Home > Uncategorized > Gethsemani Post 4 – On Silence

Gethsemani Post 4 – On Silence

*** Written last week on my Silent Retreat ***

As previously noted they do a real good job here enforcing the silence aspect of retreats. Signs are posted EVERYWHERE silence is to be maintained – hallways, rooms, walkways, every table in the dining room has a small “Silence is Spoken Here” reminder. As I am now in my 2nd full day of silence, it has become more profound and meaningful. One of the Thomas Merton tapes we heard at lunch Merton addressed the silence, saying being in silence helps remind us of the poor ways we often use words – to wound, to gossip, to talk about people behind their back. Being in silence can help us remember to control that most lethal of all weapons, our tongues, and to use our voices to lift others up, to serve others, to worship and praise God.

They have a beautiful new Visitors Center here. They evidently get a lot of folks who just drop in to see the place. At lunch, as we eat in silence, we gaze out the window into the gardens and often see these tourists walking along. Despite signs warning them otherwise, some just cannot help but to speak – we can’t hear them but we can see them, and it is disturbing for some reason. Today at lunch two retreat goers were actually talking in the garden, sitting RIGHT NEXT TO a “No Talking in the garden” sign. It was almost comical. What we fell to realize is how far voices carry when no one else is talking. Other guests were strolling up a hill nearby and the conversation of these two obviously disturbed their thoughts or prayers and they shushed them as they walked by.

After lunch I spent some time in the garden. They have several bird feeders and a hummingbird feeder and all are frequented. Sitting in the garden you really can hear the various calls, tweets, caws, hoots, buzzes, flapping, and fretting of winged creatures, both bird and insect. I actually saw a chipmonk, climbing the wall 10 feet away from em. I don’t think I have ever seen one up close, other than on a Disney cartoon! He/she was very cute. It’s quite lovely in the garden.

As I sat there, I heard voices and saw a group of tourists walking through the gravestones near the entrance, just yapping away like they were at a tea party. They didn’t stop until they got closer to the garden and I suppose noticed the signs. It was jarring in a way that was really disturbing. It also made me remember we need to figure out a way for some pre-worship and during-worship silence at St. Patrick’s. People need silence, we all do, and we all need to learn to be comfortable with it.

It was actually cool in the garden (it’s been very hot here), overcast skies helped a lot. But then we heard thunder and the rain came, a brief shower that sent me inside until after the None service.

It has been interesting to hear how some folks react to the concept of a silent retreat. High extroverts, like my wife, think it a torture similar to water boarding. Other, more introverted folks like my friend Dick in Florida, get a look on their face of longing and need. I believe even the extroverts can learn to love a time apart, in silence, just your own thoughts and prayers, nature, books, God. The noise of the world blocks our intimacy with God at times and it is good to come away and reconnect. And it’s not like you never hear a human voice, or use yours, with 8 services a day there is plenty of opportunity to listen and to join in.

I like the silent language we use to each other when opening doors or holding elevators, helping with a dinner tray or a worship booklet. For some reason it seems more kind, more caring, more intentional. Or maybe I’ve been here too long already! Anyway, I am enjoying the silence.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Donna Lishen
    August 10, 2011 at 8:09 am

    I personally like silent retreats. They help us discard a lot of the extra baggage we tend to accumulate. I totally agree w your comment about more quiet time @ st pats. It does seem “too casual” & not nearly reverent enough for meditation. I think some of the issue could be the open design. People still don’t treat it like a church – because quite frankly, its not – its a multi-use room w an altar that we keep rotating around the room. I don’t.
    believe that transition can happen until we have
    a true sanctuary.
    Really enjoying your series from the retreat.


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