by Janine Schenone
I have just returned from directing a 3-day retreat with our 20/30s group, “Nature and the Divine.” Friday evening started with gathering to eat at La Super Rica Taqueria in Santa Barbara (“Julia Child’s favorite Mexican food”), and then we came back to the big room of our house at Casa de Maria.
Everyone was very boisterous at first, and I wondered how and whether to segue into the evening prayer I was supposed to lead. Maybe I should just let everyone chat. I began to play bird sounds on my iPhone, thinking no one would hear it. But gradually, two by two, people stopped talking when they heard the call of a loon, and the room fell silent.
Then one of our leaders asked people to share why they were on this retreat. Many of them said, “I need to be still” or “I want to meditate.” What followed was more silent meditation than I had actually intended for the weekend. And when I checked in with people to see how they were doing, the thing they were savoring the most was meditation or quiet walks on the grounds.
It was a very powerful moment of communion, meditating with twenty others in a sunlit chapel with birdsong outside the open door. We reminded ourselves in these meditations that we are a beautiful mixture of earthly and cosmic energies. It’s so much easier to remember this on retreat, which is probably why retreat is one of the nine points of the Franciscan Rule of Life. It’s even better to remember this in community.