This Advent, Ignatian writers from across the Jesuit Conference are sharing 25 days of reflections on Ignatian heroes. You can receive these reflections directly in your inbox by signing up here.
Day 12: Margaret Silf
By Jen Sawyer
Margaret Silf is a prolific writer and retreat leader. Growing up in South Yorkshire, U.K., Silf experienced multiple faith traditions. She was baptized and raised Methodist, spent most of her teen years in the Anglican Church, and converted to Catholicism at the age of 20. However, it wasn’t until her mid-30s that she felt her faith truly came alive after studying with the Jesuits, where she began to learn about and embrace Ignatian spirituality. She later left her career in the computer industry to pursue creative writing and prayer.
Similarly to Silf, Ignatian spirituality was not something on my radar until I first encountered the Jesuits as an undergraduate at Fordham University. Intrigued by a charism I’d never before experienced and hoping to meet new people drawn to finding God in all things, I decided to sign up for one of the campus ministry weekend retreats, where I first encountered Silf’s writing. Reading through excerpts from her work “The Inner Compass,” I was introduced to symptoms of desolation and blessings of consolation, as well as the basics of praying the Examen, thoughtfully reviewing my day and paying attention to where God was present throughout. I appreciated Silf’s gift for explaining Ignatian spirituality in a way that felt deeply relevant and accessible to my life, even as a young college student.
Ever since that formative weekend, I’ve sought out retreat experiences, both structured weekends and what Silf describes as “breaks from everyday life spent in solitude, prayer, or meditation.” Years later, like Margaret, I’ve continued to feel closest to God through writing, reflection and taking time to retreat. I’ve been shaped by the many stories of faith I read as editor of Busted Halo, and I spent time serving as a retreat leader for young adults regularly throughout my 20s.
Today, as we head into the season of waiting, hope and preparation, I find myself longing for a retreat. In many ways, the contemporary Advent experience couldn’t feel farther from that “break from everyday life.” There are never-ending to-do lists to check off, large crowds to navigate through, family expectations to be met and exceeded. It’s not easy to find time for quiet prayer, writing and reflection, but with Silf’s help, and perhaps some of her reflections on a waiting world, I’m willing to try
Reflection: How will you take time to “retreat” this Advent? How will you make this Advent season more of a retreat experience?
Jen Sawyer is editor-in-chief of Busted Halo. She previously produced video for TV and the web, working for the “The Martha Stewart Show,” ABC, Cooking Channel and Yahoo. She is a member of the Writers Guild of America and wrote for “Good Morning America,” before kissing freelance life goodbye. She lives in New York City.