Silent retreats can help form daily prayer habits

| Sarah Moon | April 18, 2017 | 0 Comments

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In 2013, Jim Reinhardt built a cabin in western Wisconsin to have an office space near southeast Minnesota, where he often works with clients who’ve been injured on a job. But Reinhardt, who attends Holy Family in St. Louis Park, also shares the cabin with family and friends, and uses it to spend quiet time with God.

“The location lends itself for peace and tranquility,” said Reinhardt, 56. “Unlike lake homes, there are no noisy boats and Ski-Doos, close neighbors or other immediate distractions.”

Another benefit of the cabin is its 10-mile proximity to St. Felix in Wabasha, where he can attend daily Mass, go to confession and pray.

Reinhardt has attended silent retreats, but decided his cabin better suits his needs. He’s found that farmland and the woods naturally draw him to silence.

“Even when I am alone on the property, it still takes self-discipline for me not to create my own noise,” he said.

But for those without a cabin or designated quiet place, silent retreats give people a space to spend time in private reflection and prayer. They might include speakers, and participants have the opportunity to meet privately for spiritual direction.

Phyllis Laing, 76, started going on silent retreats while attending St. Francis High School in Little Falls in the Diocese of St. Cloud. She usually attends three or four retreats a year and also makes time for silence during the day.

“It’s just kind of quieting myself down, learning that from going on retreat,” said Laing, who attends St. Alphonsus in Brooklyn Center. “Just saying, ‘OK, it’s just God and me time right now. Nothing else. Whatever else comes in needs to wait.’”

Silence is a virtue that requires practice, said Father Jim Deegan, a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate who’s the director of Christ the King Retreat Center in Buffalo. If people are serious about prayer, they need to have a time and place to pray, because then they’re more likely to repeat it.

“Any way in which you choose to pray is good. There’s no such thing as a wrong way to pray,” Father Deegan said. “The only mistake we make in prayer is not to pray.”

Finding silence in daily lifeOblate Father Jim Deegan, director of Christ the King Retreat Center, and Benedictine Sister Mary White of St. Paul’s Monastery gave the following tips for prioritizing silence in a noisy world.

  • Recognize when you are allowing noise to take you away from your self and your present reality.
  • Seek opportunities to be in quiet places.
  • Frequent Eucharistic adoration.
  • Try centering prayer, a form of meditation that emphasizes interior silence.
  • Read sacred Scripture.
  • Garden, paint or sew.
  • Take walks.
  • Designate a specific time and place for silence.
  • Pause to “listen” to silence.
  • Practice being with others without using words.
  • Pause to consider the motive behind your action.

Active forms of prayer, such as reading the daily Scriptures or praying the rosary are good, but people should also incorporate moments of silence into their prayer time, Father Deegan said.

“God has things he wants to communicate to us, and the only way that can happen is [if] we kind of just let go of things, be open, be available, be silent — just be that empty container so that God can begin to fill us more fully with the Spirit,” Father Deegan said.

Incorporating silence into daily life can be as simple as closing an office door, pausing to breathe and being still, said Benedictine Sister Virginia Matter, a spiritual director at the Benedictine Center at St. Paul’s Monastery in Maplewood.

“Silence can happen so quickly in just a few seconds if we are pausing to receive it,” Sister Virginia said.

Some people don’t listen to what God is trying to say to them because it hurts too much, said added.

“Silence helps us to heal, and to see what is getting in the way of our peace, of our solitude, of ourselves, [and] really listening to where is God inviting [us] at this time in [our lives],” she said.

Jesuit Father Patrick McCorkell, director of Jesuit Retreat House in Lake Elmo, said it’s important to take time for silence because the culture is full of distractions.

“You have to step back from that to get some sense of your self identity, and some sense of your direction and purpose in life — something bigger than just a moment,” he said.

For people who haven’t been on a silent retreat, Father McCorkell recommends speaking with others who have.

“You create time and space for God to have easy access to your consciousness and your desires,” he said. “You don’t have to fight through a bunch of distractions and commotion.”

Laing plans to attend her next silent retreat at Christ the King Retreat Center in June. She said she thinks those who haven’t been on a silent retreat will benefit if they allow God to do his work.

“You will come out a different person than you went in,” she said.

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Category: Travel and Pilgrimages