By Ricardo Márquez
After sharing a few days at a retreat in silence, we said goodbye in a circle where each participant shared the special moments of consolation and devastation they had experienced during the spiritual exercises.
The gift of silence was a recurring comment. Silence allowed us to discover and to feel, but to enter into it took time. We arrived with our minds stuffed with worries, schedules, pending tasks and responsibilities that we were going to be away from for a few days.
Being silent was not easy!
The spiritual guides invited us to center ourselves in the present, in the here and now, to walk in silence y allow ourselves to soak in the presence of the spirit of God, who manifests Himself in the natural beauty of the place.
They invited us to let go, open up, to trust in order to enter into our own consciousness, that place of interior intimacy where we encounter the mystery of our lives and the mystery of God, where we discover that the Lord is nearer to us than we are to ourselves, like St. Augustine would say, “Higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self,” (Confessions III, 6, 11).
To be in silence is to learn to be alone with oneself, to accompany oneself and to listen to the interior voices that can’t be heard above the din of daily life. To enter into silence can cause anxiety and fear — fear of seeing what we have not wanted to see.
In silence, doors could open that have been closed or repressed in our subconsciousness; old emotional wounds could be torn open stoking profound feelings once more, or raise shadows that stalk us again because we have not embraced them.
Silence, then, becomes an experience of getting to know our interior, of accepting who we are, of knowing our history, with all its lights and shadows … And, paradoxically, that is where we meet our Lord, where we meet the mystery of God who created us in His likeness and image, who loves us unconditionally —and that experience heals.
In the circle where we said goodbye, we opened our souls — when you build a sense of trust and security, souls emerge and make themselves known. We listened to each other attentively; when someone shared, I could recognize pieces of my own existence in the account. We spoke about our sorrows, of our infancy, of difficult moments of abuse, infidelity and addiction … We spoke about the people who accompanied us and sustained us, who offered us their confidence and love, even in the most unexpected moments. We recognized the presence of the grace and love of God through many anonymous “angels” He put in our way.
When our circle ended, there was a special feeling in the air, a dense energy that quantum physics would call a “magnetic field” but what believers recognized as the presence of the Spirit of God, something transcendent, infinite and mysterious that can be felt but is indescribable.
I felt what it was like to be “one” with all, to be a brother, to be a part of one single body … a glimpse of the Kingdom promised by Jesus for those who love each other. When brothers come together and share what the Lord has constructed in our lives and recognize each other as equals, we experience that love knows no hierarchies, that no one can be considered above another or think of someone as being beneath. If we look at each other with appreciation, compassion and love, we can observe what I am in the other and can truly say: “I am you.” And we can experience the saving grace of what Jesus called us to do: “Love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
Ricardo Márquez is associate director of the Diocese of San Diego’s Office for Family Life & Spirituality.