Silent Retreat: Turning to God to Find True Happiness
As a social individual I can state that remaining silent for eight days straight is not a simple task. Going into an 8-Day Silent Retreat through John Carroll University, I was very anxious. There was really no way to prepare completely for the retreat. I had gone on numerous retreats before but so many of the memories from other retreats were how I connected spiritually with others and how I found friends through faith. So as I took a leap of faith — I had no idea how I was going to get through the experience.
The idea of being away from work and responsibilities for a week sounds enjoyable, but I had no phone, computer or TV. I couldn’t just lazily watch movies all day or text my friends. I was not able to call my mom or dad and tell them I missed them. I couldn’t even talk to the people sitting around me as we ate meals together. By having all this free time — but no one to talk to — I had to find ways to use my days to the fullest.
We had Mass before dinner every day on the retreat. I began to really enjoy these daily Masses because I could sing and say the responses and prayers aloud. Each day when I found my thoughts drifting away, I would pray for a greater focus. This helped bring me back in and pay attention to what I came for. Beginning Mass with a prayer for the grace to focus and truly hear God’s message to me made a huge impact on my experience. Now, being back on a college campus with many people in our chapel for Mass, there are even more distractions. So I am continuing to ask for focus before and throughout each Mass I attend.
Each retreatant was assigned a spiritual director with whom we met for about an hour each day. My spiritual director, Paula, gave me great advice in our first session. She said that there was no right or wrong way to experience the retreat. You cannot compare your own experience with others or think you are not doing it right. Each day she gave me different scripture passages to read with a special intention or grace to focus on. Paula constantly reminded me not to just pray to God but to talk with Jesus, Mary or God the Father. When you have a conversation with another, you must listen for their responses.
Prior to this retreat, I don’t think I experienced prayer in such a powerful way. One of my first “assignments” was to read a passage on Jesus giving sight to a blind man named Bartimaeus. Jesus asks the man, “What do you want me to do for you?”
I prayed with this and tried to discover what I want Jesus to do for me. I realized I want patience and the ability to be close with others without pushing them away, or rejecting their love. As the week went on, I discovered that I mostly want to love and see others, and myself, as God does. We walk through life making a thousand snap judgments a day. We see people and do not see them as children of God but as whatever the world wants us to see. I know I judge my closest friends and family and even myself more than anyone else. So I have been asking God for patience and the ability to see others as He does and for me to accept His love.
Throughout the retreat I experienced moments of overwhelming loneliness and self-doubt. When we have these moments in the real world we usually quickly fix these feelings with distractions or by socializing with others. As I did not have these options I could do only two things: Break down or turn to God. I am happy to say I turned to God. That feeling of handing over my doubts and allowing my faith to be greater than fear is something I can’t fully explain. But now that I know that feeling, I want to keep turning to God to find true happiness.
Morgan Might is a sophomore at John Carroll University where she is studying Computer Science and Mathematics. Morgan graduated from St. Alphonsus School in 2012. She was involved with the youth groups at St. Ferdinand and St. Sebastian Parishes while she was in high school at Seneca Valley. Morgan is an active member in Campus Ministry at JCU, leading a small faith group and going on retreats.