silent retreat, part ii

This is the second in a multi-part series sharing some aspects of a retreat I made last weekend.
I am a child of the information age. I can hardly remember a time without having a computer at home. I’ve had a website since 1996 (wow, eleven years!) and now, working primarily with university students, I’m used to conducting most of my affairs via the Internet. Not only that, but with the instant back-and-forth, I’m used to conducting most of my affairs quickly via the Internet.
Montserrat doesn’t quite work like that.
Since Camp Bapchule was canceled out from under us and suddenly I had this week free, I selected this past weekend for the retreat. There is no way to register for a retreat via their website and so I sent them an e-mail. Days passed. I thought, I should call. I did. Their voicemail system does not make it easy to figure out who you need.
“For a priest, press 1. For a staff member, press 2.” Figuring the priests were not in charge of reservations, I pressed 2. “For Greg, press 1. For Luz, press 2. For so-and-son, press 3.” I have no idea who to talk to (Greg would work, for future reference). I press 0 attempting to go to a receptionist.
“The operator is not available. You will be disconnected. Goodbye.”
Well, okay. I wait and an e-mail finally arrives. After a couple of exchanges, which did go faster than the initial inquiry, I was in business and registered. A confirmation letter was in the mail.
The confirmation letter never arrived, but I figure I wouldn’t let that stop me. I drove up to Dallas on Friday after a half-day of work. Upon my arrival, four hours later, it is obvious that somehow my reservation never quite made it in the system. Luckily, they had an extra room, but talk about a close encounter (I suggest sending something via snail mail or perhaps fax. That might be more reliable).
So far, that was my only expectation and it was met. From my uber-efficient technological background, I had the feeling something was amiss with my registration. Beyond that, I had never read about silent retreats or what they are like. I had no idea what to expect.
The retreat center is on lakefront property facing a small inlet of Lake Lewisville, just north of Dallas in a small suburb known as “Lake Dallas”. Off of a two-lane road and probably half a mile from the turn, you’ll see Montserrat. A 12-foot tall statue of the Sacred Heart greets visitors with their new Jesuit Spirituality Center under construction behind it. To your right, you’ll see the oldest remaining structure, St. Joseph Hall. St. Joseph Hall, containing some office space and a majority of retreatant rooms, forms the close side of a quadrangle that includes Advent Hall (another dorm building), St. Ignatius Chapel, Assumption Hall (library, offices and Jesuit living quarters) and the dining hall. Beyond the quadrangle is a wide open area all the way until the lake. White chairs dot the property along with little swings, a dock and some tall birdhouses.
After we settled in, we met at an optional session led by Fr. Joe, the director of the center, introducing us to the idea of a silent retreat. This particular retreat was led by Rev. Mr. Jose Fetzer, S.J.—the “Rev. Mr.” is a fancy way of saying he is a transitional deacon that will be ordained a priest sometime in the near future.
While the “standard” form of a silent retreat includes one-on-one spiritual conferences, due to numbers, this retreat includes all of the retreatants gathering together multiple times a day, in silence, to listen to a conference given by Deacon Jose. These conferences were much like an extended homily on a particular subject, complete with notes. The conferences were offered as a “buffet”—a number of choices laid out before us. Individually, we can take what we will from the buffet and use it in our reflections.
The part of a silent retreat that concerned me the most would be the silence. Honestly, when was the last time did I shut off my phone for the entire weekend, much less not speak all weekend? I truly don’t know if this has happened before in my life!
Lucky for me, so I thought, the retreat only would last just under 48 hours.






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