The New York Times recently published one author’s rather positive experience of a five-day silent retreat at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, PA: “In Pennsylvania, a Quick Shot of Peace, On a Budget”. I naturally perk up at any sympathetic encounter with Catholicism that makes the Times, especially if it involves a work of the Society of Jesus. Since such pieces are almost invariably written from the perspective of the slightly bemused “seeker,” moreover, they at least suggest what kind of “first impression” we make.
What seems to have struck Susan Thomas (the article’s author) is actually what she would have been hard-pressed to find in the spas or Ashrams or organic farms that also received honorable mention in the “budget spirituality” section: encouragement to discover the living God. As is the case with most distressed people who have sufficient sophistication to write for the Times, unremitting introspection and pop psychology seem to be the very air that Susan breathes. She found, however, a perceptibly different approach recommended at the Jesuit Center. At the first meeting with the nun who directed her, says the author,
I told her about my stress-related illnesses, which had hospitalized me twice earlier that year; about my sparkly-minded children; about watching my Lear-like father die in front of me; about my divorce, subsequent remarriage and unexpected conception of my son; about my dip into poverty; my husband’s unemployment; my darkest fears; of aloneness.
Bracing herself for psychological platitudes, the author is surprised by her director’s reply: Read the rest of this entry »