I spent a few days this past week enjoying a silent retreat at the Benedictine Center in Maplegrove, MN . In fact, the retreat was more than enjoyable. It was a blissful experience. I had gone to many retreats in my lifetime and have led even more retreats than I have attended. But I have never been silent for three days. I unplugged my phone; left my computer at home; had no television, radio or newspapers at my disposal. The quiet claimed my attention. Nothing more.
Many asked me what was I looking for, including the spiritual director I met with on two occasions. My answer was freedom from the noise in my head. Did I get it? I’d have to say, yes and no. At first my mind still talked to me. But before the first day was over, I got the hang of it and simply enjoyed my time with the God of my understanding. He is there always, of course, but the distractions in my life are many. Not all of them troublesome or even unwanted. But I did need to “escape” from the world and the only way that seemed viable was to do what I did.
During those three days I was reintroduced to Brother Lawrence and his wonderful “conversations” as printed in the book: The Practice of the Presence of God, a tiny book of barely 100 pages that my mother-in-law introduced me to in my early recovery when I shared with her my struggle to know God.
Brother Lawrence was a 17th Century Carmelite monk who lived in France. He entered the order when he was 18. He was on kitchen detail for the first 15 years he lived in the monastery and it was while washing dishes, peeling potatoes, cooking meals and tending to other kitchen duties that he learned to walk in the presence of God.
When Sister Carol gave me two reading assignments, that had come to her in prayer even before she met me, I was stunned when one of them referenced Brother Lawrence. How did she know? God is indeed mysterious and so ever-present. To all of us. Rereading his words and those of Teresa of Avila too, I felt centered once again. Let me be clear; I don’t consider myself “a religious person,” but I am eager to find answers, peace of mind and comfort. All three are available from the God of my understanding. Having the time for three days to reconnect, while in the silence, was a wonderful gift to myself, one that I intend to experience on regularly scheduled intervals from now on.