I had the privilege of leading a couple of parish retreats this summer. The participants were parish volunteers from all different kinds of ministries. They gave themselves a gift of time with our Lord, and I was truly evangelized by their faith and their presence.
The theme of the retreats was: “Who do you say that I AM?”. We spent time reflecting on Jesus as Alpha and Omega/Incarnate infant; Friend, Challenger and Judge; Head of the Body/Eucharistic King; Crucified Lord/Risen Savior. We spent time in prayer communally in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and alone in silence. We prayed the liturgy of the hours and we prayed alone from the heart.
I have to admit, the challenge of spending a Friday night and all day Saturday away from my family is hard. As I was driving to the retreat, I thought of all of the tasks that needed to be completed at work, chores to be done at home, and the tiredness at the end of a busy week. But that all changed when I got to the retreat.
We opened the retreat in the chapel, and were invited to lay all of our concerns and worries at the foot of the cross. We were invited to unplug, to retreat — not as an escape, but as a time of renewal to enter back into the fray of the battle refreshed and ready. I realized that it is next to impossible to hear God speaking to me without the benefit of silence. I was grateful for the scheduled time of moving from the fast lane to refocus on what is really important, what should be central in our lives.
We spent a lot of time talking about and praying to Jesus. It was not that we were sharing startling new revelations about our Lord; we were sharing the kerygma (the apostolic proclamation of salvation through our Lord, Jesus Christ). However, we were answering the question, “Who do you say that I AM?” for each of us today, in the here and now. We must continue to reflect and pray on this question from our Lord as we grow in our missionary discipleship.
Much of our time was spent in silence. Pope Benedict XVI shared how we must make space for the Word to dwell within us, and this can only be done in silence. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta wrote in her book, In the Heart of the World, “In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”
I am encouraged to seek more of this silence, to turn off the radio on my commute, to unplug from all of my distractions, and to plan to retreat. I will be a better disciple if I can embrace the sound of silence. What is the role of silence in your life? How can you help your parishioners to enter into this silence, to truly commune with our Lord?
If you are interested in having this retreat for your parish volunteers, please feel free to contact me! This retreat is part of the Equip for Ministry formation program and is one of the components for Preliminary Certification.