Yes, I've been back for several days, as you know if you've been reading.
And last night, very late, many of the matters which had swirled through my prayer during my week of silence, merging into unexpected and unmanageable patterns, began to disengage from one another, becoming distinct and yet allied streams of . . . well, "understanding" might be too ambitious a word. But perhaps the potential for understanding.
Thus, with a new clarity of vision emerging, I would say that my retreat is now underway.
When I return from a retreat, people often greet me with words suggesting that they envy my having had such an opportunity to "relax." That hasn't been my experience. (As one woman said during the final Mass last week when, in lieu of a homily, retreatants are invited to comment on their experience, "Who ever knew that relaxation could be so hard ?!")
What I have found instead, over the course of the weeks and months that follow, is that my retreats have in fact, been consoling. (With one major exception.) Ignatius describes consolation as "every increase of faith, hope and love and all interior joy . . . filling [one's soul] with peace and quiet in its Creator and Lord."
It's no secret that every dimension of my life has been challenged in every way since my son's death. And that the disturbing ten weeks of double vision this past spring, although traceable to a physical cause, seemed in their confusion and disorientation to reflect my inner life.
How consoling, then, to find now that after a week of having been challenged, both spiritually and psychologically, the sorting hats are settling into place.
Last night, as I fell asleep, I began to dream about an encounter with a very large bear, and awakened in alarm, only to hear the trail of a voice from my not-quite-completed dream say, "But this is wonderful! Such power and grace."
I looked at the ceiling for awhile and thought about Faulkner's story of The Bear and concluded, Yes, here I am. Face to face with power and grace.
Image: Reflecting pond at Wernersville.