Monday, July 9, 2012


As you may (or may not) know over the past week 20 other FOCUS mish's and myself were blessed to experience an eight-day retreat, and entirely silent. One of the first questions a couple of people ask me is, "So do you have to be silent like, the whole time? or can you talk a little?" Well, for any musing minds out there, each of us spoke with a spiritual director once a day for about 30-45 minutes, of course we were able to participate in the Mass with all of its responses and prayers and we could tell the cafeteria people what we wanted on our sandwich--"Herb flatbread, two slices of muenster cheese and chicken salad. Throw a few slices of tomato on and call it good. Thanks." Although the amount of people at the St. John's Newman Center significantly decreased (seeing as about 250 people left after being there for five weeks), our presence was not as strongly felt, but our silence was. This might be the story that takes the cake for me: one of the Newman Center worker's daughters sat across from one of the missionaries during dinner (some might know him as "the guy who punched a bear in the face"), stared him in the eyes and said in strong and confident tone, "Why ain't you talkin? Is it for school or somethin'?" He just nodded and continued eating, as anyone would do, right?

One evening after hearing the person behind me sneeze during dinner and not be able to respond I took the liberty upon myself to make up a list of,

"That awkward moment when you're on a silent retreat and..."

  • You forget your key card in your room and have to stalk the other people in the chapel to see who you can follow back up to your floor. Then actually follow them all the way back up. Embarrassed, and in silence.
  • The person behind you sneezes.
  • The dumpster catches on fire and you aren't sure if you're breaking the silence by doing something about it...(this didn't happen to us, fortunately, but it did on a previous silent retreat with a group of seminarians). As an FYI, that would not have been a wrong move to say something, in case you're wondering.
  • You aren't quite sure if talking to yourself is breaking the silence.
  • Someone holds the door for you and you can't thank them.
  • You're not sure if you should actually say, "Peace be with you" during Mass to another retreatant.
  • The same janitor audibly greets you every morning and you just feel rude not at least smiling in return.
  • The lunch ladies that usually tell us, "Have a great day!" don't say a word to us while swiping our cards at mealtimes.
  • You pass someone on the stairs and don't look at them.
  • You see Carrie Wagner and want to yell joyful things at and with her.
  • A student waves to you and you hear instant reprimanding from another FOCUS missionary ("Did you just wave at her?! You can't do that she's on a silent retreat!").
  • The fire alarm is going off in your room on the first night (Molly).
  • You begin to memorize people's eating patterns (Chris).
  • You know who wears the squeaky shoes in the chapel.
  • The silence ends and people go nuts.
But the retreat was certainly much more than awkward encounters, in fact, I actually personally encountered very few. It was filled with time for prayer and really spending time encountering the Lord in a new way. We used meditations written by St. Ignatius Loyola himself, the founder of the Jesuits, way back from the 16th century (they were really straightforward and allowed for a lot of creativity) and had four or five 1-hour "prayer periods" each day, where we would spend an hour contemplating a certain theme, aspect of Christ's life, and all personalizing the crap out of 'em. For example, when Jesus blessed and broke the bread at the last supper, spending time really setting the scene, seeing the people, hearing the conversations, watching their actions, and then imagining yourself sitting on the other side of the table, staring right into Jesus' loving and merciful eyes and hearing him say those very words, to you, with your name stitched in, "Take this, (your name here), it is my body given for you." So yeah, a lot of that.

I want to tell you everything that I experienced with Christ! ...but it's not exactly the kind of thing I can just spit out in a concise blog post and then after reading it you could say, "Oh how nice." I think the other retreat participants can relate to that because when you're spending over four hours a day devoted solely to Christ and getting to know Him better in silence, you'll probably be flooded with innumerable graces that are just really hard to describe. Praise God if that is the case, too! I think that I'll be unpacking these graces throughout the rest of the coming months and year and I do hope I can learn how to articulate them to share them with others! (In the words of Dr. Brian McAdam, "That one grace may be shared by many.") It was as if God in all his infinite wisdom, goodness and mercy has been following me around, patiently waiting for the opportune moment to pounce and trap me in a corner where I could not keep escaping him and avoiding his intense gaze. Moments popped up during the retreat where I thought, "Oh, this doesn't matter, I don't need to do this meditation, I just want to leave," but my pride would not allow it--which shows that God can even use our weaknesses for good! And so with the helpful words from my spiritual director and submitting my whole self to Christ, I experienced an immense deepening of that relationship and what it really means when Jesus says to me, Kelsey, I love you and I desire to be with you

On the ride back today as I was listening to Mumford and Sons (obviously), one of the lines in their song, White Blank Page took on a completely new meaning. I just can't get enough of the Mum and if I ever take a road trip longer than an hour, it is without question that I'll listen to their entire CD at least one or three times. They're. just. so. gooood. But anyway, as this line sank in I realized it completely reflects what God spoke to me this week, and continues speaking to me each day:

You desired my attention but denied my affections, my affections. 

Over the past several years my greatest desire has been deep intimacy with the Lord, and I continually do things to try to draw nearer, but in the times when He's tried to completely shower me in His love, I've often turned the other cheek. I bought into lies. I convinced myself that God desired to punish me for my sins, or that there was just no way GOD would ever really want to invest in measly little ME. And the list goes on. Turns out He really, and I mean really does want to spend time with me, just because He wants to. He began to shatter many of those lies with the truth of what he desires me to know about Him and about myself and I am so excited for the new chapter in the story of our relationship! The Lord really is kind and merciful, and He meets us on our own terms. Shoot, just check out the story of Jesus appearing to Thomas after the resurrection. Talk about meeting someone where they're at!

I wish I could go on and on and tell you everything, but alas, the clean sheets on my bed, at home in my little room in Prairie du Sac, have been calling my name for the last six weeks, and have never looked so good. So happy to be home. Mom and dad's little "girlie" is back.


  1. Beautiful, Kels. I pray you may be reminded of these graces and experiences whenever you are in doubt. Love you.

  2. Insert proud mamma here :) I love your words and they always make my heart full to read them.