LAST week, I was blessed to have attended my very first three-day, “silent” live-in retreat at the St. Scholastica’s Convent in Wagner Road. There were 27 ladies (Opus Dei members, cooperators and friends) who attended. Nearly half of us were from out of Baguio, which included ladies from Manila, Tuguegarao, Palawan, Isabela, and Pampanga. Father Vic Santos, who hails from Baguio, but is now based in the Opus Dei Center in Manila, was our spirit-filled retreat master.
I was wondering how a “silent” retreat would go. Statistics say that women in general speak an average of 20 thousand words per day as compared to men, who speak only seven thousand. You can just imagine how this was reversed, because Father Vic led us in four meditations a day, where he spoke for at least 30 minutes to one hour, for each meditation; and we, the ladies simply listened.
Some of us took copious notes from the many beautiful teachings and inspirations shared by Father. Aside from being very forgetful, I like reading back through my notes, and remembering the many lessons I learn. It is from these notes where I will derive the next articles that I hope to write and share with you, the readers of Mike’s “My Dearest” column, whenever Mike gets too busy to write and could not catch up with the deadline of his article submission, like this time.
Going back to our retreat, the other times the ladies spoke were mostly to pray the rosary, the way of the cross, during confession/spiritual guidance, and during the celebration of the Holy Mass. We were discouraged (but not altogether stopped) from conversing during meals, but instead listened to some spiritual readings being read, as we ate. Text and calls (as expected in a retreat) were disallowed during the activities. Phones are either in mute or turned off. Silence was observed as much as possible in the chapel, the halls, the gardens, and even in the sleeping quarters. Being women, hushed voices in whispers can’t be avoided.
But, what an amazing discovery! Silence is beautiful!
Father led us through the three days of retreat, sharing his inspired meditations on the 14 stations of the Way of the Cross, and enjoining us to accompany Jesus, as He carried the cross to Calvary.
During his introduction, he said that we were at the retreat to see God and hear from Him. Our focus was on God and to listen to Him speak to us. God speaks in many ways, and speak He did. I wish to share with you some of the things I believe He told me, in this retreat.
What other word can you come out with, if you jumble the word listen?
Silent. Yes, to be silent is such an important thing to do, in order to listen to anyone, especially to listen to God’s messages.
I needed not only to stop talking, but to stop my mind from wandering, and my eyes from looking at many distractions (thus my preference to stay near the front of the altar). By God’s grace, in the beautiful, peaceful, and silent atmosphere of the place, the inspiring presence of ladies all wanting and striving to be holy, and the insightful meditations of Father Vic, I managed to be silent and listen.
My dearest silent listeners,
I am just beginning to read over and ponder upon the words that God spoke to me, through Father Vic and through my experiences at the silent retreat.
Since this column is not meant to be long, and my introduction is very long already, I will just end this article with a promise.
I will share more of my learnings, inspirations and resolutions in future articles, which I believe are messages which God doesn’t want me to keep to myself, but to share with as many people as I can.
I pray that we will all open our eyes, our ears, our hearts and our minds to God’s message of love for each one of us. Let us start by first making the extra effort to be quiet and to be still, as we spend some time in prayer everyday. Let us go to Him. Be silent and listen. He is waiting. “Be still and know that I am God.” - Psalm 46:10