February 17, 2021
“Come away with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)
As I was sitting in silence thinking of how to begin this devotional, I was touched by the thought of what silence means to me now in my senior years. When I was young, I had to be on the go all the time. I was raising three children on my own, working at three different schools teaching English and I had private students at home. I was also attending lectures and therapy. I was totally worn out, but I couldn’t stop. Then one Sunday I saw an advert for a silent retreat coming up.
Thoughts came to me about Jesus going to a lonely place in order to have silence away from the crowds. He told his disciples: “Come away with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Jesus knew that they needed quiet or silence to be able to rest not only their bodies, but also their minds and spirits. I also thought about Mary pondering all these things in her heart (Luke 2:19). To be able to ponder, one needs silence and peace. How does one find that kind of silence?
I signed up for the advertised retreat, not really knowing what I was getting myself into, but knowing I needed to get away from it all.
On the Friday evening, at the beginning of the retreat, Father Mark Gibbard explained to us that after supper, we would go into The Silence. He told us that 3 times a day, after meals, he would give a short talk to help us focus our thoughts. It all sounded good to me up to that point. Then, Saturday morning just before lunch I was wandering around the halls of the convent feeling totally bereft of contact with people. One of the sisters came out of her room, I grabbed her arm and said, “Please Sister, will you talk to me?” She graciously guided me into her room, asking me, “Is this your first time, dear?” I answered in the affirmative and she went on to explain what it meant to be silent before the Lord. It took me the rest of the weekend to really understand what she had said, but then it “clicked.” After that I regularly went on a silent retreat, wherever I was in the world. It came to be a time I looked forward to, a time when I could be in total communion with God. I found the peace which the Bible talks about in Philippians 4:7, And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. One can only find that kind of peace by learning to be still before the Lord in silence. I want to encourage you to try it. It is a beautiful thing.
As St. Teresa of Calcutta wrote: “We need to find God and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.”