So one of the big events of the year at seminaries is the annual retreat. Depending on the seminary, it can end up being a week of conferences, spiritual direction, or whatever else. At the seminaries I have attended, they have always been silent retreats. If you want to find an intense retreat, this is it. And it can really be intimidating. But there is so much that can happen in a week of silence that you'd be amazed how beneficial it is for your relationship with God and your direction in life. Silence slowly filters out all the cares of the world and leaves just you and God. So the time can end up being you and God conversing or you running away from Him. All depends. But if you do use that time to be with Him, you'll discover so much - so much about yourself - and maybe the stuff you never wanted to know.
Here is a quote I received during the retreat from Mother Teresa: "I worry that some of you still have not really met Jesus - one to one - you and Jesus alone. Have you seen with the eyes of your soul how he looks at you?" I think this is a scary thought. One seminarian revealed just this during our retreat - somewhere along the way he'd lost his relationship with Christ and he rediscovered it. This is a haunting question but one that is well addressed in a silent retreat.
So anyways, 58 of us went to Greccio which is in the middle part of Italia for a weeklong silent retreat with conferences and some direction. (Sanctuary of Greccio where St. Francis built the first creche)
One of my favorite things about every silent retreat is I end up reflecting on God's action in my life that has led me up to that point in my life. It leaves me with a great sense of gratitude and the readiness for a weak of consolation, desolation, or whatever else the Lord has in store. I won't go into big details about my retreat besides the fact I survived. But, at the end of it, we shared graces and I thought I would share the grace I received from God as well. I think I received a certain confidence that I am still listening to the voice of God in following this vocation to the priesthood. I had certain doubts that were simply washed away and found myself more convicted on my state in life. There is something amazing about simply listening to yourself and listening to God over days and days that leads you to see the truth of your life and where God wants you to be and where you, in the end, really want to be as well.
At the same time, these retreats always have their humor. We try to keep silent and we do for the most part. But sometimes you have to laugh. We were having this one conference in the morning but there was this huge flying bug in the room. It kept banging up against the lights and caught the attention of most of us. So before we could start the conference, we worked together to shoo the thing out. It was hilarious. I also remember another day we were all sitting in the dining hall where they serve us each meal. And they came around with this monstrous breaded mushroom thing that simply got rejected by almost every table. Poor ladies...I kinda consider in the Mushroom Revolution. :) Anyways, little things just cracked me up. (see the crickets? quiet leaves a lot of time to observe all the crickets)
Oh and if you wanted to know what a schedule of a silent retreat would look like, here it is:
8:00am - Breakfast
8:40am - Morning Prayer
9:00am - Conference
9:45am - Prayer hour + free time
11:45am - Mass
12:30pm - Pranzo/lunch in US :)
4:00pm - Conference
4:45pm - Prayer hour + free time
6:40pm - Evening Prayer
7:00pm - Cena
8:00pm - Adoration and Exposition of Blessed Sacrament
You really have a lot of time by yourself...