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This Day at the Foundation


Mary Quilici Aumack

Executive Director
Catholic Community Foundation of Santa Clara County

I’ve often heard reference to “finding God in silence.” A few months ago my friend Father Mark Arnzen published a blog post about a book by Robert Cardinal Sarah entitled, “The Power of Silence.” Cardinal Sarah says that “we encounter God only in the internal silence in which he abides.”

So this is not new, except to me.

In July I went on an eight-day silent retreat (we can pause here to allow for response from those who know me: most probably a range from a gentle giggle to doubling over with laughter). True, I’m not known for silence. In fact, in a way I talk for a living; spreading the good news of building FOREVER VALUE for parishes, Catholic schools, and other great ministries.

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a silent retreat for some time, and with the guidance and support of many, I decided to do it.

This was a structured Ignatian retreat with a spiritual director. I had two objectives:

  1. Completely disconnect for eight days, and
  2. Learn more about prayer.

Like many in our society, I never truly disconnect. I am checking email or texts on a daily basis. I wanted to explore the idea of being un-busy. And, I really never learned much about personal prayer. I tend to pray either through recitation (I say countless “Hail Marys” every week) or through a monologue to God (never really conversation because I don’t know how to listen for Him).

The experience of my retreat exceeded my best expectations. Each day I spent one hour with my spiritual director and roughly one hour at Mass. Other than that I was completely on my own to (silently) hike, read, write, pray, think, give thanks.

Many reading this article are quite practiced in prayer, in disconnecting, and in silent retreat. Therefore, I seek not to chronicle the experience, but to share some of the profound takeaways:

  • God is always in the present (try to be in the present)
  • Colossians: Practice heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience
  • Imagining myself at the baptism scene and hearing God proclaim his love for me!
  • Prayer as an act of faith
  • Solidarity leads to philanthropy!
  • Helping is like a contagious yawn
  • Go to God when you’re not feeling too good about yourself
  • Don’t give in to the temptation to “go it alone”
  • It comes from God if it brings faith, hope and love
  • “That the world may believe that you sent me”
  • Contemplation – meditation
  • Be kind and courageous
  • Peace

The one adjective that I think most accurately describes this experience is “luxurious.” It was better than a spa vacation because I had the luxury of exploring my personal relationship with Jesus the Christ more deeply than ever before in my life.

Because of my retreat, I will forever pray differently, hopefully act more compassionately, and KNOW that as I walk, when I am at my best and when I stumble, Jesus is standing right next to me, beaming at me with abounding ineffable love.

I will do this again.