From 5 to 7 December 2006, I went for a silent retreat conducted by Opus Dei. It was the first ever silent retreat I ever went for, but it was time very well spent. I had missed the Diocesean Vocations Camp, due to my exams. By the grace of God, this retreat just happened to be at the right time. After the closing hectic weeks of the term, it was good to spend time to be refreshed spiritually.
I won’t go into the details of the spiritual input received but the mainstay of the retreat was 1/2-hour meditations, daily mass, daily way of the cross, daily rosary, daily benediction, spiritual reading at meals. On top of all this I brought along the reprint of the 1963 Monastic Diurnal that I have to pray the breviary. So basically every 3 hours from 6am to 9pm I prayed the appropriate hour. It’s not that many really, just 6 separate timings. Yet with my limited Latin, I prayed most of the Breviary in English. Plunging into the depths of Catholic spirituality would be one way to summarise it, and the beautiful setting of the Oratory was a great assistance in this.
Just some highlights…
1. This was the first time that I ever picked up any book written by Saint Josemaria Escriva. I picked up “The Way” and my goodness, such sublime words of wisdom are contained within so small a book. For example, "The Mass is long," you say, and I reply, "Because your love is short." (No 529)
2. It was a deeply humbling experience leading the way of the cross using the meditations contained with ‘The Handbook of Prayers’. Tears started forming in my eyes and I choked up.
3. Daily Mass in full Latin and ad orientem is really a sight to behold. The priest was fully vested with cassock, alb, amice, stole and chasuble. A chapel veil was used to cover the chalice, purificator paten and pall, and a burse was used to contain the corporal. During Holy Communion a special communion paten was also used, and Communion was received kneeling down. Now if only all these was more widely practised. As Saint Josemaria Escriva so aptly put it, “Show venerations and respect for the Holy Liturgy of the Church and for its Ceremonies. Observe the faithfully. Don’t you see that for us poor humans, even what is greatest and most noble enters through the sense?” (The Way, No 522)
4. Living a life of Holiness in one’s present state of life is of the uttermost importance. Its not about, “I can lead a holier life, if such and such changes.” The Lord sends us out into the world, and in the world we are witnesses.
And some quotations…
* Don’t be upset when you state an orthodox opinion and the malice of whoever heard you caused him to be scandalised. For his scandal is pharisaical. – The Way, No 344
* “The Mass is long you say,”, and I reply, “Because your love is short.” – The Way, No 529
* With what famous lucidity does Satan argue against the Catholic Faith! But lets tell him always, without entering into debate: I am child of the Church – The Way, No 576
* True humility is the knowledge of our human littleness alongside the infinite greatness of our God and the awareness that God delights in his creatures and wants them to be God-like – c.f. Christ is Passing By