Emily M. DeArdo



Going on Retreat Part Three: Sunday Morning

essays, CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

Part One is here

Part Two is here

My alarm went off at seven the next morning, and I sort of hustled, because breakfast on this day is continental, served in the lounge; it’s mostly cinnamon rolls and bakery things, and if you’re slow, the good stuff is gone. :) (Good stuff meaning danish, in my world). So I hurried, dressed in my Sunday Mass clothes and got a cherry danish (win!).

After that, I went to the chapel to pray lauds before the closing of adoration at 8:15 by Fr. Stephen. (Even if you can’t make a retreat, consider going to adoration? Even if it’s five minutes! Go stop by and say hello to Jesus! Get to Mass five minutes early, if there’s no adoration chapel where you live.)


After the close of exposition and benediction, we had the last conference of the retreat, on Confirmation. This was followed by a bit of Q&A, and then the last Mass of the retreat.

After Mass was over, we could talk—silence was lifted. So brunch was a noisy, happy affair of everyone chatting over quiche and apple pie bars. I enjoyed talking to the women at my table (especially Olivia) and getting to know them better.

When you spend a weekend in silence praying with people, a closeness forms, but it’s a weird closeness, because you feel close to people you don’t know anything about! So it’s nice to learn a little more about them.

After brunch we cleaned out our rooms and left. “Cleaning out your room” means putting the trash bag outside your door, stripping the bed and stuffing the sheets and towels inside the pillowcases to be picked up, and making sure you didn’t leave anything behind.

I was home a little before noon, and I spent the rest of the day taking a nap, unwinding, and getting mad at the Ravens during the Ravens-Steelers game.

(Me to my mom: I hate the Ravens.
Mom: You just got back from retreat, you can’t hate anybody!)

So, that’s what I did on my retreat.

There are things I could share—how I pack, what I bring, etc.—I could share notes with you….or I could answer your questions! If you have any questions about retreats, let me know in the comment box and I’ll answer them!

Going on Retreat Part Two: Saturday Afternoon

essays, CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment
Brilliant Saturday afternoon under the oak trees

Brilliant Saturday afternoon under the oak trees

Part one is here

So after lunch we had free time until 3:00, when the Divine Mercy Chaplet would be said in the chapel. Priests were available for confession, but other than that, there were no talks planned and you could do whatever you wanted.

Since it was a gorgeous fall day, I went outside to spend some time enjoying the weather while I read my books. I read more of I Believe In Love and wrote a few thoughts in my journal. Some people were making the stations of the cross at the outdoor set that’s been erected, which I would have done, but we were saying stations communally at 5, and I was going to do that.

I took a really brief nap—10 minutes!— then went to the chapel, prayed a bit, and read some more. There’s a small side chapel where I like to sit:

The view from the side chapel

The view from the side chapel

Interior of the side chapel

Interior of the side chapel

The reliquary of St. Therese and St. Margaret Mary Alocoque (who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart) is also in here.

St. Margaret Mary’s relic is on the left, and the other two are St. Therese. The documents are certificates that the relics are authentic.

St. Margaret Mary’s relic is on the left, and the other two are St. Therese. The documents are certificates that the relics are authentic.

This is the hardest part of retreat to describe, because it’s so interior, but to me it’s also the best part. Yes, I pray, yes, I read, but I also just talk to God, and listen to His replies. What is He saying to me? What is He asking me?

It’s also a good time to take stock of where I am in my religious life. Is it going well, or not? Am I more fervent than I was a year ago, or not? Does my schedule need adjusted so I have more time for prayer? What is stopping me or hindering my prayer? Distractions? Laziness? (Meaning, I just don’t make time for prayer, when I know I could and should be praying?) Venerable Fulton Sheen said that the spiritual life is meant to grow, not stay stagnant. It’s like our bodies—they have to continually grow. If our bodies stopped growing, we’d be in trouble! So the spiritual life is like that, which is one of the reasons retreat is so important. We have to check in, and it’s a lot easier to do when there aren’t any distractions and it’s quiet!

So I write, and I read, and I ponder, and I listen.

Statue of St. Therese in the main conference room.

Statue of St. Therese in the main conference room.

