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) 




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