GERMANY/SWITZERLAND, Melanie and Ulrich Grauert •
From the 27th of November to the 01st of December it was time again. Finally! Silent retreat for leaders with Fr. Michael Hagan of the Schoenstatt Fathers. The business year was slowly ending, the budgets for the coming year were more or less finalized, the forces were once again strained in the final spurt towards Christmas, and this short time out from Sunday evening to Thursday noon came just at the right time. —
You could just about cut yourself out of the densely packed time, arrive Sunday evening, go into hiding Monday to Thursday, and then you could be available again on Thursday afternoon – if you wanted to. Yes, if you wanted to, then that was once again a really given, wonderful time out, a real short vacation, quiet time, time to swim free again inwardly, to reorient, to start the growth process of the soul anew.
Just breathe deeply
We were six participants from Switzerland and Germany, men, women, one couple. Sunday evening was arrival, sharing together, getting to know each other and a brief introduction to the silent days of the silent retreat. We were encouraged to simply turn off our laptops and cell phones until Thursday. Uiih….I wonder if that will work? And how! From Sunday evening on, silence was the order of the day and we immersed ourselves in “JUST BREATHE”, which is the motto of the silent retreat.
The days were pleasantly ordered and always the same: Eight o’clock morning prayer in the shrine, followed by breakfast, a first impulse by Fr. Michael at quarter past nine, then free time with lunch and coffee until the second impulse at half past three, Holy Mass at half past five, followed by dinner and in the evening a common review of the day in the shrine with adoration.
There was plenty of time to go for a walk, to sleep, and above all to write – write – write. To write down everything that awakens, first of all to write without sorting, without judging, what awakens in my soul? All of a sudden, a universe opens up, a view into our inner microcosm, our own inner world, which is so often unknown and unexplored. Then the words of Father Joseph Kentenich helped: “…Therefore, forward! Yes, forward in the exploration and conquest of our inner world through purposeful self-education…. recovering the reverent amazement of…our abiding dependence on a greater, intangible – on God….” (from “Founding Document, 1914” and “Being a Child before God, 1937, p.10, Fr. Joseph Kentenich).
During the first two days, Fr. Michael guided us carefully but purposefully to enter and dwell in silence. This allowed personal themes to awaken. It felt almost like an individual retreat. He responded to the needs of the individual participants and designed the impulses in such a way that everyone had enough topics to work on in silence and that in a very personal way. One participant said: “For me it was first of all very important to come to rest. I was up to my eyeballs in stress before and was able to come to myself very quickly in the atmosphere.”
One question was always at the forefront, “…What is ‘my’ issue…?”
Out into my work and family world
Then later it went from the inner world increasingly ‘out’ into the world around us, especially our work but also family world. Father Kentenich said about this: “We must struggle in all ways for an integration of the personality…. It is about a final freedom from oneself and deepest security in God in the midst of all commitment and in all conflict…” (“Being a Child before God, p. 270ff). Yes, then we had fully arrived in the working life in the ‘real, real world’, into which we would soon dive again. One thought did us good: My work is apostolate – My work is worship – My work is prayer. Even though many things would soon want to go haywire again, these three things go hand in hand and are doable despite dense, daily demands: Work-Apostolate-Prayer – all in one. Even when things have come up that have been unpleasant, that have been demanding, that may almost crush you at times, we still have the encouragement, “Cast your cares on the Lord, he upholds you” (Psalm 55:23)
“It was worth the wait”
We would like to conclude with words from participants
“After the first impulse and the subsequent silence, I note in my book: ‘I am sitting in the waiting room, waiting for myself. It was worth the wait, and it did me a lot of good to become quiet, to listen to my soul. Accompanied by the precious impulses of Father Michael Hagan and the ever-present thoughts of Father Kentenich, my interior slowly sorted itself out. Thoughts became clearer, aspirations and goals took shape, and priorities solidified. The time for prayer and the daily services also did a lot of good. I hope that this valuable time will continue to have an effect for a long time. I took away innovative ideas both for myself personally and for my work, and I hope that they will remain in my daily life. Although we participants were silent with each other and did not know each other, I very quickly had the feeling that a group feeling had developed in being silent and praying together. It was a very benevolent and uplifting atmosphere.”
Original: German, 11.12.2022. Translation: Maria Fischer @schoenstatt.org