Do you find yourself seeking quiet time for spiritual reflection? Have you ever considered taking a silent retreat? As many begin to make their summer retreat plans, today’s post may help you decide if a silent retreat is a good fit for you. Or, maybe you just need time set aside in the quiet of your home or a favorite spot in nature? Let’s read more about how a silent retreat can help as you seek to hear the voice of God within.
Turning Off the Noise to Find the Quiet Within
An Introduction to Silent Retreats
By: Jen Murphy, Manager of Retreats & Events
“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
Your phone rings, buzzes and dings with calls, texts and notifications. The television blares, music plays from the radio or Alexa, your computer keyboard clicks and emails ding, friends and family and coworkers around you babble and shout, the cars on the street throttle and screech and beep, construction machinery and trucks bang and clank…Can you hear it? Noise is everywhere! And, with today’s technology, we’re often forced to never ever leave it behind! We become accustomed to the everyday sounds around us, but we may not realize the toll it takes on our mind, body and spirit. This constant noise can be especially difficult to deal with when we are desperately trying to hear God’s voice, but we’re unable to drown out the noise of life around us. Silent retreats are created for this purpose. It’s a carved out quiet time to hear our own voices inside and to listen for God’s gentle whispers.
When thumbing through our retreat listings, you’ll find that several are listed as ‘silent retreats’. If you’ve never been on a silent retreat though, you may be wondering exactly what that means. It may seem daunting to spend a day or multiple days without speaking to other individuals, but many are surprised at how much they enjoy this time of reflection.
Our Center has been hosting silent retreats for decades and guests often return year after year for the same type of silent retreat. At the Retreat & Conference Center, these can range from a day retreat to a week-long retreat. The format of a silent retreat varies too. Sometimes a special presenter is leading the retreat so that when the guests are in the meeting room they interact with the presenter and other guests, but when they are on their own time they do not speak with anyone and they dine in silence. On the other hand, our directed retreats are formatted so that the guest is only speaking with their spiritual director for an hour each day and the rest of their day is spent alone in silence. These guests may spend that personal time praying, reflecting and reading, going to daily Mass, walking the Labyrinth and simply resting.
Meals are also in silence during these retreats and a special dining room is designated as the silent dining area. Guests will sit at dining tables, spread apart so that they are not facing another individual and they eat in silence or listening to soft music. Many appreciate this opportunity to practice mindfulness of eating in silence. It allows you to concentrate more on what you’re eating and it often helps you to slow down your eating. However, all of our multi-night silent retreats are formatted with opening and closing meals not in silence so that guests can become a little acquainted with one another before the retreat begins and again at its conclusion.
Our silent retreat guests receive an orange name tag when they are staying overnight. This helps the staff of the Center know that they are in silence and discourages them from starting conversations. Our staff and many other guests are accustomed to the orange tags and greet guests with a smile a nod instead of conversation. Of course it is up to the guest how they choose to honor the silence and they can always find a friendly staff member to chat with for a while too!
Our Center is never a completely silent environment. We often have conference groups in the building simultaneously who don’t wish to have silence. Our silent retreatants always have their own designated space though. This could be a meeting room apart from everyone in a corner of the building or several more secluded spaces, depending on the retreat size, and our Chapel is generally available too. There is a reasonable level of quiet outdoors around the Center too.
Many guests comment about how apprehensive they were about going on a silent retreat for the first time, but they were surprised by how quickly they adjusted and became comfortable. They find the time to be so relaxing and then they feel rejuvenated when it’s time to settle back into their daily routine. Most importantly, guests are amazed at the gifts God shares during the sacred time. If you are seeking time away from the noise, you may indeed want to consider nurturing your mind, body and spirit on a silent retreat. “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.” ~Psalm 62:5
Today’s post was written by Jen Murphy, our Manager of Retreats and Events, and was first featured in our 2019-20 Bridges magazine.
For a complete listing of retreats available at our Center, many within a silent format, please click here.