This is my life’s motto, and I found it when I was 20 years old, during a silent retreat in Mirador Jesuit Villa, Baguio run by Father Dan MacNamara, SJ.
If I was asked before that 8-day period what my life’s motto was, I would have stammered, “I don’t know” or “I don’t have one”.
If asked now which times in my life I would definitely think of as my happiest, without a doubt, I would choose my 8-day silent retreat in Mirador as one of those times.
I will never forget the absolute peace of mind those 8 days brought me. The absolute acceptance of who I am. No demands on my time, actions, or appearance. Freedom and peace, wrapped in pure joy and a quiet that transcended sound and sank to my soul. I didn’t even need to speak a word. I was walking with God, and He walked with me. I sat on a rock on that mountain in Baguio, to wait for the dawn to slide into morning, and He was there with me. I hid nothing from Him, as it would be pointless really, to hide from God. He listened. He loves me. Flaws and all.
You’d think being silent for 8 days would be boring or uneventful. It wasn’t like that at all. There was a time when Father Dan told us that to be Christian, to be Catholic, God and not anyone or anything else, should be the center of my life. By the time the mass ended, I was furious, hurt, and emotionally hysterical. Compound it with the fact that I was not allowed to utter a sound or meet anyone’s eyes.
My family was the center of my life; my reason for living, my reason for doing everything I’ve been doing in my life. Asking me to regard Him as the center of my life, when He was just originally a concept and a belief thrust upon me, when we had gone through so much, when I never see Him at all, when I’ve never heard His voice. I was enraged. I felt betrayed and bullied. I rushed to my private room, closed the door, and cried for the best part of an hour, cursing Him and hurling accusations at Him with my mind. The angriest prayer I’ve ever prayed. And the most self-absorbed prayer I’ve ever prayed, too.
You know what He did? I was in the middle of all that crying. Still hating Him with all my might. Punching my bed for dramatic effect, rubbing my eyes, and wondering what else to call Him. Someone suddenly PHYSICALLY touched the left side of my head, and drew me down to His shoulder. The weirdest, strangest, freakiest, most unbelievably miraculous thing was, I knew it was Jesus the moment he touched me. It lasted for two to three seconds. I was so shell-shocked, I halted mid-prayer/cursing, and stared at the space to my right. There was nobody. I even touched the right side of my bed to see if there was anyone solid. Nothing. No change in temperature.
But I knew. I rejected everything about Him at that moment; yet at the same time, I needed Him just as much as I hated Him. So He was there. It was Him. He was there for me. Just like that. That was all He needed to do. When I realized what had happened to me, I burst into fresh tears. Bewildered, relieved, apologetic tears.
A few days later, I opened the Bible. I don’t even remember what I was looking for. The first sentence my eyes zeroed into was :
… yet not my will, but Yours be done.”
- Luke 22:42.
I felt poleaxed. It was the the answer to every question I’ve ever asked (It still is). Then and there, I knew it would be the words I would carry with me for the rest of my life. I would let it define me, and my life’s direction. It was so blessedly easy and simple to do that. One of the best decisions I’ve made thus far.
I prayed in silence for 8 days. I couldn’t have been happier.
I suddenly understood why monks gladly surrendered themselves to that sort of life. I can’t put it into words, because the world we presently live in always finds a way to label it something absurd, delusional, untrue, or pitiful. I totally understand if no one believes me; I wouldn’t blame you.
My faith is so much stronger now because of that experience. Whenever bad things in life happen, whenever I waver, I always go back to those two small miracles He gave me: His shoulder to cry on, and the words that became my life’s center. No gift will ever equal the peace and love that shoulder and those words have brought me.
I know it’s a worthlessly obvious and pitifully small gift, Lord, but my life is Yours for the taking. And even if I can never say enough of this to you, let me offer these words again: thank You.