Archive for February 2013

Enjoy a “Silent” Lent


I recently went on a much needed retreat. Not many people today go on retreat, certainly of the kind of which I speak. Many retreat today to the warmer climates of the south to sit in hotel casinos, nightclubs and sandy beaches. I went on a spiritual retreat and was resident in the monastic community of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, MA. Some will remember when the Cowley Fathers had a Canadian monastery at Bracebridge, Ontario. The American community is the same order.

Going on retreat to be rekindled and renewed spiritually has always been a part of my ministry. It is a time I consciously turn off the noise of the world and enter into a time of silence, study and prayer. It is not easy. It takes me at least a day or more to slow down and allow myself to be absorbed into the moment. The monastery is a good place for me. No radio, television, computers to distract. The place is steeped in prayer and holiness. On this retreat I entered into the worship cycle of the Chapel with the monks, read a couple of books, slept, went for walks (The monastery borders the campus of Harvard University), joined other retreatants every morning under the spiritual direction of one of the monks. When my time came to an end, all too soon, it was difficult to leave and “re-enter the world” (especially as it was -40C at home!).

The most important aspect of a retreat, especially in a monastic community, is the silence that engulfs you. The monks tell guests that they offer the “gift of silence”. For many of us silence as a gift is not something coveted. In our world so many people either know very little of silence or are frightened of it. Just look around….most of us spend part of every waking hour on cellphones, usually saying nothing important. If that isn’t the case, a growing majority cannot leave home without plugging earphones in to their heads to listen to music to drown out the world around them. I admit to participating in some of that lifestyle myself as I struggle when I am without my computer or my cellphone is down.

Part of me, however, likes the silence and I feel comfortable when I can turn off the car radio in my long drives across this Diocese, and simply enjoy the scenery in silence. It always moves me to praise God for the rugged beauty of our area. Part of my present life requires me to spend a good deal of my time living alone and in silence. I can’t read or pray unless I have silence. I like it.

Once again we have entered the holy season of Lent. Today there is a decreasing population, even within the Church, who pay much attention to this season. Nevertheless, it is a holy season during which we are called to take time in our lives to focus on our Christian journey…to study, pray, and spiritually enrich our lives. As the liturgy for Ash Wednesday tells us, we are called “to observe a holy Lent…to renew our life…”

This Lent I invite you…nay, “challenge” you to unplug…turn off…remove all those modern conveniences that fill your waking moments with noise, and take time to enter the silence. Take just an hour each day to silently meditate, pray, read the scriptures. Make your Lenten experience a time of renewal so that Easter becomes the celebration it really is and not just another day as it has become to much of the world.

“Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces…but the Lord was not in the wind;  and after the wind, an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake, a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, the sound of sheer silence…and when Elijah heard it he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out”.(1 kings 19:11-12) 




The “F” Word



I admit to having used the ”F” word from time to time, in my youth and hastily in periods of frustration, but I hate the “F” word.


One day I was walking past a small restaurant during the lunch-hour. Out of the restaurant came three, well-dressed women who were presumably office workers returning to work from their lunch break. As they walked behind me I could easily overhear their conversation. I was taken aback by their freely use of the “F” word in their conversation. I wondered if any of them had children and if they accepted that kind of language at home.


Of course, I hear the use of the word often. During my ministry at Sudbury’s downtown parish many people who lived on the street came through our doors for the numerous outreach endeavours we had to be an assistance to them. Some would use the word freely. I was always pleasantly surprised when one of them would use the word in my presence and then quickly apologize to me for having uttered it.


I am no prude by any means, but I become upset anyway by the use of this word. The entertainment industry today is first to include the use of the “F” word. I remember watching the late Comedian, Red Skelton, near the end of his life, sharing that he did not like the comedians who were eclipsing him for their use of foul, offensive language to get a laugh. A few years ago at a youth movie night I had chosen a feature without having seen it first. One of my more precocious youth counted the number of times the “F” word was used and told me that he was going to tell his mother that I had chosen a bad movie!


A couple of recent events have upset me. A couple of weeks ago I took my wife to see the movie “Dark Thirty Down”. I knew it was really not the kind of movie she would enjoy, but as it has an historical connection, she decided to join me. The use of the “F” word in the movie’s script is legion, well over 100 times, I am sure. By the time the movie concluded, that’s all my poor wife could comment on!


The most recent event was a CBC Radio discussion on the frequent use of a new term by many…”MILF”. With our society’s obsession with “the body beautiful” bringing huge financial gains to the fitness industry, many women who have given birth to one or two children have admiringly gone to the local gym and worked to get into shape to regain the physical beauty they had before the birth of their children. They take pride in their appearance. I am not upset by that at all. But, these women are now termed as “MILF” women…”A Mother I’d Like to F—“

According to the radio discussion, many women in that situation today like the term and do not find it abhorrent. I admired the woman in the discussion who reminded people that while the use of the “F” word “has softened” in today’s society, it is still a disgusting word and all kinds of disgusting connotations associated with it. I spend a lot of time listening to the CBC with the driving I do in this Diocese and I have to say that the once morally upstanding Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has succumbed to the “softening” of our society by much of the programming I hear today. There are times when in frustration at what I am hearing, I simply turn the radio off and drive in the bliss of silence!


Well, as I have said, I am not a prude and not innocent when it comes to my own occasional slip of the tongue and use of less-than-wholesome language, but the “softening” of society’s use of the “F” word has me rankled. We need to be reminded that it is a disgusting word, associated with all things disgusting. To be sure, we need to stop people who freely use the word in our hearing and remind them that there are far better ways to communicate!


 “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”  Ephesians 4:29