Ostende faciem tuam

Today I offer a final collection of loose thoughts on my retreat at Silverstream.


Before going I inquired of friends and acquaintances if there were any intentions they would like me to bring before Our Lord while on retreat. I was quite surprised at the amount of prayer requests that I received. “If I, being a simple, sinful layman, am asked to pray for all this, then how much more are those in the religious life solicited!”, I thought to myself. These requests brought to my mind another aspect of the communion of the saints which I normally don’t associate too much with the concept – the communion of those here below, in the Church Militant – and the power of intercessory prayer. I often tend to forget that if any prayer I offer is efficacious, it is not on any of my own merits, but on account of my participation through Baptism in the Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord.
As I came before the Eucharistic Face, bringing Him all these pleas, enjoining to them my own prayers, I was reminded of what I once heard from an anchorite: that a man at prayer is an awesome and terrible thing to contemplate. At that moment I was, in a sense, an icon of all those who had entrusted me to “deliver” their prayers. How could the crushing weight of such a responsibility not bear down upon me? How could I not be reminded of my unworthiness, of my failings, of my sins? How could I not think of my need for conversion of life? There, before His burning sacramental gaze, I felt small, humbled, speechless. Carried away by this feeling, the only appropriate response (when I was alone in the oratory) seemed to be to prostrate myself before the King of kings.

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“Console your God”

During my retreat at Silverstream I was always reminded of home every time I stepped into the oratory, as the first thing I would see was an image of Our Lady of Fátima. It is to the topic of Fátima that I will return again today, but perhaps in a way unexpected (but, hopefully, not fanciful). Today I wish to share some thoughts on Silverstream’s connection (in my opinion at least) with Fátima.

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OLoF in the oratory.

It was while at Adoration, under the gaze of the Queen of Portugal, that I had an epiphany. While offering my time of adoration in reparation for priests I suddenly remembered the apparitions of the Angel of Portugal to the three young shepherd children.

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“[…] thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to the little ones.”
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Reflections on a retreat – Part II (or, Martha and Mary)

As mentioned in the previous post, I will now try to describe a bit of my experience of the Liturgy at Silverstream.


Retreats at a monastery are quite different than what most Catholics would be used to. There is no “structure” to the retreat as there is in ones based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola; there are no conferences given by a priest/religious; no general confession; etc. The only structure is that of the Opus Dei, the Divine Office. The monks simply invite you to take part, as much as possible, in their liturgical life; you may also speak with a monk seasoned in the spiritual life if you wish; silence also plays a large role. The exterior silence, in my case, helped to notice that the interior was not silent at all. There are all these thoughts floating around, distracting, dissipating one’s attention from the one thing necessary which we in the world don’t notice most of the time due to all the exterior noise. Silence is not a commodity the world seems to appreciate; in fact, it seems to abhor it. Silence, many times, puts you face to face with yourself, with your weaknesses and brokenness. It’s the realization of our own littleness that allows us to open  up and hear the voice of God. The fight against dissipation – our forgetfulness of God – is a lifelong one, and silence is a necessary part of it.

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Reflections on a retreat – Part I (or, You can(‘t) go home again)

I recently arrived back home from a retreat at Silverstream Priory. The next few blog posts will focus on the fruit of prayers and reflections during those days; for now, this one will relate my experience of the residing monastic community.


As I caught the bus from my house to the airport at 5 in the morning my head was full of thoughts about the journey I was embarking upon. While I had been eagerly looking forward to this retreat, now thoughts of leaving my wife and children – my home – behind, if even just for a few days, began to make me question my decision. These doubt-filled thoughts continued to loom in the back of my mind, even as Giovanni (a friend of the monastery, who collected me at the airport in Dublin) and I talked on our way to the monastery. Yet, as the car pulled up in front of the Gatehouse and I saw D. Finnian’s familiar and friendly face, the “buzzing” of those lingering thoughts went silent. I was home.

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Shortly after greeting D. Finnian, the guestmaster D. Cassian, a young monk hailing from Australia, came out to meet me; it was the first time we met in person. D. Cassian took me to visit Our Lord, and as we made our way up the stairs to the house, and then inside to the oratory, I saw that things were the same as I remembered them since my last visit, yet much had changed as well. Shortly thereafter I returned to the guesthouse; D. Cassian appeared with some coffee, we spoke for a bit, and I had the chance to make the acquaintance of a young man who is currently an “inquirer” at Silverstream. I was then shown to my room. Not too long after that the bell rang: it was time for Terce followed immediately by Mass.

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I met the rest of the monks over the next day or two. It was impressive to see the community’s current size. When last I visited, nearly four years ago, there were just four monks; since then Silverstream has grown threefold! It was nice to finally meet face to face all our monastic brothers who we had only seen in pictures online and prayed for, recalling them with “…et cum fratribus nostris absentibus.” I had a chance to speak with most of them, to a greater or lesser degree. I tried as much as possible not to get in their way, or distract them with idle chatter.

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Besides myself, the inquirer, and one of the monk’s parents, there were two other people staying at the guesthouse – two priests. One is an oblate of the monastery, and I believe was just there for a few days; the other had been there for quite some time now, and would be staying for an indeterminate amount of time. This priest mentioned to me that he had never heard of Silverstream before; he had mentioned needing a retreat to an ordained friend, who replied he knew just the place for him. And so this priest found himself far from the country where he was ministering in, praying and waiting, taking his time listening to the Lord (which, apparently, is not part of his character, being the type of person more inclined to action. [If you are reading this, Father, I hope I haven’t misrepresented you, or said anything I shouldn’t have.]). This is not the first time I have met a priest here in such a situation. It seems to me that Silverstream is a place of healing, most especially for priests, a fact which does not surprise me given the place’s charism. I will try to say some more about this, perhaps, in the next post.

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Dame Hilda Benilda was not seen out and about as much as last time; it seems her age is catching up with her. However, I chanced upon Constance and Mildred; the former seems to be taking her monastic vows seriously and avoiding contact at all costs with visitors, while the latter has no problem interacting with guests (or perhaps she’s just vying for D. Cassian’s role as guestmaster?). On my daily walk within the enclosure I would quite often pass by the chickens, which seemed to think I was one of their own after I clucked to gain their attention (the rooster did not seem amused with this).

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A verse from Chapter LIII, On the Reception of Guests, came to mind during my stay:

[…]guests, who are never lacking in a monastery […]

I never understood why monasteries should be busy places, but after a few days of seeing people coming and going, it finally made sense. It is not the easiest place to arrive at (and this is a good thing, especially for the monks), yet people managed to find their way there. While the World Meeting of Families was going on, people would happen to find their way to the monastery. People from all over the world seem to find their way to this secluded monastery, and many times someone will know someone in common with another visitor.

The house no longer resounded with the bustling noise of renovations, as it did four years ago. Nonetheless, works were still being carried out, with the new novitiate cells being built, as well as the new church (aptly named Bethlehem). Silverstream has a vocational problem: it’s a growing family, yet does not have enough space to take in all those who “persevere in knocking” at the door. If you can help this growing community, please consider making a donation here.

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In the second part I will say a bit about my experience of the Liturgy during my stay.