Finding Fulfillment in Silence
Reflection by Ron Arody
In life there lies an uncomfortable excitement in doing something new, with someone new, somewhere new. This is what I was feeling when I drove through the gates of the Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, CA for the Men’s Silent Retreat on September 21st. This would be my first retreat, my first silent weekend and my complete immersion into the Catholic faith.
I was raised Hindu and am on a journey to becoming Catholic. Although I have been surrounded by Catholics my entire life, I am new to some of the beautiful Catholic traditions. So, coming to this retreat not knowing what to expect did make me a bit uncomfortable. The magic of Mater Dolorosa is felt the minute you drive through the gates; you feel a “presence.” This “presence” will put you at ease and prep you for the little miracles you are going to experience throughout the weekend. I knew it was going to be a special weekend when I got out of my car and saw three deer hanging out in the parking lot. I signed in, got to my room and was ready for the experience.
At dinner on Friday, I was very confused because it was to be a silent retreat and everyone was talking. I thought to myself “there is no way I am going to get anything out of this weekend if all we do is talk”. Then at the Welcome presentation they announced the retreat would now be officially “silent.” There is a very special bond created with your fellow man knowing God has chosen them to be there to address their life and come back to Him. A bond was created in silence and I did not realize how strong it was until the last day. I spent the rest of the weekend attending presentations and praying/talking to God. There were over 110 people at the retreat, but you get so consumed in your conversation with God, you don’t even realize how much time has passed. At one time, I was so deep in my meditative state there were deer five feet from me and I had not even noticed. The Passionists will tell you that in the silence you will hear the voice of God, feel the love of God, and find inner peace. What you end up feeling is truly indescribable. Through life’s good and bad times, I have always felt an emptiness in my soul, something missing in my life. For the first time ever, I was filled to the brim, even overflowing with gratitude & love for everything & everyone. I felt God’s presence near me, the Holy Spirit in me; it is the most powerful yet humbling experience. This is by far the greatest spiritual experience of my life and it has truly transformed me. The changes might be slow but there are changes. To end the retreat, a complete stranger came up to me and gave me a rosary with a note followed by a hug. The note read “good luck on your journey to finding God. Christ loves you & God bless.” There was a bond created among strangers in silence and the only thing we had in common was the undeniable love we felt from God and each other.
I would like to thank Father Mike, Deacon Manuel, Juliet Marsh, Brother John & Gus for all their guidance, hospitality and kindness. Most importantly, I would like to thank Father Gerard for suggesting and making the retreat possible for me. I am recommending for my wife & all of you to go on a silent retreat to find inner peace and have your conversation with God.
Take a moment to enjoy the pictures Ron took of Mater Dolorosa in the Retreats Photo Album.
Many thanks to Ron for sharing these with us. May the Holy Spirit be with him in his journey to baptism.