I forget who said it but it is indeed true, "The unreflected life is not worth living." Or another admonition, "Know thyself." I think we live in a world that is so utterly chaotic and fast-paced that we never give ourselves time to be alone, be in the quiet, be outside the constant stream of activity that society draws us into and sweeps us away with.
But knowing ourselves is so important in terms of discernment and formation but even more so even as a human person created in God's image. To know who we are, to reflect on our nature and purpose, can only lead to true fulfillment. Without knowing ourselves, what we desire, who we are called to be, I am pretty darn sure we'll end miserable.
Man is called to discover who he is. We can see this happen often in high school, where teenagers rebel against parents, standout from others, or just run. The question being - who am I? But I think today the question is not answered well because man is not given all the answers. So often man knows nothing of God and therefore the relationship he is invited to embrace. I remember one day in middle school where someone asked the teacher, "What is the purpose of life?" This teacher, being a bit eccentric, turned the class into a discussion on the topic where we all went around answering the question. I think the ultimate conclusion was to do whatever would make you happy. Nice and vague. But this is the sense I got in my own education. Religion was never highly looked upon. I don't think we really expected to get any answers there.
But much of what seminarian formation and discernment is, is to discover who you are by discovering who God is. How does this happen but in a developed prayer life. And I think an essential part of that is retreat. Yeah, you can leave your old life and start another in search of discovering who you really are or take some grand trip, but I think retreating into the silence of your soul where the Holy Spirit dwells is the true place of discovery.
It's one of my great joys ever since entering the seminary to be able to take days of recollection, desert days, or even days during vacation periods to spend a half day or full day in prayer and reflection. It's wonderful to have it built into your life . The quiet can be a scary place, I've been there and weeklong silent retreats still give me the chills. It can be worse than the dentist on drilling day. But I go, knowing the amazing ways in which God reveals himself to me in the quiet. And likewise I discover my own weakness and sinfulness that is transformed by God's grace.
I'll be honest. I never took a good retreat or even went on a pilgrimage before I entered the seminary. But in my own search to know myself, to know Christ, I would find myself, after a long day at work, before the Blessed Sacrament. Or early in the morning, I would find myself receiving the body of our Lord at Mass. My search is not quite over. I discover more about myself each day and how much God loves me. And I realize, this vocation, is one of the greatest gifts He has ever given me.