Late Sunday night I returned home from my second Ignatian retreat since 2012. I once again traveled to Broom Tree in southeastern South Dakota for 70 straight hours of silence that began after dinner on Thursday night and came to an end late Sunday afternoon. I haven’t decided whether I’ll write about it as I did last time. The 2012 retreat became a chronicle that I wanted to share with everyone. This time I focused on prayer and my communing with God. It was much more personal. It was very fruitful.
I have a few anecdotes and a photo or ten I’ll share at some point. The drought of 2012 is over, the grounds were green, and I was able to spend time once again with Cocoa the dog. After spending four days disconnected from the outside world with no internet or news, no texting and no phone, it was jarring to come back and watch the news Monday night. As in 2012 I took Monday off from work in order to ease back into the world. During my purposely slow day I took a forgotten sheet of homework to my daughter’s classroom at school. Then I drove to the newly renovated Piedmont Shopping Center in the middle of Lincoln where I bought a cup of coffee and took a guided tour with my friend and owner of the soon-to-open new location of Gloria Deo (the store is beautiful!). I returned home and spent the afternoon in prayer while staining a stack of 1x4s that I’ll be using to hang the lattice from beneath my deck. Finally on Monday night I watched the news and skimmed the headlines online. It was then and there that it became very clear to me just how broken we, and our world, truly are.
During my retreat a story was told of a Carmelite nun from the Midwest who, after not leaving her cloister for over twenty-five years, was flying to Boston for a conference at which she had been asked to speak. While walking through O’Hare airport in Chicago she turned to her traveling companions and asked: “Why are the people so sad?”
She was able to see on the faces of those around her what we’d all see, but have otherwise grown to numb to see. We’ve become acclimated to it. I was only gone for a little over four days and I can see it.
Below is a poem I wrote down during the retreat. The video is something I saw only this morning. I wanted to share them both. Both, in their own way, address the question poised by the Carmelite nun as she walked through the busy Chicago airport.
A Hollowed Space to Be Filled
A cup must be empty before it can be filled.
If it is already full, it can’t be filled again except by emptying it out.
In order to fill anything, there must be a hollowed-out space.
Otherwise it can’t receive.
This is especially true of God’s word.
In order to receive it, we must be hollowed out.
We must be capable of receiving it,
emptied of the false self and its endless demands.
When Christ came, there was no room at the inn.
It was full. The inn is a symbol of the heart.
God’s word, Christ, can take root only in a hollow.
– William Breault, SJ (Prayers to accompany the Third Week of the Spiritual Exercises)