It’s Good Friday. It’s a silent Good Friday. This is the day that my physical state closely matches what the day is all about. Quiet reflection on the foundation of my faith. It seems only fitting for the Silent Extrovert to write about silence from a more spiritual perspective.
In my faith (Catholicism) there are many orders of priests and religious (that’s what we call nuns) who seem to have a corner on the silence market so to speak. For instance, St. Benedict, created an order of monks that follows what’s called the Benedictine Rule, a set of guidelines for life of prayer, study, manual labor, and living together in community. On the topic of silence, it is thought that by clearing the mind of distraction, one may listen more attentively to God. The 6th Rule mentions the “love of silence.” It’s not a vow of silence, but it does speak of the importance of (1) restraint in one’s words and (2) obedience and (2) listening to one’s superiors. One out of three isn’t bad. That’s where I am with Rule #6 on Day #5.
Another order of monks is the Trappists. You may have heard of Thomas Merton, an amazing writer/mystic and Trappist monk. This group follows the Benedictine Rule on silence. I read about their rubric “Living in Silence” being a set of centuries-old hand gestures that were “developed to convey basic communication of work and spirit.” (Reminds me of the white board I use!) Fr. William Meninger and Fr. Thomas Keating were two Trappists credited with the spread of the now popular practice called “centering prayer.” (If you’re Catholic, you’ve heard it referred to as contemplative prayer.) Whatever you call it, the practice is about getting quiet and listening to God.
Until recently, I just couldn’t imagine what would ever motivate someone to become a priest or nun and commit to what I saw as silent isolation. What could possibly be WRONG with these people? How could they live such simple lives in quiet solitude? Afterall, what kind of goal was peace? (Not gonna apologize, that’s just where I was at that time.)
Then I got into long-term recovery and began to experience this thing called serenity.
As I experienced serenity, I wanted more of it. Sure I had to break through some pretty uncomfortable and unfamiliar feelings. Like calm, steady, manageable feelings. I would complain that I was bored only to be told that I was experiencing serenity. This took a little getting use to.
On my uncharted path, I kept hearing about the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, which are a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola to help people deepen their relationship with God. All the people I met who had completed these exercises agreed that the process had changed them…it had brought them a greater sense of peace and a deeper connection to God. I toyed with the idea of doing the exercises, but when I learned of the 9-month commitment of 1 hour of prayer per day, I opted out. Still, the messages kept emerging to complete the exercises. I dipped my toe in the water by taking a 6-week class on the exercises offered at my favorite retreat center. I signed up only to learn that there was a 6-week commitment of 1/2 hour of prayer per day. Well, I had committed, so I saw no option but to forge ahead. I sincerely wanted to complete the exercises, so I figured if I can do 6-weeks of 30 minutes of prayer each day, I can certainly do 9 months of 60 minutes of prayer each day.
The facilitator of that class became my spiritual director, and about a year later, I completed the exercises. I had spent 60 minutes each day in silent prayer for 9 months. I think there was only one day that I was not able to carve out the necessary time. Yes, I had to adjust my schedule to accommodate the added activity, but I came to learn that silence is portable. I could be silent anywhere…even on an airplane. In those 9 months, I came to treasure that one hour of silence each day and have continued this practice ever since.
Looking back, I can see that the preparation for this vocal cord recovery process actually happened WAY before March of this year.
Wonder if God had a plan all along?