Living in this crazy, instantaneous, social-media-driven, can’t-live-without-a-phone world these days can be distracting, to say the very least. It can also be wild and wonderful, but let’s talk about that another day. Taking time to disconnect for a few days – usually in the spring – has become an annual tradition of mine. It’s both important to me and for me to do this. The place I’ve headed to nine times now is Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House in Lake Dallas.
A place that is peaceful, tranquil, reflective, joyful, beautiful, and quiet. It allows me to rest and just be, even if I’m ‘busy’ exploring the grounds, reading, journaling or walking up and down the 1/2 mile long drive.
On the days leading up to this time, the anticipation is always welcome and when I turn onto that long driveway and pass through the gate I can feel the tension beginning to ebb away and almost hear the naps and relaxation calling my name.
The retreat leader encourages all of us attending to let go of our expectations and agendas and to just enjoy the time. Allowing God to lead us where we need to go while resting in his presence is freeing and takes the pressure off of finding the answer to whatever it is on my mind.
This ‘letting go’ has resulted in retreats where I did nothing but rest and other retreats have resulted in realizing things God was trying to tell me but which I couldn’t hear. You know, because of how often I allow myself to get caught up in the busyness of life. Either way, I’m enjoying the surrounding landscape beauty – both inside and outside.
My time at Montserrat has allowed me to experience thunderstorms rolling in across the lake as well as basking in the warmth of the sun while gently swinging in a hammock or a porch swing. I’ve listened to the rain from a rocker on the covered lake-front porch and from an open window in my room as I lay resting while also being treated to an abundance of stunning sunrises in the quiet of a mesmerizing morning. I’ve sat in the dining room and spread notes and books out on the table in front of me while appreciating the view and writing in my journal. I’ve relished the many different varieties of birds as they’ve played, dive-bombed for fish, pecked at the ground and sang from the trees or birdhouses. I’ve knelt in the chapel and prayed when it was so quiet the stillness was almost heavy. One of my favorites is sitting next to the fountain with the gentle trickle of water that is so soothing you can’t help but relax. I’ve walked and prayed on the rosary path and sat in front of a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with his arms open. I’ve walked and/or run the driveway and circumference of the property countless times while marveling at the abundance of wildflowers and wildlife. All of this leads to a reverence for the beauty of creation and appreciation of all that our Creator has given to us.
The retreat sessions or prayer conferences, as they are called, are enlightening and thought-provoking. Each retreat leader brings a different personality and the ability to help us work through the Spiritual Exercises in a variety of ways.
So many opportunities to pray, reflect, read, write and be still.
It sounds great, doesn’t it?
Trust me, it is.
Full disclosure means I also have to share that this retreat is silent. While I know that one element is a deal-breaker for most I would love it if more of us could find the time and, I don’t know…courage(?) to experience it. In all fairness, too, silence doesn’t mean I don’t open my mouth for 3 days – there are opportunities to speak like offering the sign of peace during Mass or signing up to speak with one of the priests or spiritual directors. I can also speak out loud at any time to God in my prayers – just not where I would be a distraction to those around me.
Montserrat has become an important part of my faith life. I look forward to more wonderful, soul-refreshing experiences there.
If you would like more information about the facility or making a retreat here see their website Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House