After the quiet period, we had the second conference, this time on Baptism, its roots in the Bible and Jewish tradition, and some other points.

Some of the quotes from Fr. Stephen:

“Genesis is like algebra—it’s about relationships.”

“We have a duty to participate in God’s life, with even deeper communion and even deeper fellowship.”

“God’s commitment to us began at our own baptism. Our mission is revealed—we are bound to Christ.”

“We read Scripture in its totality!”

And one of my favorite things I took away from the conference—anxiety and fear push us into a moment that doesn’t exist yet, and it might never exist! In those moments, call upon God who loves you and ask Him for help and what I should do.

St. Therese in the chapel—this statue isn’t normally there, so I’m not sure if they moved it here for her feast day celebration or if it’s a new addition. Either way, I loved it!

St. Therese in the chapel—this statue isn’t normally there, so I’m not sure if they moved it here for her feast day celebration or if it’s a new addition. Either way, I loved it!

At 5:00, we said stations of the cross in the chapel, followed by Vespers and then dinner. The third conference, on the Eucharist, was at 6:45, and as always, in between things you had your own time and space to pray or read or rest or whatever you wanted to do.

(After dinner I actually went on a walk with a friend—Olivia—that I “knew” on Twitter—it was so nice to meet her in person!)

The Eucharist talk was extremely enlightening because it connected our celebration of th Eucharist with the Jewish tradition and really drew strong parallels, as well as illustrating how Jesus was in no way speaking metaphorically in the Bread of Life discourse (John 6). Fr. Stephen mentioned Scott Hahn’s The Fourth Cup, which I haven’t read yet (but will!), but I have read (and am currently re-reading) Brant Pitre’s Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, which is a full, book-length treatise on Fr. Stephen’s topic and is a wonderful explanation fo the Eucharist. It’s sort of mind-blowing, actually.

(This is where retreat is a vacation, yes, but it also causes you to learn, if it’s a good retreat. Yay learning! Yay knowing more about our faith!)

(In fact, one of the most mind-blowing things Fr. Stephen shared was this: the Passover lambs, used for sacrifice at Passover in the Temple, were specially raised, because they had to slaughter more than two hundred thousand of them every year. So there were whole flocks just of these pascal lambs.

These lambs were raised in Bethlehem.

The flocks that the shepherds were guarding on Christmas were…..lambs of sacrifice.

The paschal lambs were at the birth of the Paschal Lamb!)

Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the chapel.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the chapel.

We had one of my favorite things—Eucharistic Exposition—at 8:00. This means that the Eucharist is displayed in the monstrance, and we have all-night vigil, because you can’t leave the Exposed Host alone. So all night, women came and went from the chapel to spend time with Jesus in prayer.

My hour was from 10 to 11. Before then, I had changed into my pajamas and slippers —yes I went to the chapel in my Corgi pants and slippers!—and took my meds so that when I got back I could just go to bed.

Adoration is really a beautiful thing, and holy hours are my favorite way to pray. If you don’t make them, I highly highly highly recommend it, and so do the saints!

After holy hour, I went to bed, because the alarm would go off at 7 again, for the last part of the retreat….

#21 The Garden (retreat notes III)

Catholicism, journalEmily DeArdoComment

It was really too hot to spend much time in the garden, but I did manage to get out after breakfast on Saturday and take photos of the roses, and spend some time in the little replica Lourdes Grotto. Isn’t the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes gorgeous? There’s a tiny bench in there, so you can sit and pray, and a little water feature to represent the spring at Lourdes, so there’s the peaceful bubbling sound of water as well. It’s so pretty, and I just wanted to share it with you.

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of Flourish, the new Take Up & Read study on the book of Romans!

#20 St. Therese chapel (retreat notes II)

Catholicism, journal, prayer, Take Up and ReadEmily DeArdoComment

I’ve been making retreats since….gosh. 2009, maybe? 2008? One of those two. So that’s 10 years of silent retreats, which is sort of amazing when I think about.

I always go on silent retreats. I find that’s the best way to really listen to God, for me, and I sort of crave that silence. This retreat I went into with out “resolutions” (as Msgr. Knox calls them), but just with the desire to fill my cup, so to speak, with God, His presence, His voice, and His quiet.

