Into the Silence

The following prayer in on a prayer card I own, called the Prayer for Retreat:

Lord Jesus Christ, You told the apostles to retire to a desert place and rest a while. I am taking this time to follow Your example. Grant that I may obtain all the fruits that I can from this retreat.

Enable me to make it in union with You, to know myself better and to get closer to You. Help me to listen attentively, to ponder prayerfully, and to speak wisely. Let me emerge from this spiritual renewal as a more committed Christian, better equipped to advance along the path that You have laid out for me.


I have recently returned from four days and three nights of retreat. More than that, it was a silent Ignatian retreat utilizing the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The event was held at the Broom Tree Retreat Center in southeastern South Dakota in the Archdiocese of Sioux Falls. Until eight weeks ago I didn’t even know of its existence. Now it is a spiritual touchstone for me.

Despite the effects of the drought the grounds were still beautiful.

I heard an advertisement for Broom Tree on Spirit Catholic Radio on my drive to work one morning and looked up their website immediately after getting to my desk. I had made a two-day introduction to Ignatian Spirituality retreat at our local retreat house in March 2010. I saw the four-day opportunity presenting itself at Broom Tree, and knowing that I wanted to explore the Spiritual Exercises in more depth, the timing was perfect. I made my reservations and waited patiently for the calendar pages to turn.

Experienced retreat participants know that once you commit to a retreat you can expect obstacles to be thrown at you from almost every turn. Almost as if on cue, mine came. One by one they needled me. One by one I swatted them away.

In the days before I was to leave I was asked about what I would be doing. When I mentioned four days of silence I was generally met with the following reaction from women: “Oh, I couldn’t stand that! I wouldn’t make it past one day.”

The man’s typical reaction? A 1000-yard stare and a look that said “Take me with you.”

I was to learn that first night that we were the largest men’s group to register ever for this type of retreat: thirty-two of us. There were six men’s retreats held per year and we were the largest group ever.

Then Fr. Jim Mason informed us that there are ten retreats held per year for women. The typical retreat size is over forty, with the largest group having numbered forty-eight.

One of the things I would come to pray for later on in my retreat was humility and here was my first lesson.

I am going to be posting about my retreat in the coming days and/or weeks. I will introduce you to Fr. Jim and Deacon Andrew, Gemma and Cocoa, the retreat grounds, a devotion I didn’t know I had, and a little taste of the spiritual exercises themselves. I will not be going into much depth on what I experienced as it is very personal and between me and God. Besides, it would become quite boring for anyone else to read. However I did take a lot of photos during my time there. My phone was disabled, meaning no calls, emails, texts or internet, but I did take it along to take pictures so I might share them here or use them myself to bring myself back periodically to the place where I experienced one of the most powerful experiences of my lifetime. They were taken on a Droid Razr and not an expensive digital camera, but after a cursory glance at them this morning after they were transferred to my PC I think they turned out ok.

The second smartest thing I did after registering and attending the retreat was taking the day after off from work. I have spent my day sorting through photographs and re-reading my journal (I burned through three ink pens in four days…a new record for me). I am still chewing on one or two of the exercises and will be for a while, and today is a perfect means to do so before I go back to work.

This retreat was everything I had hoped it would be and more, including the beautiful weather. It was not a simple walk in the park and time away. It was not a vacation. Daily Mass, daily rosaries and morning prayer each day. Four or five 30-40 minute introductions to each exercise followed by a lot of prayer, reading of Scripture, meditation and journaling. I was able to meet with Father Mason twice for spiritual direction. There were Holy Hours each day, and Confession. I hiked for miles over the prairie, or rested against a bale of hay.

No, it wasn’t easy. But it was glorious!

Sown onto the altar cloth on the chapel, and engraved on the front of the alter at St. Isadore’s (both on the grounds of the retreat center) are the following words:

“In the silence … + … God speaks”

It’s true. I heard His voice out on the Dakota prairie.

I hope you enjoy the posts that follow as I share some of the insights revealed to me and observations I made.


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