On the first weekend of March, seven students, joined by Harmel graduate and Program Assistant, Karsten Molitor, and Harmel Chaplain and welding instructor, Fr. Dominic Couturier, attended a silent retreat in Wolverine, Michigan. The retreat center hosting the young men is family owned and was generously donated to Harmel for the weekend by a generous supporter.
The silent retreat required complete silence to allow the young men time for reflection, this meant they had to be completely unplugged. No technology—not even books—there was to be no distraction from the young men’s mission to connect with God.
This silent retreat was inspired by the book The Power of Silence by Cardinal Robert Sarah, which the second years read for their humanities class. Although not all of the second years could attend the retreat, all the students were asked to participate in whatever capacity they could, whether they stayed on campus and spent a day with all technology off or spent extra time in the oratory in prayer. For students participating in the retreat, the silent portion of the retreat began at 5 pm on Friday, following mass, and continued until noon Saturday, after which, the retreat host and a Harmel board member treated the students to two talks on the importance of silence.
Second-year Machine and Systems Technology student and household steward, Jonathan Bargenquast, explained why The Power of Silence and the retreat were an integral part important of the Humanities course. Jonathan said:
In humanities, we learned that silence is more than mere quiet—quiet is simply a lack of noise. Silence is more accurately described as an interior disposition than a mere lack of noise. A disposition that leaves you open to hearing the voice of God and that directs you ever deeper into your relationship with Him, as silence is the means by which we become close to God. To achieve this disposition, you must first conquer all the noise that is within yourself, for God is found inside you, not outside you. As Saint Augustine says, “You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.” So, if you desire deeper communion with God, you must retreat into yourself and the first person you meet upon doing so is yourself as you truly are, with all the faults, sins, and other things you’d rather use the noise to hide. You must reckon with yourself and put yourself in order, and then you can begin to try to listen to Him. And this listening for Him is a continual and active effort. An effort that requires turning from distraction and noise to God, over and over again without ceasing.
The timing of the retreat was a gift. A time of contemplation, prayer, and tribute, Lent’s purpose is to draw us closer to God in a deeply personal way, as Jonathan reflects above. Harmel takes the spiritual formation of its students just as seriously as their temporal formation. We are grateful that our supporters are making this formation possible through their support and generosity.
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