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By Rev. Craig Love

In the middle of winter, I made my way to a farm for five days of silent retreat, a time for rest & prayer.

Meals are provided and enjoyed in silence, and speaking is prohibited, along with other forms of communicating.

The silence is broken twice daily. First, to meet with a spiritual director, in order to set “goals” for the day; then, to take part in Holy Eucharist.

Setting aside the labours of this world, our “goals” focus on rest & prayer, variously praying with a short passage of Scripture, with a painting, or on a trail walk; or perhaps simply finding a comfortable seat, sitting back to take in a peaceful view, or taking a walk with no other aim than to enjoy some deep breaths of country air & the stillness of the natural world.

Each person’s goals will differ on retreat, but making a successful retreat always includes gaining some distance from our daily cares, a bit of breathing space to better feel the Holy Spirit, quickened to new life in Christ. So while we go on “retreat,” we are intended to be active, engaged, listening for God — watching for Christ in quietness — with as little interference between us as possible. Being on retreat is the opposite of “passing the time.”

Reading is discouraged since it stimulates the mind, diverting us from the work of the Spirit: praying nonstop.

My ordinary rule of life is busy, fast-moving, & loud. And so it is a pleasure to step away from it for a time, removing myself (as much as possible) from the steady stream of human-made sounds. It gives me a chance to notice some of the other sounds Creation offers, otherwise drowned out by daily life. Such an atmosphere, “unplugged” from the norm, offers a great opportunity to focus all my heart, soul, mind & strength on God — to gain fresh insight into how God is calling me.

If this sounds like an experience you would like to try, talk to the AFP representative in your parish to learn of retreat possibilities near you.

Rev. Craig Love is an AFP Executive and Rector of St. Luke's, Cambridge; St. Thomas the Apostle, Cambridge.