I just came back from a Franciscan Retreat Center for an overnight retreat with students. Honestly, my sympathy goes to the students because the place is becoming a place where not to do a retreat. The place is getting enslaved by a business model of running it. Although the Center has a lay staff running the front desk and the bookings, it also has a Franciscan priest for its Director whom I can talk to very casually like a friend. Accountability for silence must be his call. But no – every room has to be occupied by at least two people and every group has to hurry up to vacate those rooms because another batch is waiting at the parlor. Whatever happen to people’s hunger for silence! The maximum guests they can accommodate is only 220. But during the retreat, the place was used/overused by at least 250 “retreatants” simultaneously: 135 from our group and another 115 faculty retreatants from one school. The dining halls simply were too crowded and noisy. I had to wake up as early as 4AM to catch some silence, started to walk alone by 5AM. While facilitating the retreat all the way to our departure, the hovering feeling I had was one of melancholia. I don’t know where it is coming – the whole sense of being useless, poor, etc. Maybe there is some inner noise I need to listen to and the outer noise in the place exacerbates it. Maybe, the reading I had this morning on Blessed Margaret Castello – poor, crippled, unwanted, born blind, lame, deformed, hunchbacked and a dwarf – had something to do with this melancholia also. Whatever this is, it’s one of those burdens I have to carry. It is during these times when silence becomes more wanting. The Jesuit facilitator of the other group I know was there, too. We chatted briefly especially about his retreat schedules until advent. He seemed to have sustained some peaceful countenance despite the chaos. But still, bouts of melancholia is personal and contextual. Who knows he was also gnashing his teeth in silence. Or the “world stops before his still mind” as Buddhists would quip.