I have never been on a silent retreat before. I asked my husband if I could go to one for five days. He laughed and said, “For you, that is impossible,” but supported my ambitious desire. I immediately picked up the phone and scheduled my retreat for a month later. At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to how close it was to Advent. What a perfect way to enter into a new liturgical year.
This was a bit different than a retreat you would attend with other people. I was blessed that my personal spiritual director had a retreat house behind his parish. I was able to stay there all by myself which was exciting and scary at the same time. I arrived on Sunday night then we blessed the house and kicked off with a spiritual direction meeting. He told me to spend at least four hours in silence with God each day. This meant no reading, no verbal prayer and at least two of those hours must be in front of the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration or in front of the tabernacle in the church. He said it may take a couple of days to get used to the silence and that I should sleep if I am tired. I thought it odd to sleep through what should be precious time with God.
When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? (Matthew 26:40)
The first night was an adjustment being in a new place but the silence was something I welcomed quickly. I did not want to read the half dozen spiritual books I brought with me. I just wanted to be with God. After preparing my prayer space with holy water, blanket, blessed candle, blessed Mary statue, blessed Crucifix and my coffee – I was ready to go. I put myself in the presence of God and the supernatural moments soon followed. I began to feel the Spirit move in me and by the end of the first day, I learned how to ask questions and get the answers almost instantly by the Spirit’s physical movement in my body.
These movements were not new to me. I experienced them two months prior but I was not paying attention or silent enough to understand what God was doing within me. In addition to these recent experiences, over a year ago I was speaking at a conference and I attended their healing service. I had been asked to go to healing services many times before this but always declined because, “I’m not sick.” Clearly, I had no idea what a healing service was. During that service, I ‘Rested in the Spirit’ and His supernatural peace has never left me. This was the beginning of a new devotion to the Holy Spirit. I still experience His peace during prayer and when I ask for guidance or renounce spirits like fear, anxiety and worry. Praise God.
This was a different experience. It was like a fire exploding in my heart and moving my soul so intensely. It was only in the complete silence for hours during this retreat did I understand this was the love affair I was longing for – our relationship blossoming – our divine communication oozing with love.
The need to involve the senses in interior prayer corresponds to a requirement of our human nature. We are body and spirit and we experience the need to translate our feelings externally. We must pray with our whole being to give all the power possible to our supplication (CCC 2702).
Every night I met with my spiritual director to share what was happening each day. I guess my husband was right, I didn’t stay silent for five full days with spiritual direction and daily Mass. Every thought and every word was centered around God and my desire to love and surrender to Him more. I completely desire to be docile to the Holy Spirit.
My spiritual director confirmed my relationship as a child of God was growing and noticed how I was constantly calling out to him, “Abba, Father, Daddy.” I couldn’t stop asking Him questions like a giddy child. I found myself talking to Him all day and asking Him what to do at every moment. When He would answer, I would praise and thank Him. This is what it means to live in the Spirit and have God be the center of our lives and I wanted more. He made Himself present at Mass and Adoration with an overwhelming wave of deep, penetrating love and peace.
For those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit with the things of the spirit. The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace (Roman 8:5-6).
By the third day, I was drunk in the Spirit, I could not stop praising God and thanking Him every second of the day. This is the difference between living with God, not for God. I should also share with you that the gift of tongues was released in me the weekend prior to my retreat at the NSC conference in St. Louis. I struggled with these charisms due to some comments I received over the past year about the charismatic renewal and it being heretical. I was kind of scared of this whole charismatic thing as a result.
The words, “I love you, Jesus, I praise you Jesus,” just didn’t seem to express what I felt in the depth of my heart. I didn’t even have to try, I just started to pray in tongues and tears streamed down my face. I prayed in tongues daily as it was my unique heavenly language to God. The first night during my spiritual direction meeting, I mentioned my concerns about these charisms. It turns out that my spiritual director has the gift of tongues and has been charismatic since he was thirteen years old in the Philippines. I find it odd that we never discussed this in the two years we have been meeting. We had a long discussion about the gifts, fruits and charisms of the Holy Spirit which helped me immensely. I asked if I could watch The Wild Goose with Father Dave Pivonka each night to help me get closer to the Spirit. Praise be to God my spiritual director allowed it.
For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to human beings but to God, for no one listens; he utters mysteries in spirit (1 Corinthians 14:2).
On day four, I felt a little sad that this amazing time with the Spirit in silence was about to end. There was a part of me that wanted to stay in this retreat house … forever. I didn’t need anything but silence and prayer with God. I came to love the small house with its old decor and simplicity. I nestled into bed with no clue how powerful this last evening would be.
I woke up in the middle of the night and immediately praised God. As I laid there to go back to bed my body was overcome by wave after wave of love and fire for what seemed like a full minute. These waves are intense and typically last only a few seconds which I am happy about because I can barely take it. When the waves ended my body began to fall into an incredible peace. Then my body began to ‘Rest in the Spirit’ and I sunk deep into the bed, I felt no sensation of my bodily existence and could not move a muscle. My eyes began to shut so hard and using muscles that I didn’t know existed. They felt like they were so deep in my sockets but I felt no pain, just peace and I repeated silently, “Heal me….Heal me!”
When my body came back to its senses, I rolled over and went back to sleep with such peace. To my shock, I had some crazy dreams of my sinful and shameful life before God found me. When I woke up from those dreams I immediately asked God for forgiveness only to have my wits return and realize they were dreams. They were so real I felt sick to my stomach, “How could I do this again, Lord, how could I hurt you again?” The relief of the fact that they were dreams was beyond words.
When the morning came I jumped out of bed and was dancing around exploding with joy like David dancing in front of the Ark. I was filled with joy and the desire to share with the world the love I experienced with the Holy Spirit during this retreat.
Then David came dancing before the LORD with abandon, girt with a linen ephod. David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts of joy and sound of horn (2 Samuel 6:14-15).
As I approach Advent, with anticipation for the birth of Jesus, I am called to spend more time in silence with God. I think it is a wonderful way to prepare for His coming and increase my love and devotion to the Holy Spirit. I don’t need a retreat to do this. Maybe you can decide to spend some quiet time with God each day throughout Advent and see how much closer you are to the Lord on His birthday? When supernatural experiences happen, make sure to get out there and share them beacause now is the time to evangelize. I am so blessed for this experience and I will never be the same. I highly recommend a silent retreat for everyone. My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and I want Him to completely possess me! Many blessings to you this Advent Season – praise be to God.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19).