In a recent post from Fr. James he asked readers to indicate what they are interested in seeing more of or less of on our site. I’m happy to report, thanks primarily to Fr. James, that we are getting good traffic on our new site and that people are reading what he/we write…
A reader named Tim asked Fr. James about finding silence in a busy world and how those of us not called to the Monastery can find it. Having written and taught on this subject a few times I thought I might add some comments about what we can learn from our brothers and sisters in monasteries about finding time…in fact MAKING time…for God and silence and solitude.
The program I teach at the parish level and soon for Friends of St. Benedict (www.benedictfriend.org) is called Simplicity+Silence+Sabbath. To me those three words summarize the Rule of St. Benedict clearly and in simple terms. Benedict, in his Rule, called the monk/nun and us, if we consider ourselves Benedictines in any way, to simplify our lives, find times for silence and solitude and to regulate our own calendar to serve God more fully by setting aside time in the day, the week, the month and the year just for Him. (We’ll write more about Simplicity+Silence+Sabbath in the future and we’re planning on a day long Quiet Day here at the Abbey based on this program.)
Finding times for solitude and Sabbath Keeping isn’t easy for anyone. I think sometimes those of us not called to the monastery think monks and nuns have it easy-after all they have their day to themselves to pray and meditate and be quiet. Who among us hasn’t at one time or another in our busy day or busy lives said ‘oh how I wish I was a monk or nun so I would have nothing to do but pray!’
I have news for you. Having been here at Our Lady of the Holy Cross pretty regularly for a year now (has it been a year?) I can tell you the members of this community have even more to do than I do. Finding time to sit with the Abbot or Br. Efrain to talk about our Monastic Immersion Weekend takes effort to find the time when they are free! After all there are fruitcakes to bake, liturgies to write, chants to practice, cloisters to be swept, prayer requests to be answered, confessions to be heard and silence to be found…you get the idea. Truth is, and you might be surprised to hear this, monastics too have to work at finding time for silence and solitude and prayer. Did you know, for example, that monks of our Abbey actually have ‘retreat days?’ Literally each monk has a day set aside when they can go away, stay perhaps in the small hermitage on the property, and just be quiet and with God…even the monks have to work at it.
But what makes members of monastic communities different than the rest of us, is they put God first. You don’t come to a Trappist monastery if you aren’t completely and totally dedicated to finding God. So what the monastic communities of our church do is base their life on finding God and what’s left over is given to all the other stuff. What you and I do is base our life on all the other stuff and what’s left over we give to God.
See the difference?
So what does that teach us Tim (and other readers)? It teaches us that silence and solitude can be found if we make it a priority. If prayer and silence, just listening to God, is important to us (can there be anything more important?), then we set up our daily, weekly, monthly, yearly calendar based on that and work the rest of our life around it.
Impossible you say! Can’t be done! I have kids and a job and a house to maintain. I have all these other commitments to check my favorite sites on the web each day, watch my favorite teams, play golf…I’m a busy man/woman!
Are we listening when we make these excuses? Look at that list above…except for the needs of our kids, are those other things REALLY more important than finding time for God…I mean, really…
It can be done if we care enough to do it. It might mean you get up earlier in the morning to pray the Office (go to Pray With Us on our site and we’ll make it easy for you). It might mean that at noontime instead of going to lunch with our friends at work everyday, we take two days a week and go sit in a park or go for a walk to be with God. It might mean that we sit with our family and explain to them why we are not going to be with them for a weekend not because we’re going to play golf but because we are going on retreat and just how important that retreat is. And, how about this, it might mean that we sit with our kids and family and explain to them why we are ALL going to sit quietly once a day to be silent and listen, pray or just shut down. Can we imagine the benefit to our kids if they have been conditioned to turn off the phone and the computer and the TV just once a day to be silent? Or maybe we dig into your drawer and find that Rosary our parents gave us for confirmation and put it in our pocket so we can pull it out during down times and just finger the beads as a form of prayer.
Truth is if we aren’t finding time for silence and solitude, it’s because we aren’t working hard enough at it. And because we haven’t learned what our monastic brothers and sisters already know that time for God should be first; time for everything else follows.
Here’s how we find time for silence and prayer-we sit and make that good old fashioned priority list and we put God at the top of it.
Try it…you’re going to find it works.
Companion, Our Lady of the Holy Cross