Tuesday, February 14, 2012
The Itinerant Traveller Returns
The somewhat itinerant traveller, I returned to the Jesuit Center and a time of silent retreat was something I intuitively felt compelled to do. As I had on internship, in another time that seems so long ago, I felt this nudge to intentionally plan time apart to step back and reflect and take stock and see what God might be saying. Our time in silence comes after a meal where everyone has gathered and has a chance to say "hello" and become acquainted before a liturgy and entering of the silence. Likewise at the end, we break the silence and catch up as we wish. This year, we were asked in the final liturgy to share a grace we had received (more about that later perhaps). One woman stood up and told of the first time she came, she had signed up for a seven day retreat never having made one before. And it had kind of escaped her that this was a silent retreat. She was at dinner and said to her table companion- I'll talk to you tomorrow!" To which the reply was- "No, you won't." After her initial trepidation she found it to be an enriching time and she has been coming for ten years. Looking back now on my first retreat I was nervous about being able to keep silence. I remember that while I did, the first full day it took a lot to step out of the noise of the world and my own thoughts. I remember how I was never quite sure what to do at dinner- do you look at others or not? If you do will someone be tempted to talk? By the end I realized how much my own anxiety was talking to me.
This time as I entered the massive wrought iron gates and traveled toward the Novitiate House, it felt like home. So much so, that this past fall when I was on the campus but not for time apart, it felt a little irritating. This time on retreat I now live about 25 minutes away and discovered several people with whom I had distant connections, previously unknown. And there was a comfort in having learned how to communicate social graces in silence. And I re-found all of my favorite places to walk, to pray, to reflect. I reconnected with the person who provided necessary and sustaining direction and shared the joy of being able to tell of just how much that direction had helped with the perspective of time.
And at the same time, I am a different person, on a different part of my journey and now ready to delve more deeply into Ignatian spirituality and to refine how I engage spiritual practices for who and what I am and where my calling is now. Which is, to me, the beauty of the process- that rather than marching through the psalms as a group because that is what the schedule says, there is also a place for experiencing God in all things, in all of creation, and uniting those experiences with Scripture and prayer. And while we are not all gathered and doing that together in a uniform way, there is a definite unity in the house when you know that everyone has gathered around the same Christ and is in prayer and discernment. Somehow this is what makes the beginning and ending times of conversation or times of direction so rich- the basic connectivity of Christ.
To be with others who can both support discernment and share their own challenges and graces in a space that invites this, is in itself a grace. But for me one of the deeper graces was the ability to enrich my own use of the Examen of Consciousness at the end of each day, that chance to go looking for God in the day. And to say, I humbly welcome your word. I behold you, beholding me-and then have a conversation.
Today's music is for all those who travel in this way.
Tomorrow, more on the Examen and the notion of Sleeping with Bread