A silent retreat?

“Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31). These words spoken by Jesus to his apostles took on new meaning for me at a silent retreat during my first year of seminary. My family actually laughed when they heard that I, of all people, would have to be quiet for a whole week, but I soon discovered what a privilege it is to have an extended period of time alone with the Lord. The retreat has become a highlight of each seminary year, and I look forward to it continuing into the priesthood.

Each retreat has brought a unique grace, a gift from the Lord, which has drawn me closer to him and transformed me evermore into the person he invites me to be. Perhaps it’s a strengthening of my sense of identity as a beloved son of God, a confirmation in my vocational discernment, or a greater acceptance of some aspect of the Christian life? I never cease to be astounded by the bountiful generosity of God, who gives each one of us what we truly need when we truly need it, if only we open our hearts to his love and mercy. That does not mean it will always be easy, but sometimes the most difficult experiences are the most powerful ones, as God breaks through the darkness of our brokenness and sin with the burning light of his grace.

A living relationship with God must be at the center of our lives as Christians, and that is what a retreat is ultimately about. This takes on particular importance in the life of a seminarian, since it is within the context of a relationship with God that a vocation is discovered, discerned and brought to fruition. But all Christians, in every state of life, are beloved children of God called to intimate union with him. Whatever it might look like in practice, that “coming away to a lonely place” with Jesus must have its place. Whether we choose to keep our commute prayerful, or wake earlier in the morning for some dedicated prayer time, or regularly devote a vacation day to making a pilgrimage in some way, God must be at the very center of our lives. Only when we respond to the invitation to follow Jesus Christ to the fullest will we find the joy and peace that only he can bring.

Deacon Guilloux, from St. William of York Church in Stafford, is in his fourth year of theological studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018