In case you missed it: Thirty Days of Beauty continued this week. It was really all I wrote this week, since I was in Houston visiting my sister, and didn't bring the laptop with me. So go enjoy those posts. :)
I will be updating my Houston Postcard next week with the places I did this trip, so it will be more Comprehensive for all you Houston-bound people!
When I was in Houston I did a lot of sketching, including making a point of taking my supplies to the beach at Galveston. I knew that the paint would dry faster in the heat, but I wasn't prepared for how much faster. Still, I'm pretty happy with what I managed to get.
If you follow me on Instagram, you are aware that my sister has a cat. Bella is a pretty sweet kitty, who flicks her tail whenever you say her name, and likes to try to get extra kibble out of the automatic feeder. (My sister is a nurse who works night shift, so automatic feeding for Bella is a good thing!) She discovered that by moving her paw under the slot, she could get extra kibble to drop down. Sometimes. Never having lived with a cat, I was hugely amused by her behavior.
There were FOUR bookstores visited on this trip, guys. FOUR. One of them, yes, was a Barnes and Noble, and I wasn't there for very long, but still. FOUR!
Brazos, of course. I introduced Melanie to its beautiful-ness. Small but mighty.
We checked out Galveston Bookshop--didn't buy anything, though. It looked like it might be a decent place to prowl around and look for books. It's mostly used books, with some new, and they have an excellent collection of books about Galveston and Texas, if that's your thing. They also have a shop cat!
The last shop we visited was Murder By the Book, which was excellent. It's a lot more than mystery novels (at first I was like, mystery novels are not my thing), but I had a lot of fun here. More about this guy later.
This chocolate cake, people. THIS CHOCOLATE CAKE:
Does it remind you of this scene in Matilda, or what?!
It reminded me of that. :) And Mel and I love Matilda. So extra bonus points.
And no. I did not eat that entire piece. Do I look crazy? But it was magically delicious.
One of the things that I'm terrible at vis-a-vis traveling is unpacking. My suitcase sits in the main room and is gradually unpacked over a series of days. The longer the trip, the longer it takes to sort everything out!
I wrote a piece for the Cochlear Website about my Jeopardy! experience. You can read it here.
It went up on Tuesday when I was in Texas so I didn't have time to write about it. :) But here you go!
We're going all music today. Three of my favorites:
Today's a little different:
Movie recommendation: The Wizard of Oz. My all-time favorite movie.
Today's music: an obvious choice
Today is a really beautiful thing--my sister's birthday. :)
She is a beautiful person, indeed. I'm so glad she's my sister.
It is also this lovely lady's birthday, my cousin, Diane. She also lives in Houston, and I'm celebrating with her today, as well!
The happiest days are when babies come.
--Melanie Wilkes, Gone With The Wind
(And my sister's namesake. Not kidding.)
Book recommendation: 1000 Gifts, Ann Voskamp.
Today's music, from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two
Until the election, I'm doing 30 Days of Beauty. It's a series where I post images, book and movie recommendations, and music to serve as a bit of peace and loveliness in the crazy. They're not very long, but hopefully you enjoy them as much as I've enjoyed putting them together!
Makeup recommendation time (this is where all the guys scroll down!): Best mascara I've ever tried is Maybelline's Last Stiletto. Seriously. Try it. Works just as well as Lancome's Definicils and better than any Bobbi Brown I've tried. Needed to share this with y'all.
I am going to Houston on Sunday! My sister's birthday is on Monday and she wanted me to come visit her, so I am complying. I'll be there for a few days.
The extra-fun part is that my sister shares a birthday with two of our cousins, one of which also lives in Houston. So it's gonna be one big party. Yay!
(I do love birthdays. So much.)
On Tuesday we're going to the beach. Here's how that conversation went:
Mel: So we'll go to the beach on Tuesday.
Me: Guess I won't need to pack my sweater, then....
It's going to 90 when I'm there. The beach in October? That just seems wrong.
Oh well! Better than not being on the beach, right?
I haven't been to Houston in about five years, so I'm excited to go back. I also get to meet my sister's boyfriend, whom I haven't met yet. Hopefully I don't scare him away. :-P
The TSA agents really do not help women. I mean, seriously. ONE little bag to carry on of toiletries? This, and my meds, is why I have to check baggage. Seriously. I need more than one little baggie, TSA people.
(First world problem, I know. At least I'm flying Southwest and my checked bag is free.)
Hockey season has begun and my heart is happy. Hockey season always makes me happy. Except when/if my teams are tanking. I don't want that to happen. That's not happy.
