What Is a Silent Retreat

When you have an important decision to make—or the world is getting too loud—it’s necessary to find a place and person to turn to. In the Bible, we see Jesus seek out time to pray in solitude over and over again. In much the same way, a silent retreat can help you hear the voice of God in your life. But what is a silent retreat? And how do you know if it’s right for you?

What is a Silent Retreat?

A silent retreat is an opportunity for any person to set aside time to listen to the voice of God and hear what is in their own heart. Retreats can last a single day or up to thirty days, giving you a chance to unplug from the outside world and recharge your spiritual batteries.

Venerable Bruno Lanteri, the founder of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, believed that it was crucial to carve out times of retreat for prayer and reading scripture. To him, the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and personal prayer are essential to finding your calling and purpose:

“There is nothing in this world so valuable as spending several days peacefully occupied only with the great matters in life: God, the soul, and eternity.” —Venerable Bruno Lanteri

Today, the retreat tradition continues and is open to anyone: young people, lay men and women, priests and religious sisters and brothers.

The Benefits of a Silent Retreat

People come to a silent retreat with many different desires, hopes or questions. Perhaps there’s been a big change or loss in your life that needs reflection. You might be considering a vocation or a new career. In any case, a silent retreat can bring greater clarity, open your heart and give you strength. The fruit of the retreat is to understand how God is present in this stage of your life.

For Father Tom, silent retreats are a chance to reflect on his experiences from the past year, which isn’t something that many of us have time to do in the course of a regular day.

“A retreat helps me look at the key moments over the course of a year, grieving losses or celebrating joys. We can remember our sorrows very easily, but we forget our joys. Each time, I’ve felt my heart being drawn in a certain way or that I’ve been prepared for something that’s coming.” —Fr. Tom Carzon, OMV

What to Expect

During the course of one of our typical silent retreats at St. Joseph Retreat House, your days include quiet contemplation and the opportunity for Mass, as well as spiritual direction. That’s right—it’s not all silence! You’ll meet each day with a spiritual director to talk about what’s going on in your life and your prayers, and they will suggest some scriptures to pray with.

Many retreatants are surprised to find that their experiences are highly personalized and allow you to get into your own rhythm, whether that means staying up late to contemplate the stars or rising early to visit the Stations of the Cross at sunrise.

Catholic Silent Retreat

Preparing for a Silent Retreat

Unlike Jesus, you don’t have to go to the mountain tops or the desert to get away. A retreat house like St. Joseph offers flexible scheduling for private retreats as well as more organized retreats and spiritual direction throughout the year.

If you’re considering your first retreat, “silence” can seem like a scary proposition. Start small with a weekend retreat or getting away for a Desert Day in the middle of the week. That might be enough to recharge, or could leave you desiring something more.

 Learn About Retreat Options 

No matter the length of your retreat, clear your calendar for that time and try to show up relaxed. Anxiety can linger if you feel rushed in the days leading up to your retreat, and it’s important that you are open mentally and emotionally going into this new experience.

Is a Retreat Right for You?

No matter where you are in your faith journey, it’s a good exercise for all Catholics to reflect in the sanctity of retreat. But while silent retreats are a powerful way to grow in your faith, we understand that it can seem intimidating or only for those committed a religious life.

Instead, try to think of retreats as a way of growing in friendship with Jesus. In the words of Father Tom, “Imagine going off for a few days with a dear friend to reconnect and talk about your lives. Why worry about spending time with a friend who’s there for you and understands your heart?”

Do you have additional questions about silent retreats? Or, if you’ve previously participated in one, what is a silent retreat tip or memory you’d like to offer? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

4 comments on “What is a Silent Retreat?”

  1. 1
    Zoila Mendez on February 21, 2019

    I would like to participate in a silent retreat. How this works, you select the date or its on my own time?
    Another concern is my English is not the best, I’m fluent in Spanish that is my primary language. Sometimes i want to express myself in English and i feel weird. I appreciate all information you can gift me about it.

    Thank you and God bless you


  2. 2
    Maria D Heartley on October 30, 2023

    God be with you. I am a former Roman Catholic Nun and am also a widower and mom.
    I greatly love the Lord and am thankful for His mighty and many blessings. Please send information concerning retreats offered during remainder of 2023-2024,
    including location and costs. Thank you. God bless.

    1. 3
      tracy stewart on January 5, 2024

      Hi Maria,

      I am reaching out to you from St. Joseph Retreat House in Milton, MA. I will be happy to send you information regarding pricing and availability.

      Please email me directly so that I have your contact information – retreats@omvusaorg


      tracy stewart

  3. 4
    Joe Polizzi on January 5, 2024

    I am interested in learning more about your Silent Retreat experience.I am seeking a safe place for me to strengthen my relationship with Jesus . A place where I can physically go , get away from my normal routine and the all the noise and chaos of everyday life . A place that is quiet , safe and comforting . A place where I can silently be still and just talk to Jesus , and go over all my sins with Him and ask for forgiveness. I say go over my sins with Jesus , because I know He knows all of them anyway .I am hopeful that the Silent Retreat experience in Boston you offer is comparable with what I seek . If so , I will definitely look into it further . God bless you all !

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