A seasoned retreat preacher once told me times of intense encounter with God like retreat or our daily times of prayer train us to live in the presence of the Lord. I have learned that the clearer, more intentional spaces for prayer separate the superfluous from the actual so we can learn how to notice the Lord’s voice. God takes us up the mountain to teach us how to recognize Him when He acts and speaks in ordinary life.
I entered my religious community with a deep desire to let the Lord mold and transform my heart in every way He desired. There is so much to learn, and the meaning of most of the lessons continues to unfold.
Three years after I entered I was a novice on my annual eight-day silent retreat when I had a surprising mountaintop experience. It was a delicate answer to a yearning I felt for years. Although I felt profoundly connected to the spirituality of the community, I felt distant from Saint Paul. This was a problem because my community is named the Daughters of Saint Paul.
The Great Apostle remedied my interior struggle in a funny way. This novice figured all valid spiritual experiences should happen in the chapel, but Saint Paul spoke to me while I was walking up one of the stairwells. I felt him say, I have been your father from your very beginning. My heart sprang into life at the thought and I was enveloped by a joy and gratitude that welled from within. I felt a clear and peaceful understanding of his spiritual fatherhood. For all its vividness, this was a little insight that has quietly colored and formed my life. Something sprang into life in my heart and has not stopped living and growing since that day.
I believe we all have moments like this, and I also believe we would all have more moments like these if we could only be courageous enough to enter into silence.
In today's Gospel according to Saint Matthew, Our Lord Jesus took His closest disciple up a mountain, and He was transfigured. (Matthew 17:1-2) What does it mean? They got to briefly see Him as He is. He is the Living God whose purity and refulgence is more brilliant than the sun. It also reveals our identity. We are beloved sons and daughters of the Most High. I pray we will pull life and clarity from our mountaintop experiences to live lives grounded in the truth of God's abiding presence in our day to day lives.
Can you go to a silent retreat or even make your own time for silence at home?
Sister Maria Kim Bui is a Daughter of Saint Paul, women religious dedicated to evangelization in and through the media. She is originally from Tempe, AZ, spent most of her fourteen years in religious life in the northeast, and is part of a bilingual evangelization team of sisters serving in Texas. Find out more about her here.