This afternoon I began a retreat with 38 members of a Religious community of brothers. Tonight, after dinner, we moved into the silence that will accompany us until the retreat concludes on Friday.
Later this evening I took time to savour the silence. Even for a priest and for Religious Brothers, as for most of the people I know, real silence is rare. Often there might be an absence of conversation, company or noise, but most of us, much of the time, fill this silence with noise.
How easy it is when lying awake at 2am to turn on the radio. How often do I drive without the car stereo or walk without an MP3?
The reason I reach for the radio in the car or turn on the TV when home alone in the evening, is that silence is not always comfortable. In moments of silence anything that I am not at peace about comes to consciousness. This is precisely why silence is such an important part of prayer.
When we relax into silence, we discover our present reality. This is important, since God is waiting to come to us in the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of every human life. If I am not aware of where and how I am, I may well miss the presence and action of God.
My human health and happiness comes not when I overcome my anxieties and griefs, but when I know that God is with me in the midst of these trials. There is no greater intimacy than the experience of the love of God carrying us through suffering.
Please keep the brothers and I in your prayer over these days.
And you might like to ‘accompany us in spirit’ by setting a few minutes each day to simply sit in silence, and to know that whatever feelings and worries come to your consciousness, you are not alone. God is with you.