We came, we saw, we ate (A pause in silence)

SPIRITED AWAY The grounds of the Loyola Retreat House—Spirituality and Art Center in Angono,Rizal —MARGAUX SALCEDO

SPIRITED AWAY The grounds of the Loyola Retreat House—Spirituality and Art Center in Angono, Rizal —MARGAUX SALCEDO

We need to pause.

This is what Fr. Primitivo Viray Jr. or Fr. Jun, as he is fondly called, told us as we embarked on our silent retreat for the long weekend.

I thought I would not get through it. The last time I attempted a silent retreat—almost 20 years ago—I literally asked to be fetched the following day, I was bored out of my wits!

But the Loyola Retreat House (LRH) in Angono, Rizal, makes you love the silence. We began with Mass, during which Fr. Jun’s homily centered on the “voice of silence.” After dinner, we gathered in prayer led by Fr. Jun, who provided us with the guidance we needed to recharge our spirits. He recommended John 1:35-39, in which Jesus was asked where he lived and he responded, “Come and see.”

Well we—I was with Chef Jessie Sincioco and Mimi Abueg—came and ate! We were served pretty good food for our two-night stay. We had a lovely lunch of nilagang baka, a merienda of palabok with calamares and native puto, and Angono’s famous itik (duck) for dinner. Chef Jessie was smiling cheek to cheek because it was an enormous treat for her to not be cooking for once.

On Sunday, we explored the LRH grounds. I loved going to the ends of the retreat house gardens and listening to the birds. I tried to have a conversation with them but I think the one I was whistling to knew I had to be silent and flew away!

I got emotional as I walked by each piece of moving art for their Stations of the Cross just outside the gallery and by the last station it was like a full drum of realizations had been poured over my head—how Christ though King had to rely on the kindness of strangers; how betrayal can come from those you trust the most, from those you admire the most, or even from those who are meant to guide you; how a determination in mission does not negate the possibility of agony; and the depths of ridicule, humiliation, and indignity Christ went through because he was advocating for a better humanity.

I was especially moved seeing Mary’s witness to Christ, how she never left Jesus’ side, and I missed my mom—who just passed away last year—terribly. This was the weekend of Eid al-Adha, a Muslim celebration also known as the Feast of the Sacrifice, commemorating Abraham’s willingness to offer his own son as a sacrifice. This same story in Christianity is referenced in relation to God the Father giving up his Son; but seeing Mary at the foot of the cross, I realized how painful it was for Mary, truly the epitome of strength, who sacrificed her son, too.

I heard so much in the silence!

Just beside this art gallery—which has seasonal exhibits—is the Chapel of the Risen Lord and beside it, the Laudato Si Gardens. Laudato Si is the encyclical of Pope Francis addressing the urgency of climate change, also known as “On care for Our Common Home,” pleading with us all to care for the environment.

The garden has three gazebos—Faith, Hope and Love. Since we had the whole place to ourselves and the whole day ahead of us, I stayed a bit in each gazebo. There is something special and really revitalizing about being in a space surrounded by trees. We really need to think deeper about how we can care better for “our common home.”

Before entering the smaller chapel just beside the dining hall in the first section of the compound for our Sunday mass, I thought about the words that Fr Jun highlighted for us to ponder: Come and see. He noted how Jesus’ response to where he lived was interesting, even profound—because the Lord does not live in an address but in Christ’s heart.

And I realized that this goes full circle to Dominus Est, the motto of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who incidentally just celebrated his birthday last Friday, June 21. Happy birthday, Your Eminence!

Dominus Est means “It is the Lord!” In John 21:1-14, we read about the appearance of the Risen Christ to some of his disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, who were on a boat but were able to catch fish only after they listened to the instructions of an “unknown man” standing on the shore. After the unbelievable catch, the “disciple whom Jesus loved” exclaimed, “Dominus Est! It is the Lord!”

And that’s the message of Dominus Est — for each of us to be able to say, Come and see! See where Christ lives: in each of our hearts! For people to exclaim when they see you that in you they see the Lord.

We left the Loyola Retreat House refreshed, recharged, and revitalized. I strongly encourage all of you to pay a visit…come and see!