Don't let perfectionism stymie you. Do the best you can.
Today's music. It's sort of sad, but I love this piece from the beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One.
And today's tune:
Today's suggestion: things to do before you go online.
I know. To read this, you had to go online. But after you read this--do one of these things.
And some music:
The election is in 30 days.
Are we all tired of it yet? I am.
So here's what I propose: 30 days of beauty. Thirty days of things that feed our souls, instead of dragging us down into the political muck. Thirty days of the true, beautiful, lovely, and good, as St. Paul says. Starting today.
It might be a photo, a book recommendation, a quote, bits of music...but there will be something here that hopefully will inspire you and bring some beauty to your life in the midst of a lot of chaos and ugliness.
Here's today's, from Ann Voskamp:
And some music:
See you tomorrow!
While we're all called o be saint, what exactly is a saint, and how do we do it? And how do people like Mother Teresa et al. get those cool ceremonies and get added to the church calendar?
First off, a saint is anyone who is in Heaven. If your grandma died, and is in Heaven, she's a saint. (YOU ARE NOT AN ANGEL WHEN YOU DIE.) Everyone in Heaven is a saint.
However, we don't know if your grandma is in Heaven. Canonized saints, on the other hand, because of lots of evidence, are people that the Church is sure are in Heaven. They go on the official list of saints, called the "canon." Thus: Canonized saints.
(A little note here: the Church doesn't "make" saints. God makes saints. We just recognize 'em.)
The canonization process is a long one, and there are several levels in it. The process was updated in 1983 by Pope St. John Paul II, so it's not the same as it was back in the Middle Ages, etc. I'm describing the new process here.
How to be a saint--in four steps:
The process of canonization begins in the deceased own diocese. So, for example, if someone died in Columbus, OH, then the Diocese of Columbus is the place where the process would start. The bishop gives permission to open the investigation into the virtue of the deceased individual. Usually this happens no sooner than five years after the person's death. In the cases of St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta, this process was expedited. (At Pope St. John Paul II's funeral, there were signs that read Santo Subito--sainthood now!) (This period was also waved in the instance of Sister Lucia Santos, the last surviving Fatima visionary, who died in 2005--a little less than two months before the death of Pope St. John Paul II).
A guild/organization of people who want the individual canonized is created, and an exhaustive search for the person's writings, speeches, etc. is done. A detailed biography is also written.
When sufficient documents and evidence are gathered, the material is presented to the Roman Curia, specifically the Congregation for Causes of Saints. Here, the deceased is assigned a postulator, who gathers more information about the person's life. At this point, the person is called a servant of God. Relics are taken at this point. (More on relics next week!)
When enough information has been gathered, the Congregation will make a recommendation to the pope that he declare the deceased possessed "heroic virtue" (What does that mean? Here's wikipedia:
that is, that the servant exhibited the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, to a heroic degree
Once the declaration is made, the person is officially Venerable. He doesn't have a feast day, no churches can be built in his honor, and the Church isn't declaring for sure that this person is in Heaven. However, prayer cards may be printed, and people may ask for this person's intercession.
This is where miracles start to come in. People can pray to venerable/blessed for him to intercede before God for their petition. A miracle is a sign that the person is in Heaven. However, it has to be through that particular person's intercession. (An example can be found here.)
The last step before sainthood is beatification. This is a statement by the church that proclaims it is "worthy of belief" that the deceased is in Heaven. The person is either a martyr or a "confessor" (no, that doesn't mean a person that heard confessions. Perfectly reasonable assumption, though!).
A martyr is a person who died voluntarily for his faith or in an act of heroic charity for others (St. Maximilian Kolbe is an example of the latter. If you don't know his story, read that link right now. He's awesome.)
A confessor is someone who "confessed" his faith by how he lived his life. So if you're not a martyr, you're a confessor. If you're in this category, then at least one miracle attributed to your intercession has to happen. (For example, in Mother Teresa's case, there had to be a miracle, which you can read about in this article.) Usually today these are miraculous cures, which are verified via a lot of medical testing, inquiry, etc. You can't just say it was a miracle; it has to be proven, as far as possible, via a lot of science.
A Blessed gets a feast day, which is usually only celebrated in the blessed's home diocese or religious order.
Finally, sainthood is announced when at least two miracles have been attributed to the person's intercession (if the person wasn't a martyr. If you're a martyr, just one suffices.) Canonization means the church is certain that this person is in Heaven and enjoys the Beatific Vision. (I love that phrase)
The saint gets a feast day, churches may be built in the person's honor, and the faithful may freely celebrate this saint.
