As I reflect on all the ways I have grown during the past two months, I can see how God is using both the challenges and joys of youth ministry to shape me into the person I am becoming. In this new season of my life, I want to learn as much as possible about the daily responsibilities of retreat ministry, while also making time to reflect on my experiences and care for my relationship with God.
Before I began the Ignite internship, I knew I wanted a way to remember both the small and grand ways I would encounter God through my daily life and ministry at the Jesuit Spiritual Center. In September, I began recording one second videos of my daily life. Many of the videos capture the high energy moments of retreats, such as ice breakers or team building activities. But, I have also found God in the quieter moments of the past two months in Milford.
For instance, I have seen God in community dinners at the Rock House and Saturday kayaking trips on the Little Miami River. However, the spirit of peace I have found here is difficult to capture in a short video montage. The Peace of God I have found at the Jesuit Spiritual Center is a life changing gift I hope to offer in some way (no matter how small!) to every retreatant I encounter this year. One powerful way I have experienced peace is in my encounter with God in silence.
One retreat format the JSC youth team often facilitates is a two-day retreat for high school juniors. The overnight retreat provides the opportunity for students to step away from the busyness of their daily lives and school-work. Our hope is that students leave retreat refreshed and rested. We also pray they leave with the message that silence, community building, and faith sharing are not activities only reserved for retreats.
Nevertheless, we recognize that these spiritual practices can be challenging to live out once they leave the retreat center. One of our goals is to equip students with the tools needed to “retreat” in their everyday lives. This may mean practicing silence while driving to school without music playing, participating in community service, or spending more quality time with their family and friends.
On many retreats the youth team lead at Jesuit Spiritual Center, we invite retreatants into a period of silence toward the end of their retreat. For many students, this is their first experience with intentional silence.
Over the last month, I have made it a habit to spend at least a few of these moments in silence along with the retreatants. Some of my favorite memories at JSC have been made during these times of silent prayer. Stepping away from the preparations of ministry for even ten minutes of personal silence during retreat can be incredibly refreshing and energizing for me. In these moments of silence, I notice in a deeper way God’s presence in the nature and stillness of the grounds of the spiritual center.
Last March, I had the opportunity to attend a silent retreat during the spring break of my senior year. The silent retreat taught me that I do not always have to be doing something to glorify God. God calls us to “be more” not to “do more.”
In silence, Jesus reminds me that my relationship with Him is the most important aspect of my life. Silence has also taught me that God wants to meet me in the stillness. Saint Mother Teresa said, “in the silence of the heart God speaks.” I often wait for God to reveal himself to me in grand signs. Yet, God’s work in my life is often unhurried and quiet.
In the silence of my heart, Jesus reminds me that I am His Beloved and there is no failure or accomplishment that can change this truth about who and whose I am.