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February 24, 2007
One retreat day yesterday, for the sisters alone, and then one today for the public. For these retreatants -- accustomed to silence, delivered years ago from the compulsion to fill it with chatter -- the day was a welcome break from the duties of a life that is much busier than most people outside convents think it is. And for the retreat leader, the same: I gave my talks and spent the rest of the day in a chair by a window in the old house, reading and watching birds come and go at the feeder. Once in a while someone would come for a quiet talk but, for the most part, the day was silent.

I dozed in my chair. I went out for a walk. I drank tea. I read my book. Leading retreats isn't like going on them: it's work, and I'm weary at the end of one. But this day, in the quiet congenial company of the sisters, was restorative. I was tired at the end, of course, but I was not depleted.

We had talked of prayer, of how centering prayer can prepare us to let God into those things we cannot do on our own, of how we can pray for someone whose still makes us so angry we can barely breathe. We talked of prayer in discernment -- how do we decide what to do in life? Nothing we said would qualify as rocket science, but it was all important.

There were phone messages at home when I arrived, little pieces of news from the day, small tasks. I found myself annoyed by them, wishing for the silence instead, wishing I had been able to stay the night at the convent. I showed my irritation, and was immediately sorry, and I was surprised at myself -- it's not much of an advertisement for a retreat to come snarling home. There were better things to do with my tiredness than that.

Today is another day. There will be more people there; it will be more tiring, for sure. But perhaps I can slide back home more gracefully when I finish. I will ask God to help me do that, to extend in me the gift of silence, to help me keep the peace alive when the retreat is over. I will ask for the sense to rest until I am no longer tired. God is patient and good -- every morning we get the chance to try again.
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