The canonization ceremony involves a Mass. A tapestry is made of the saint and is displayed during the Mass itself.
As you can see, it's a long process, and obviously, not everyone in Heaven is a canonized saint. But as Mother Angelica used to say, "Where most men work for letters after their name, we work for ones before our name: St."
We are called to be great saints. Don't miss the opportunity!
Who's your favorite saint?
This past weekend, I went on a silent retreat offered by the Catholic Laywomen's Retreat League in my diocese. So, after a day or two to let my thoughts coalesce, I bring you the fruits of my contemplation!
Three things I learned on Retreat:
Go Deep Into the Word
I'm afraid that regular Bible reading has never been on my list of things I do. I do lots of other spiritual reading. And of course, as I say the Office every day, I'm reading/praying scripture, particularly the psalms. But a regular habit of Bible reading has always eluded me. In retreat, I pondered this. I read so much otherwise, why in the world wasn't I reading the Bible regularly?
I think part of it was I allowed myself to say, "Oh, I'm not good at lectio." And I'm not, really. But at the same time, do I have to do lectio? No. I can just read the Bible and ponder what I've read without making a whole big production out of it.
So I am going to get Deep into the Word. The retreat began on the feast of St. Jerome, who gave us the Latin Vulgate, and who famously said "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." No more ignorance. I'm daily diving into the Word and seeing what fruit it reaps.
My patron saint, St. Thérèse, had this to say about the Gospels:
But above all, it's the Gospels that occupy my mind when I'm at prayer; my poor soul has so many needs and yet this is the only thing needful. I'm always finding fresh lights there, hidden and enthralling meanings.
Daily Mass Must Be a Priority
I "try" to make it to Daily Mass--not every day, but at least once a week. I put "try" in quotation marks because I don't really try. I don't put it in my schedule at the beginning of the week. That changes. Now when I do my weekly schedule, I'm going to ensure that once a week, Mass is written in.
Mass is the "source and summit of Christian life" . If I believe that, I need to be getting myself to Mass ore than just on Sunday.
Seek to be Eucharistic souls! Hunger and thirst to eat this living miracle; nourish yourselves with it! ... Let your Mass be the center of your day. Everything must flow for you from your daily Mass, and everything must culminate in it. Your day, because you have willed it, must be a thanksgiving for the Mass you attended that day and a preparation for the Mass you will attend the next day...Do everything possible to facilitate daily Communion. ...
You will not live this life of holiness, confidence, abandonment, and peace which I have preached to you so far, except in the measure to which you drink at the fountain of living water, the fountain which flows unto eternal life, the fountain of the altar.
--Fr. Jean C. J. D'Elbée, I Believe In Love: A personal retreat based on the teaching of St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Confidence, Abandonment, Trust
These three things are all interconnected. And it's sort of hard to explain. But I'm gonna try!
St. Thérèse knew that Jesus calls us just as we are. If you remember Bridget Jones' Diary, think of the scene when Mark Darcy tells Bridget, "No, I like you very much. Just as you are." Same principle at work here. Jesus knows that we are small and frail humans. But if we count on Him to help us, to make up for what we do badly, then we are well on our way to confident trust. "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me," as St. Paul says. (Phil. 4:13) We have to be confident and trust that Jesus will help us. "Never be discouraged by your faults," Fr. D'Elbée writes. As long as we are trying, advancing, then we're growing in holiness. It's when we think we're done, or we back slide, that there's a problem.
We have to abandon ourselves to Christ. "We open our arms to him," Fr. D'Elbée continues, "yet we close the doors of our intelligence, of our will, of our heart, but not living in this abandonment. We bid Him come, but we do not permit Him to enter...'What shall I do? How shall I do it?' listen to Him saying to you, 'Let me do it.'"
This doesn't mean that I don't plan, that I don't try my best! "Yes, do everything as if it all depended on you, and leave the result to the Divine Master, on whom everything really depends." (I Believe in Love 91)
Mother Angelica talked a lot about the present moment, and that's involved here, too. What is happening to us in each moment is God's will for us.
So in reading these chapters and bringing them to prayer, I realized that event hough I'm working on these things, I need to work on abandonment and real love--loving Jesus every moment, in every action, knowing that Jesus sees my heart and knows me better than I'll ever know myself.
