Be still.

You have to allow a certain amount of time in which you are doing nothing in order to have things occur to you, to let your mind think. — Mortimer J. Adler

I gave a retreat this week for a school faculty. Teachers are one of my favorite groups to lead retreats with, as they are by profession hungry to learn, called to be the world’s experts at wondering.

As I often do, I spoke on the power of silence to open an inner space for creativity, honesty, freedom and prayer. Carving out time in each day to be still, to simplify your attention, to listen, to not be productive, to allow unattended thoughts and feelings to simply surface, without analyzing them — this is a royal road to inner peace and stability. To being fully human.

Among the most important practices of my day, I would rank at the top beginning every morning, not with music, news or internet, but with 5 minutes of total silence followed by at least 25 minutes of lectio divina on the day’s Mass readings. On the days I don’t do this, the effects are very evident. In a word, I lose my center and become dissipated.

Robert Cardinal Sarah said that “the life of silence must be able to precede the active life,” precisely because silence allows us to re-center ourselves within and become true actors and not just re-actors. Constant exposure to external noise, distraction and frenetic activity alienates us from ourselves, removes our anchor from God-in-the-soul and hooks our soul’s powers in the shifting sands around us.

I once had the opportunity to spend an hour in a car driving the Trappist monk and author, Fr. Raphael Simon, back to his monastery. What an honor, what a holy man. He heard my confession as I drove! I asked him what holiness looks like in his experience. He said,

In my experience, you can see greatness when words become fewer, weightier, more measured, emerge from a place of depth. Because of this, their words are like arrows that penetrate deeply into others. They also become exceedingly reticent to criticize anyone, and when they do, only with a sharp awareness of their own faults. You see, in silence God is able to reveal you to yourself in His light. But if you remain in noise, you remain in ignorance.

2 comments on “Be still.

  1. DismasDancing says:

    Top of the New Year, brother Tom! The Blessings of His peace to you and your family. Sorry M and I were unable to get to NOLA for the recent MASHLEY concert. One of their performances is certainly on our “Bucket List”. We stayed at the JRB campground on our way back from our TX trip to celebrate our second daughter’s birthday on New Year’s Eve. Weather so sloppy, we decided to simply get back home instead of visiting. Perhaps next time; and we hope that is soon. Nonetheless, life moves on 200 miles to your east.

    While I can be more than chatty in both oral and written formats, I treasure quiet time. A week ago, one of my ministries kept me from a high school breakfast group that has regularly met every Friday morning for the past 8 or 9 years. After my meeting I went to the watering hole knowing the others would be gone. The young single Mom who has been our faithful, and delightful, server during the past 5 years saw me alone and commented: “Wow, you’re by yourself. I feel kinda sad seeing you without the others.” “My dear,” I responded, “I can tell you that I have always treasured my quiet time, learning early on in life the axiom, ‘I may be alone; but I am never lonely.’” She visibly relaxed at that, telling me that she felt the same way, especially after dealing with customers at the restaurant every day.

    “Constant exposure to external noise, distraction and frenetic activity alienates us from ourselves, removes our anchor from God-in-the-soul and hooks our soul’s powers in the shifting sands around us.”

    How true I find your comment. I’m not a sound sleeper, so I often awake in the early morning hours. When a return to sleep fails, I repair to our family room for LoH, prayer, meditation, working hard to simply shut up and listen to My Lord Whom I know is there. I believe I have yet to experience in this life anything approaching the “peace that surpasses all understanding”. But, during those hours I totally let go and let Him, I know a peace that must indeed be close, a peace that one can only know when noises that barely intrude include the quiet beat of my heart and the perpetual intake/outflow of His breath from my lungs. Praise God for that great gift. Such peace and quiet time are rare, but, once experienced, cursing the dark ceases to be an acceptable option.

    Christ’s Peace, Love, and abundant blessings, be with you my dear brother. I miss our correspondence!


  2. BrJoe says:

    Thank you.
    Abyssus ad, abyssum invocat in voce cataractarum tuarum omnia…..

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