The chapel is really well suited to these things.

It’s a gorgeous stone chapel, built in the 40s, I think. The floor has the patina of age. It’s always cool in there, and quiet. The decades of prayer are obvious. The art is gorgeous, too, and leads you to contemplation pretty easily, and prayer.

There is a small side chapel, which holds the reliquary (we’ll talk about that in a later post), and has a painting of the Annunciation on the wall. It’s a supremely comfortable spot, because there’s a nice big chair in there, so you can sit and look at the tabernacle and pray, hidden and secluded. That’s where I had one of my holy hours this time, and it really was delightful.

This retreat was different in that there were only three conferences (talks on the retreat theme, which was Mary), so there was ample time for silence and doing your own thing. Usually I also spend time in my room, but since it was so hot, I spent all of my time in the chapel or the lounge. I had brought extra books to read since I knew I’d have spare time (only spiritual books, and my Bible; I don’t bring Outlander on retreat with me.). So a lot of reading, and then note taking, pondering in my journal, Bible reading (lectio), and prayer. It was great.

The chapel spire from the garden

The chapel spire from the garden

Also, don’t forget: Our new Take Up & Read Study starts on Sunday, all about the book of Romans! Please join us! You can purchase your copy

#19 A Fan (and some retreat notes)

Catholicism, give aways, journalEmily DeArdoComment

(Don’t forget the Flourish giveaway, which ends at midnight!)

I went on retreat last weekend, and usually I write up my retreat notes here, so I think I’ll do that over the next few days. But also continuing with the journal entries, I was SUPER grateful for a desk fan in my room.

The retreat center was built in the 1950s, and in the “old” part, there is no A/C. In the “new” wing, there is air conditioning. Now, normally this isn’t an issue, because all the rooms have windows that open, so I figured I wouldn’t specifically request a room with A/C, because, it’s October.

I should’ve remembered that October in Ohio can be punishingly warm—as in, summer temps—or we can have snow on the first weekend.

We have been in a heat wave that should break later this week. But in the meantime, I had been assigned to a small room, on the second floor of the old retreat house, that had no A/C.

As I trudged up the stairs with my bags I kept thinking, if it gets too bad, I can just go home.

(As a reminder: High temps and CF do not mix. The way we sweat means that we’re much more susceptible to high temperatures as opposed to regular people. Also, the skin graft I have? Doesn’t sweat. So my body doesn’t regulate temperature very well, anyway, in part. So A/C isn’t just “I’m a first world softie.” It’s, “Emily’s body doesn’t work that well on its own.”)

When I got into the room, I saw that there was a small desk fan on the table.

I was very, very grateful.

I was also grateful that the rest of the house—the lounge, the dining room, the chapel—were all abundantly air conditioned, and the doors to these spaces were left open so the A/C could sort of spill out all over the house.

So, desk fans. Don’t leave home without ‘em when it’s hot.

The chapel, Friday night.

The chapel, Friday night.

Three Things I Learned on Retreat

Catholicism, essaysEmily DeArdoComment

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.

--St. Thérèse 

Seven Quick Takes 125: Why Y'all Should Silent Retreat (Or retreat, at all)

7 Quick Takes, CatholicismEmily DeArdo2 Comments


OK, before we get down to Quick Taking, here's this week's writing: 

You Get What You Get

Hail Mary

And, since I'm going to be on retreat tomorrow--aka St. Therese's Feast Day--I give you: 

This post about her as my Confirmation Saint


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. 


Fourth: Refreshment

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! 

{P, F, H, R} 7: Retreat time!

Catholicism, Dominicans, PFHREmily DeArdo1 Comment

Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter. 

{Pretty, Happy, Real}

 I spent last weekend in retreat. It was the annual Lay Dominican retreat, which is held every October, either here in Columbus or in Cincinnati, and chapter members from four states come and spend the weekend together. I've been to St. Therese's (this retreat house) many times for silent retreats, but never for our Lay Dominican Regional Retreat. I'm going to write more about the retreat experience tomorrow, but here are some of the photos from the weekend. 

Our Lady of Lourdes in the retreat house grotto. 


St. Therese Reliquary off the main chapel. 


The chapel before vespers. 

Back wall of the chapel