In Romeo and Juliet, the apothecary that sells Romeo the forbidden poison does so because he's under financial strain. "My poverty, but not my will, consents," he tells Romeo. "I pay thy poverty, and not thy will," is Romeo's reply as he receives the deadly draught. It's the same way here. Our nature might rebel against something. We might have thoughts or feelings that come and that we don't like. But if we don't will them, if we work against them, then we're making progress.
It is confidence and nothing but confidence which will lead us to love.
In September, I only read a few new books; I was mostly doing re-reading. So this list is shorter than usual! But here we go:
*The Daniel Plan: A good friend of mine challenged me to do the 10 day Detox from this book. So I thought I should probably read the book. The book does a good job talking about faith, nutrition, fitness, and how having a good support system can help you through any sort of weight-loss plan. Rick Warren is one of the authors, so I knew he and I would have a radically different "faith" plan; I skimmed most of that chapter. However, I did take from it the idea of spending at least 10 minutes a day with the New Testament--something that was also laid on my heart during my retreat this past weekend (more about that tomorrow). So That's a benefit!
The book also has a lot of recipes. Some of them, like the strawberry chocolate protein shake, are keepers and are in my regular rotation. Some of them were just not well-written and you ended up with seriously uncooked or overcooked food! So that was a mixed bag. But I did learn a few good things from this book and I like the focus on whole foods and reducing sugar. I've actually cut out soda almost completely as a result of this. The one thing remaining is the Diet Chocolate Cokes from Johnny Rockets. Because those are just good.
*The Fringe Hours: I've been hearing good things about this book forever, but it's nearly impossible to find a copy! So when I found one I immediately snatched it up. It's sort of along the lines of The Best Yes (although that book is better)--it talks about the need to find "fringe hours" in our lives for self-care, creativity, etc.
Honestly, though, I didn't like it as much as I hoped I would. One of the things that deterred me was that it seemed written mostly for working moms. So that, alone, didn't help me all that much. The other thing was that it seemed aimed at well-to-do working moms. One of her suggestions is to have someone come clean your house regularly so you can do "you" things.
Now, I'm not against having someone clean your house! There was a time in my own family's life when we had someone clean the house regularly. Sometimes you just need that extra help. But the way the author was suggesting it, it came across as "spend the money that you're working yourself to death to earn on cleaning the house so that you can spend more time on you so you won't feel guilty about not having a clean house. Or spending time on you. " It seemed odd to me, and not sustainable. If, as the book suggests, you're going to work these new habits into your daily life (to prevent burnout, etc.) is having a housekeeper sustainable? Forever? Probably not. So you're stuck when the housekeeper is gone and you're back to square one.
I thought The Best Yes did a much better job talking about this from a much more solidly Christian perspective. But that might just be me.
*Michael Vey: The Fall of Hades. I'm a big fan of Richard Paul Evans, and Michael Vey is his YA series. Michael Vey is a teenager from Idaho who has a big secret: He has special electrical powers. He always tried to keep them hidden, but that's no longer possible when his girlfriend, Taylor--who has the same powers--is kidnapped. Michael and his friends go to rescue her, but soon find out a few things: there are more electric children, and the people who kidnapped Taylor want to use the children's power to enslave the world's population for their own ends.
This is the sixth book in the series, with a seventh coming out next fall. I really love this series. It's well-written, funny, and the characters are morally serious. Just because it's a YA series doesn't mean big issues aren't discussed, which I appreciate.
*Apple Valley: My friend Andrea lent this quartet of books to me. They are her favorite books in the world, and she insisted I read them. So I did. The focus on a girl named DeLanna Robinsohn, living in Pennsylvania farm country in the early 19th century. The series chronicles her life from early childhood, where she was adored by her father but had a tempestuous relationship with her mother, her inability to follow social convention, early marriage, and eventual move to the Firelands of Ohio (where Sandusky, etc. is today) with her husband.
I didn't know anything about the Firelands' history when I started reading these books, so I enjoyed learning more about the history of my state. The historical aspects are well done. I don't think you can even find these books in print anymore, unless you're in a library that still has them. Sure, sometimes the writing is a bit...strange. But they're really quick reads, and DeLanna is a sympathetic character. If you liked the Little House books as a kid, you'll most likely enjoy these.
The rosary is one of those stereotypical Catholic things: if someone is a Catholic on TV, chances are that at some point, either a rosary or a medal will be pulled out to indicate the person's Catholicism. Sometimes you see them dangling from rearview mirrors (which makes me cringe). There's really no doubt that the rosary is a Big Thing in Catholicism.
But what the heck is it?
