“Flee from the Crowd and Dwell with Truthfulness” were golden words that I received from my Spiritual Director before leaving on a silent directed private retreat this past week. Attending morning Mass the day I was to leave, the gospel proved to be very providential to me. It was the following taken from Luke 10:38-42:
In the course of their journey he came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered,
“Martha, Martha,” he said “you worry and fret about so many things,
and yet few are needed, indeed only one.
It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not be taken from her.”
Wow!!!! And wow again!!! I certainly could understand why this gospel was being proclaimed the day I was leaving for a silent retreat and fleeing from the crowd! Jesus was surely speaking to my heart and calling me forth to be “Mary” at his feet. Since June, I have been in the “Martha” role of welcoming many to my home to pray with “Mother Mary” who always leads us to the feet of her son. Now, I was hearing “the clarion call to silence” and this gospel was just a powerful confirmation of that call I had received!
So I left on Tuesday afternoon, heading to the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception on the North Shore of Long Island. I was leaving the crowd and looking to spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and to listen and dwell with Truthfulness. Driving out peacefully through the side roads of rolling countryside, I knew that Jesus had many surprises in store for me. . . if I just cooperated in making that transition of leaving all the worrying and fretting at home! I promised to do that and He made good on his promises as well. The surprises came one after the other and I understood “Truth” like I’ve never understood it before.
It took me some time to make that disconnect with the worries and fretting. The first thing I did after letting my sons know I had arrived, was to turn the phone off. No texting, no emails, no looking up things on the internet. When I put the phone aside such a freedom was born in that moment! I was free, too, from “Martha’s work” of cooking, shopping, cleaning and chores. My freedom allowed me to do nothing but be present to Jesus, to receive Him in the Eucharist, adore and listen to His holy word in scripture.
When one goes on retreat, you really never know what to expect or who may even be sitting in prayer beside you. On these Eucharistic retreats, you know that there will be priests praying along with you in adoration which is so beautiful to experience. It makes the words the Body of Christ so much more a reality to see this manifested before your very eyes.
The first couple of days it was just myself and another soul praying before the Monstrance. We knew we were gifted to be in that silence together and to be united in prayer. There was a great intimacy in knowing that our hearts were in adoration together. We sat side by side like bookends and I know my prayer was made stronger through her presence. Days later, we were joined by others. When the retreat ended and we came out of silence on Sunday, one of the other retreatants shared with me that she flew in from Houston to share in this special silent time! It was another gift to have had the opportunity to be beside her as well.
Each morning we began with Adoration preparing for Mass which was a great Grace in itself. We were “fed” with the Word of God. Then “fed” again with His Body and Blood and taught through the words of the priest’s homily each day. On retreat, you are free to go and come as you please, taking walks on the beautiful grounds or simply being before His Presence in the Monstrance. Jesus in the Monstrance was present from 7:00 AM until 9:00 PM when we would finish with Night Prayer together. How could one resist not sitting at His feet? I had written the following words into my journal and lived them in my hours of adoration:
What a tremendous delight, My God! To spend over 15 hours without anything
else to do but look at You and tell You, “Lord, I Love You.”
Blessed Charles de Foucald
I knew, too, that the words that Msgr. Michael had sent me off on retreat with were “golden words of wisdom.” These words were not only for myself but for all those who want to hear truth and dwell with Him. The retreat director gave me a series of scripture readings to sit with. The reading below seemed to jump out at me in light of all that was happening back at home with Mama Mary’s visitation in the last couple of months.
I sat in that “posture of contemplation” before Jesus with scripture and the one that spoke out to me on retreat was in John’s Gospel (19:26-27):
“Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his
mother, “Woman this is your son.” Then to the disciple he said, “this is your mother.”
And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.”
Seemingly stuck on these words, I really never moved past them the whole week. I had come to the conclusion that I always had made a place for Mary in my heart but now she truly was being enthroned in my earthly home in a more concrete way not only for myself but for the many others that she seemed to be calling forth. I was truly at the feet of Jesus at my retreat but mother Mary, as well as her Son, was right here speaking to my heart. She seemed to be further advising me of what she had planned back home for the days ahead. This further was confirmed in the following scripture verse from Wisdom (9:1-6, 11):
“Send her forth from your Holy Heavens and from Your Glorious Throne dispatch
her, that she may be with me that I may know what is your pleasure. For she knows
and understands all things, and will guide me discreetly in my affairs and safeguard
me by her glory.”
There wasn’t a time at the retreat that you did not hear the rustle of rosary beads before the Monstrance. They were in the hands of my fellow retreatants but also in the hands of the priests that silently adored in union with us. “What power pours forth from those beads,” I thought to myself as I prayed silently along, reflecting on each meditation in the life of Jesus and Mary.
Every evening we prayed Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours together before Jesus was reposed. The Divine Office is another way of being fed each new day in union with the whole Church. The readings are so very rich from the Church Fathers. It was most certainly a community prayer that wove us altogether with the Universal Church.
The days and nights passed so quickly and I literally savored every moment. I continuously wrote in my journal lest I forget what I was experiencing. My last day of retreat ended on Sunday with a designated Preached Day of Prayer, which was so life-giving. Jesus, we were told by one of the priests, “came to earth to have union with us and so we are called to “cling to Him!” I believe that was what Mother Mary was conveying to me as well.
Psalm 34 fleshes out my retreat and also the words of the priest written above:
“Glorify the Lord with me Together Let us Praise His name.
I sought the Lord and He answered me, from all my terrors He set me free.
Look towards Him and be radiant.”
Before I knew it, I was packing up my car with my bags. Then I was driving home once again through the beautiful roads leaving the Seminary listening to the song Redeemer, which I share with you below. I pray as you listen to the violins, cello and piano, that you hear the voice of the One who always calls us to sit at His feet.
Gleaning the Graces after a retreat is a process that one experiences on a day-to-day basis, sometimes even years after.Jesus always surprises in subtle whispers but also in blasts of the Holy Spirit to wow us!!!!
This sunrise image was yet one more surprise that Jesus blessed with me on retreat which I share with you as well!
Cling to Him and Have Union with Him!
May you, too, hear the clarion call to sit in His silence and be at His Feet!
©2018 Anita Guariglia
Images by Anita Guariglia
Youtube: Redeemer (Live) Paul Cardall with Steven Sharp Nelson
Quotes from Scripture/Jerusalem Bible and Volume IV of Divine Office