Twelve women made an Ignatian retreat at a retreat house in Fullterton for eight days recently, and I was one of them. We prayed most of the day and were supposed to maintain silence. Each of us was to act as if she was on retreat by herself; we weren't to greet each other in hallways or anything. Some observations:
I still have no idea who was in the room next to mine, even though we shared the bathroom that connected our rooms.
People seem a little less friendly when they're not able to talk. I don't mean they actually were; I just mean that talking is a major social lubricant and when it's removed I perceive people as less friendly.
I didn't hear a single complaint all week, and whatever issues might have been whined about or just discussed ad naseum were never raised.
Except once. Writing a long ranty note and passing it to others in the chapel is NOT maintaining silence.
When you must communicate something, and it's sort of complicated, I think just quietly saying it is more in keeping with the spirit of silence than undertaking a long charades session.
A great advantage of the silence requirement was that I could read at the dinner table without being considered rude!
Every evening a group went walking around the neighboring praying the Rosary (not out loud, obviously). The silent camaraderie was nice.
Every day we made the responses at Mass, said Vespers in a group, and met with our spiritual directors, so I hardly even felt I was being silent at all.
When the retreat ended we gathered at the doorway of the house and introduced ourselves and began to get to know each other. What fun that was. :) There were a number of women who make the retreat every year. Four of the younger women were discerning religious vocations.
I had a really excellent retreat; I have a clearer idea of what God wants from me right now and that's just what I was hoping for. A flashing neon sign spelling out my vocation would also have been nice, but I wasn't expecting that. :) I miss being there now. It was wonderful to have all day to pray. It didn't feel like I was dropping real life to get away for a while; rather, it felt like I was finally really attending to my real life.
We talked after the retreat about how spoiled we are to have such opportunities available to us. The Apostolic Oblates provided the retreat house and our priests gave the spiritual direction. Without all those people who've given their lives completely to the service of God, our retreat would have been harder and a heck of a lot more expensive.