The rosary is a series of prayers. The rosary itself--the physical object--is what's called a chaplet, because there's not a bead for every decade (known as a 15 or 20 decade rosary). The "normal" rosary you see is a five decade chaplet. Many religious orders wear the complete rosary as part of their habit.
The rosary is made up of four main prayers: The Our Father, The Hail Mary, the Apostles' Creed, and the Glory Be. The bulk of the rosary is Hail Marys. There are 20 decades--sets of 10 beads--divided into four categories, arranged around the life of Jesus. These are the "mysteries of the rosary."
The mysteries are: (with Biblical citations in parentheses; I haven't listed all the appropriate scriptures, in some cases)
The Joyful Mysteries
1. The Annunciation: The Angel Gabriel appears to Mary and she agrees to be the Mother of the Savior (Lk. 1: 26-8)
2. The Visitation: Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with St. John the Baptist. (Lk 1: 39-56)
3. The Nativity: Jesus is born in Bethlehem (Lk. 2:1-20)
4. The Presentation in the Temple: Mary and Jesus dedicate Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem. (Lk. 2:22-38)
5. Finding the Child Jesus: Joseph and Mary find Jesus, after three days of being lost, in the Temple, teaching to the elders, scribes, etc. . (Lk 2: 41-51)
The Luminous Mysteries (introduced by St. John Paul II in 2002)
1. The Baptism in the Jordan: John baptizes Jesus (Mk 1:9-11)
2. The Wedding Feast at Cana: Jesus turns water into wine--his first miracle (Jn 2: 1-11)
3. The Preaching of the Kingdom: This mystery contains all of Jesus' public works: preaching, miracles, etc. (Mt, Mk, Lk, Jn)
4. The Transfiguration: Jesus' divinity is revealed before three of his Apostles, along with visions of Elijah and Moses. (Mt 17:1-9)
5. The Institution of the Holy Eucharist: Jesus gives the apostles His Body and Blood at the Last Supper, under the appearance of bread and wine. (Lk. 22:14-20, Mt. 26: 26-29, Mk 14: 22-25)
The Sorrowful Mysteries
1. The Agony in the Garden: Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest. (Mk. 32-42)
2. The Scourging at the Pillar: Jesus is beaten by the Roman soldiers (Jn. 19:1)
3. The Crowning of Thorns: Jesus is mocked by the Roman soldiers; a crown of thorns is made and pushed onto His head. (Jn 19:2)
4. The Carrying of the Cross: Jesus carries His cross through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha (Mt 27:32-34; Mk 15:20-33; Lk 23:26-31; Jn 19: 16-18
5. The Crucifixion: Jesus is crucified and dies. (Mk 15:33-40; Lk 23:32-56, Jn 19: 19-42)
The Glorious Mysteries
1. The Resurrection: Jesus rises from the dead (Mt 28: 1-10; Mk 16:1-8; Lk 24: 1-12; Jn 20:1-23)
2. The Ascension: Jesus bodily returns to His Father in Heaven (Mt. 28:16-20; Lk 24:50-53; Acts 1:1-11)
3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit comes upon the Apostles on Pentecost (Acts 2: 1-43)
4. The Assumption: Mary is assumed, body and soul, into Heaven
5. Mary is Crowned Queen of Heaven: Mary enters into Heaven and receives the rewards of the Just.
Did you notice a few things about this? Even though the "Hail Mary" is what's said on the 10 beads of each decade, most of these mysteries are Christocentric--meaning, Christ is at the center of them. Yes, we're using the Hail Mary, but we're meditating on the mysteries in the life of Christ and His mother. Every mystery that appear "Mary-centric" always involves Jesus! And almost all of the mysteries are Biblically based, taken directly from the Gospels, as are the prayers; the "Our Father" is the prayer that Jesus taught us, and the Hail Mary is from the Gospel of Luke.
OK, so how do you pray it?
First, you select a set of mysteries to pray (this assumes you're not going to go through all 20--you can do that, though!). If it's a Monday, Wednesday, or Saturday, it's traditionally the Joyful Mysteries. Tuesdays and Fridays, Sorrowful. Wednesday and Sunday, Glorious. Thursday, Luminous. But you can pick whatever you want. Then, meditating on one mystery per decade, you just pray it.
