My middle and high school boys left this afternoon for a weekend fall camp with their church youth group. At $275 for the two of them, I hope it is a life-changing experience. My husband and I could have had a nice romantic getaway at a bed and breakfast for the same price. However, I remember how much I enjoyed weekend retreats as a student and want the same for them. That time away was a wonderful break from my hectic high school life. We rode on those cramped 15-passenger vans to a camp where the cabins were heated by kerosene heaters and we had a dark, cold walk to the smelly latrines. We heard inspirational speakers and shared our lives around the bonfires. We laughed, we cried, we pulled the crazy stunts that teenagers do, but in the end, we loved each other well. New friendships were forged and good friendships were solidified during those trips.
It was also a time for me to be alone for a while and re-connect with my soul and with God. One of the most interesting retreats I went on while in college was a silent retreat, and yes, I mean a group of college students together for a weekend with no talking, except for a debriefing discussion at the end. It was challenging, particularly at mealtime when you had to motion to pass the peas. It made me keenly aware of how much noise filled our every waking moment and how ill equipped we were to deal with silence. At the same time, there was a peacefulness to the time that was beyond explanation. Inconvenient? Yes. But conducive to a more intimate time with God? Absolutely. As Mother Teresa pointed out, ” We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…. We need silence to be able to touch souls.” That must be why I always feel refreshed after some time alone in nature – that is where I meet God and my soul is filled so that I can come back and touch the souls of others. I pray that my sons come back with their souls filled with the beauty and silence of the nature that surrounds them and that they will touch the souls of others when they return.