Silence may be golden, but it’s not a state in which I (or the beleaguered people around me) spend much time. In fact, when I first heard from my church about the Ignatius House weekends www.ignatiushouse.org— spiritual group retreats of silent reflection, meditation, and prayer—I wasn’t really up for it. Quite frankly, the idea scared me to death.
Unfortunately, I am driven to do the things that scare me to death, so a few years ago, I signed up for the Lenten retreat, beginning at 6 pm on Friday, and concluding at noon on Sunday. The minute I drove up the long and winding road to the place, I knew I was in for something completely different. Located on a bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee River, the retreat sprawls over 20 gorgeous acres of gardens, forest trails, waterfalls, quiet hideaways, and wooden decks suspended over the river. A soaring, light-filled chapel dominates the central area, with residential wings spanning off from it. The single bedrooms we were assigned were pleasingly spartan, furnished with a twin bed, one plain desk and chair, and a utilitarian bathroom. I felt a whole lot holier just unpacking my two cute praying outfits.
On the first night, our group of about 25 people had dinner (with beer and wine!), chatted and got acquainted, then at 8 pm, the silent part of the weekend began. Total silence. As in, no cellphones, computers, texting, talking, chatting, whispering, mimeing, IM-ing, facebooking, tweeting. Just prayer, reflection and walking.
When was the last time you were totally unhooked from the world and didn’t have to talk or listen to anybody else for two solid days? I can tell you right now, it is one of the most inspiring, freeing, and spiritually powerful things you can experience. And Ignatius House is a beautiful place to do it, with lovely outdoor places to sit and contemplate your life (or your navel). Not to mention they only charge $50 to reserve room and board for the weekend, (then you pay what you can). Every retreat at Ignatius is ecumenical, meaning anyone of any faith, or no faith, can attend. Four times a year they offer retreats to the homeless, through local shelters. And they have retreats for AA, Hispanic and Korean groups as well.
My $100 today goes to support the Ignatius House (because my church folks are there this weekend, while I’m bouncing around up in NYC with Lulu) and because it’s a precious resource for those looking to reacquaint themselves with the sounds of silence.