It can sound repetitive and boring. But it really isn't. Each mystery brings you deeper into the lives of Mary and Jesus, and even the apostles, in some of them. This is Christian meditation at its best. The Hail Mary provides a sort of "background music" to your meditation. Many times I've gotten to the end of a decade and been surprised! (The "Our Father" beads are usually bigger than the rest of the beads, so you have a tactile reminder that the decade's over.) And sometimes I don't go that deeply into meditation. I'm tired, I'm sick, whatever. I just pray, and think about the mysteries, or the person I'm praying for. When I say I'm praying for you, it usually means you're getting a decade of my daily rosary.
The rosary is a powerful, powerful prayer. (note about that link: don't go clicking around on that site if you're not already a solid Catholic. It's....weird. But this list is legit.) It's stopped wars . (This link explains why we celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7!) It's, by far, my favorite way to pray. It's completely portable--you don't even need beads, you can use your fingers. It's extremely calming.
The rosary is actually one of the things that led me to know my Dominican vocation. The Dominicans invented the rosary. Well, OK, not invented. Mary gave it to St. Dominic. So he didn't invent it. But they have such a strong dedication to the rosary! That's why it's part of the Dominican habit. It's worn where a sword used to be worn--indicating its powerful status!
Now, that being said, it's not a vending machine. It's not a chain letter: pray the rosary and GET WHATEVER YOU DESIRE! No. Not gonna work like that. But it is an immensely powerful prayer, and one that I would love to encourage you to try.
There are few prayers better than the rosary. Give it a try!
OK, so anyway, this weekend, I'm going on a silent retreat. I go on a lot of these; I try to go on at least one a year. If I'm lucky, I get in two. But one a year is absolutely vital, and I think everyone should try to go on one, because they are awesome.
But why are they awesome, Emily? Because they don't sound awesome to me. And I'm busy. I have Stuff. I have Life. I can't just go retreat!
OK, maybe you can't. But if you can, at all, you NEED TO!
Reason Number 1: SILENCE
OK, I know that this will make a lot of you run screaming for the hills. Silence? For a whole weekend? I can't do that. I have to talk!
No, you don't. Trust me. Trust God. You really don't need to talk. You need to talk LESS (take it from a girl who used to get "refrains from unnecessary talking" marked as a need to improve area on every report card between grades 1-8. That's thirty two report cards, guys. )
God cannot talk to you if you're too busy yapping and watching Netflix and listening to Adelle and Facebooking and Face Timing and Messaging and Snapchatting and whatever else. I mean, he'll try.
But if we take away all those distractions, all the talking, and we just sit and are quiet? It's a lot easier to hear God talking to you.
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave.
---1 Kings 19:11-13
Yeah, sometimes God speaks in the thunder. But sometimes he's speaking in the quiet, and he's easy to miss. Make it quiet so you can hear him!
Second: TOTAL focus on God
You have nothing to do in this retreat but be with God. That's it. You have nothing else to worry about. You are fed. You have a room that you don't have to clean. You have ample places to walk, to pray, and books to read, if you didn't bring your own. All you have to do is have quiet time with the Person Who Loves You The Most. (Yeah, that would be God.) You can do that however you want, as long as you don't break the silence. You can say the rosary. You can sit in the chapel and just stare at the tabernacle. You can go to confession. You can journal. You can read. WHATEVER. But the whole point is to grow in your spiritual relationship with God.
Nothing stays stagnant. If you are staying stagnant, you're not growing. You're decaying. Think of flowers that don't blossom, or an apple tree that doesn't give apples. Something's wrong. You need to continually grow in the spiritual life. Retreats are a great way to do that.
Third: New perspectives
Every retreat I've been on, there's been something new I've learned. Sometimes it's from the retreat master's talk. Sometimes it's from prayer in the chapel. Sometimes it's from a book I'm reading. But I always learn something new.
There is refreshment in retreat. Since life is stripped to the bare essentials, you don't feel like you have to be Chatty Cathy at the lunch table. You don't have to worry about laundry and cooking and all the other mundane things. You can just be. A retreat is fantastic self-care. You have to refresh yourself in order to continue growing. You need water just like a plant. A retreat is a great way to get that refreshment.
Now, you don't need to do a silent retreat. They're my preferred retreats, because I find that I can really hear God best that way. But you can do retreats that let you talk. :) But some degree of quiet is important when it comes to retreat. They're meant to be introspective. You're meant to spend a fair amount of time on your soul and God and prayer.
That being said, I also love Catholic Conferences, like the Columbus Catholic Women's Conference. Holy hours are also a great way to refresh yourself in the middle of life, if you can't get away for a weekend.
But if you can, at all, I'd suggest trying a weekend retreat. It might bear more fruit than you ever thought!