schedule. You don’t have to go to any of the common prayers or meals. So one might ask… well, what do you DO then?
Here’s what I did:
I slept in!! Well, at least til 6 or 6:30 (which is late for me!!). Then I got up and had breakfast.
I went to morning Mass at a local parish. If it wasn’t too hot out I walked there. It was a lovely way to begin the day. My spiritual director had given me some Scripture passages to pray with and so I would read them several times and then think and meditate on them while I walked.
When I came back from Mass I would rest a little. It is surprising…the slowing down during retreat and not rushing to be anywhere or do anything makes me sleepy. So I allowed my body the rest it needed. After two days, my body felt really rested and I had loads of energy!
I would take time to read over my Scripture for the day and perhaps journal about it. Late morning, I met with my director. We talked about what insights I had gotten from the passage, where it lead me in prayer. Given what I had shared with her, she would pick another few passages for me. She said that these were just guides and if my prayer led me to other parts of the Bible then go with the Spirit!
I did read some other things as well as the Holy Scriptures. The first, “Believing God” by Beth Moore. I was actually doing her workbook for the study. I had read the book and listened to the teachings… I just never did my homework!! So that was part of my retreat and I LOVED it. I had the time and space to do 2 or 3 days at a time.
I also read the book “Eat this Book” by Eugene Peterson. I haven’t finished it yet but I love how he teaches about the need to read Scripture slowly and prayerfully so that it becomes part of us.
Lastly, I read the Chronicles of Narnia. Would you believe I hadn’t read them yet. I am not a huge lover of fantasy but I did enjoy these books. I think if I had read them when I was younger I wouldn’t have appreciated them as much because I wouldn’t have understood all the symbolism. I love the Christ figure – Aslan, the Lion. King of the Beasts – indeed!
We have our main meal at noon so I would take my food and eat in solitude and silence. After that it was time for another rest. In the afternoon I would try to do some craft work. I make rosaries and little cards and things. It’s perfect because my hands are occupied enough that I don’t get sleepy but I don’t have to concentrate intensely either. I either listened to music or perhaps some recorded Scripture teachings.
I would have a light evening meal and spend some time praying and reading some more before going to bed. It was just lovely all the way around. It went by too fast – I am already looking forward to next year’s retreat!
And as for the graces I received?… well, I imagine I will be discovering them throughout the days to come. Overwhelmingly, all my prayer and reflection lead to sincere gratitude for all that God has done for me and how He has been present and active in my life. I was humbled and at the same time lifted up to a place of greater trust and deeper love for God.
So, I return to “ordinary” life in the convent but with extraordinary joy! Praised be Jesus Christ – forever, AMEN!