If you are like me, the longing to make a 30-day retreat, patterned after the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, seems rather inviting on most days and a bit frightening on others. Many of us might think we could not keep quiet for one whole month.
The days when the thought of a 30-day retreat (OK, let’s downsize that and say, even a three-day retreat) is most inviting to me are the days when the phones are ringing, the text message notifications are beeping, a family member calls with a need, friends are seeking my time, ministry and job are tugging and pulling, and so many unexpected things happen.
I have imagined St. Ignatius of Loyola sitting in my office watching me on these sorts of days, and I have wondered what he would say to me. He might not suggest a month-long retreat for me, but I do think he would suggest some quiet, meditative time away.
The Spiritual Exercises focus not only on our intellect, but also on our feelings and emotions. It is through all of our senses that we can come to know and experience God in our daily lives. My dad, who is now 80, recently recognized a “God moment” from my childhood. One day, as I was helping Mom clean the house, Dad came in from the fields and noticed me standing still, with a mop in my hand and looking out the window to the western sky. Dad asked me what I was doing, and I responded by telling him I was watching the sun set over the fields. Dad told me the other day that he has taken notice of the sun setting many times since that moment.
St. Ignatius learned the importance of such moments as well. As a soldier he was busy defending the fortress with no time for silence. Only when he was injured and found himself busy doing nothing did he realize the importance of solitude and time alone with God. It was during this time that conversion happened.
May we come to know God in the silent moments of our lives.
May we look for silent moments of simplicity and peace.