Home of the Mother priests Fr. Henry Kowalczyk and Fr. Dominic Feehan led the annual silent retreat in Fruitland Park, FL from Friday, November 9th through Sunday, November 11th. The retreat center featured many beautiful oak trees with Spanish moss overlooking Lake Griffin, and a temporary chapel assembled by the Home.
Retreat attendees entered into silence on Friday night after an introductory Mass and reflection by Fr. Henry. The Home priests followed the rubric of the Spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius, which followed the themes of thirsting for Christ and Mary as they thirst for us, 10 practical steps to growing in holiness, and asking for the following graces, in order: to feel sorrow for sins, to feel Christ’s suffering, to feel Christ’s mercy, and to feel the joy of the Resurrection as the disciples did.
In the silence of the heart, God speaks. Both interior and exterior silence are necessary if we are to be able to hear God’s voice. And today in our society, with all the noise that surrounds us, silence is particularly difficult for us. In the Home of the Mother Silent Retreats this silence that the soul longs for disposes the soul to know and listen to God. It gives the soul the opportunity to go before Him and ask like St. Augustine, “Who are you, my God…and who am I to you?” To place yourself before the Lord simply to look at Him and let yourself be looked at by God, and to lovingly ask Him these questions can be enough to fill the soul with peace and joy.
Yet, if we ask the Lord to show us the reality of who we are, He will. If He shows us a vice or a sin, it is not to destroy us, but He only shows it to us because He loves us and trusts that we will have to courage to root it out with His divine help. Fr. Henry encouraged the retreat attendees to remember that Jesus always loves us, even if the Lord permits us to experience desolations during the silence. One of the climactic parts of the retreat was when one of the Servant Brothers read St. Bernadette’s Testament of Gratitude: “Something that God has been showing me recently,” said Monica Martinez, Lay Member of the Home, “is that everything is a grace, and that’s something that the Servant Brothers talked about a lot this weekend…Not to focus so much on what you receive or what you don’t receive, but that whatever you receive spiritually is exactly what God wants for you…it’s a gift.”
After many hours of prayer, adoration, and reflection, those who attended the retreat emerged after Mass on Sunday afternoon with a renewed spirit and they shared their many thoughts and graces received throughout the weekend.
“A lot of people say, ‘Silence? I could never be in silence for a whole weekend!’ But honestly,” expressed Lauren Scotto, Lay Member of the Home, “it’s the best! When do you ever get this kind of opportunity in your life?” Before this silent retreat, I realized I had been dropping in my daily prayers. What I got from the retreat was to stay consistent in the little things, whether I feel it or not…Do my daily prayer, pray my morning offering. I realized I have to start small, be consistent, and build off of that and from there grow in virtue and in holiness and to be the saint God’s calling me to be.”