A Weekend of Silence Teaches One Man to Listen

Dick Browne says that after a silent retreat, he was less bothered by little things.

Photograph by Matthew Worden.

Travel > Nearby Getaways > Great Weekends

Dick Browne has been going on silent retreats since he was a freshman at Gonzaga High School on Capitol Hill. A retired DC lawyer, he says the weekends inspire reflection and meditation for months afterward.

Browne says he’s also come to realize that the less he expects, the more he gets out of a retreat. A weekend last December at the Jesuit-run Loyola Retreat House in Faulkner, Maryland, for example, brought a particular peace.

Loyola sits on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River. Browne went there with a group of fellow parishioners from St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Rockville, and at dusk on the first evening they gathered on the lawn.

“At sunset, the sky caught fire and blazed for a half hour before the sun dropped,” he says. “My revelation on this occasion was that sunset is a silent gift from God. To stand on that lawn with not a whisper between us—to hear the vast silence of sky, water, and open space and to see every imaginable shade of crimson—was a perfect prelude to a silent weekend of listening. Sometimes it’s a little hard to see that something simple may be giving you more of a message than you think if you listen.”

Browne says he returned home with a renewed sense of not being bothered by things and found himself happier than ever to simply watch his grandchildren, particularly three-year-old Patrick. “Maybe one day,” Browne says, “I’ll take him with me.”