When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:6).
Sometimes it takes 48 hours of silence to realize how loud things are. Going into 2012, I knew I wanted to take a personal retreat weekend. I’d grown up going on Catholic youth group retreat, Christian retreats, and weekend getaways with my college campus ministry. Even now, I attend NCC’s annual leadership retreat.
But there is also a time and a place to be alone with God. After all, my word for the year is listen. I did my research, and knew I had a few parameters. I was looking for a retreat house with these qualities:
- Accessible by metro in the DC metro area
- Allowed individuals for personal retreats
- Could accommodate me for at least 2 days
I picked The Washington Retreat House, run by the Sisters of Atonement, which is connected to the Franciscan Order.
Why a retreat?
- As a way of fasting my time, my social life, and the distraction of daily life for short period of time.
- As a way to provide dedicated time for prayer, and quiet.
- As a way to reflect on the past and focus on the future.
The biggest takeaway for me can be told with one example: Every meal was eaten in silence. No books, no music, no conversations. I couldn’t remember the last time I ate a meal in total silence, with only my thoughts to keep me company. Everyone sat alone. It was odd at first, but throughout the weekend I began to look forward to each meal. I focused on doing one thing at a time.
Bite, chew, swallow. Again: bite, chew, swallow. There is rhythm to it, a rhythm that is so often muffled by a cacophony of other sounds. Sometimes, I bite off more than I can chew.
I realized then just how rare that is in all areas of my life. Put another way, so many parts of my life involves multi-tasking. While this is praised in some settings, it is also a hindrance to focus, attention span and deep thinking. This, I reminded myself, this is why I needed a retreat.
But during Sunday lunch – the final meal – everyone broke the silence. The dining hall was filled with loud chatter, and everyone sat next to one another. It was a renewed spirit of community, refreshed by the weekend of solitude.
The Washington Retreat House is located at 4000 Harewood Road NE, Washington, D.C. Call 202-529-1111, and ask for Sister Mary Harper to book a personal retreat. To see a list of retreat centers in the DC – VA – MD area, check out my Google Doc.