Ada Thomas, Contributing Writer
Of the many enlightening experiences we encounter during our Rome semesters, one of the most significant for me was the women’s silent retreat. We were all looking forward to a weekend of solitude and silence without any boys as we boarded the bus to the retreat center, laughing and talking in ignorance of the great trials that lay before us. We were going to discern the will of God without any distractions whatsoever, and it was going to be fantastic! Needless to say, that’s not exactly what happened.
The first problem we ran into was apparent almost immediately: silence. Eye contact had to be avoided at all costs because, as we learned, giggling does not count as silence. This proved to be somewhat difficult since the tables in the dining room were circular, and we were reduced to staring dourly at our soup, listening to scratchy classical music playing in the background. We probably looked like a convention of antisocial classical music enthusiasts, minus the enthusiasm.
The next challenge presented itself the following morning: men. There were billions of them, and they were everywhere! Every time we went to the chapel, they were lurking nearby. Every time we passed them on our way to meals, they were trying to look suave, but we were unimpressed. Obviously we were too busy with our own spiritual growth to concern ourselves with such trivialities. What audacity these young men must have had to schedule their retreat the exact same weekend as ours! Did they not realize that ladies from the University of Dallas were trying to have a silent retreat? Yet, with much prayer, we deigned to accept their existence and managed to contemplate the irony of their presence; we even refrained from glaring at them in the hallways.
The Lord then sent us another challenge to increase our already unbelievable sanctity: These upstart young men plucked up the courage to try to converse with us.
As we piously made our way to dinner one evening, two of these scoundrels accosted us and asked, “Where are you from?”
We showed our utter disdain for such utter foolishness by stopping dead in our tracks, looking at each other, at them, at each other, bursting into giggles and walking away as fast as we could. One of us, however, took pity on them and attempted to politely explain that we did not, in fact, hold their existence in complete contempt but were merely on silent retreat. Unfortunately, they did not seem to understand her, and she left them looking quite bewildered.
Later in the evening as she made her way back from supper, one of the young gentlemen called out to her, “It’s okay. We already know.”
His companion chimed in, “Tex-aaaaas!”
We did persevere and finish our retreat in (moderate) silence, and on Sunday we were finally allowed to talk, which was utterly glorious.
As we posed for the group photo, someone asked through their forced smile, “Who the heck were all those dudes?”
“Didn’t you know?” Father Thomas said, looking shocked. “That was the Swiss Guard!”
There was utter silence, and it seemed as if our prayers for guidance had been answered, as if a ray of heavenly light had come down from on high. It was at that very moment that many of us realized we were called to marriage — right now. Much to our disappointment, however, the mysterious, obnoxious young men seemed to finally be taking their retreat seriously and were catching up on all the praying they should have been doing while we were silent. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over this great stroke of misfortune.
But just as we were resigning ourselves to this vocational false alarm, a certain Cistercian, who wishes to remain anonymous, made the brilliant, albeit wicked, suggestion that we write our phone numbers in the books that the Swiss Guard had left strewn about. We all thought this was a marvelous idea and were on the verge of carrying it out when we realized that we didn’t know our campus phone numbers, which made the suggestion somewhat impractical. So we returned to Due Santi somewhat holy, somewhat crestfallen, but just as giggly as when we set out.