MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Sometimes the best way to learn and grow is to not say anything at all. We’re talking about silent retreats with Father Stephen Vrazel with St. Vincent de Paul Parish. How does being quiet help us?
Guest: Removing themselves from the distractions of daily life is a must. It also takes some time, so they’re usually at least a weekend long. But St. Ignatius of Loyola’s spiritual exercises, done in silence, last 30 days.
Anchor: What is the goal?
Guest: God does not raise his voice, so in order to hear him, we have to quiet ourselves. That’s something that can be done on a small scale even with daily prayer. But a silent retreat allows our focus to be entirely upon God and our relationship with him for an extended period of time.
Anchor: If you’re with other people, how do you communicate during this retreat?
Guest: Practically speaking, it’s a bit of a strange experience at first. When you pass people in the hallway, you try not to greet one another, even with eye contact. But the realities of things like meals, setting up for Mass or prayer services, handing out retreat materials certainly demand some level of interaction, even at times some speaking. In those moments we keep what we call a “spirit of silence.” but we try to limit the interactions as much as possible
Anchor: What are the different ways a retreat can impact people?
Guest: The fruits are always different for each person, but there are always fruits. Most people are afraid of silence because they think it’s empty. But what you find is that letting go of all the things that you think you have to be talking about and thinking about all the time frees you up to truly be yourself, to be the person God created you to be, to be the person who will be in heaven.
Anchor: Why is being silent hard?
Guest: Everyone gets distracted, and prayer takes effort and focus. It’s hard to even want to pray in the first place. Silence is almost impossible in normal daily life. There’s too much going on. That’s why the “retreat” part is such a necessary aspect. You’ve got to get away from all of that in order to cultivate silence. It’s not for someone who’s just getting into his or her faith, that’s for sure. There are plenty of retreat experiences available that are not silent. A silent retreat is for someone who wants to take the next step in deepening their faith, or possibly to rediscover or reinvigorate faith. But it’s not the first step, not for beginners.