POETRY: The Country Clergy by R. S. Thomas

May 18, 2018

I see them working in old rectories By the sun’s light, by candlelight, Venerable men, their black cloth A little dusty, a little green With holy mildew. And yet their skulls, Ripening over so many prayers, Toppled into the same grave With oafs and yokels. They left no books, Memorial to their lonely thought In grey parishes; rather they wrote On men’s hearts and in the minds Of young children sublime words Too soon forgotten. God in his time Or out of time will correct [...]

POETRY: In Church by R. S. Thomas

April 13, 2018

Often I try To analyse the quality Of its silences. Is this where God hides From my searching? I have stopped to listen, After the few people have gone, To the air recomposing itself For vigil. It has waited like this Since the stones grouped themselves about it. These are the hard ribs Of a body that our prayers have failed To animate. Shadows advance From their corners to take possession Of places the light held For an hour. The bats resume Their business. The uneasiness of the pews Ceases. There is no other sound In the darkness but the sound of a man Breathing, testing his faith On emptiness, nailing his questions One by one to an untenanted [...]

POETRY: In A Country Church by R. S. Thomas

April 6, 2018

To one kneeling down no word came, Only the wind’s song, saddening the lips Of the grave saints, rigid in glass; Or the dry whisper of unseen wings, Bats not angels, in the high roof. Was he balked by silence? He kneeled long, And saw love in a dark crown Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree Golden with fruit of a man’s [...]

POETRY: Immersion by Denise Levertov

November 29, 2017

There is anger abroad in the world, a numb thunder, because of God’s silence. But how naïve, to keep wanting words we could speak ourselves, English, Urdu, Tagalog, the French of Tours, the French of Haiti… Yes, that was one way omnipotence chose to address us—Hebrew, Aramaic, or whatever the patriarchs chose in their turn to call what they heard. Moses demanded the word, spoken and written. But perfect freedom assured other ways of speech. God is surely patiently trying to immerse us in a different language, events of grace, horrifying scrolls of history and the unearned retrieval of blessings lost for ever, the poor grass returning after drought, timid, persistent. God’s abstention is only from human dialects. The holy voice [...]

POETRY: The Silence by Wendell Berry

July 1, 2017

Though the air is full of singing my head is loud with the labor of words. Though the season is rich with fruit, my tongue hungers for the sweet of speech. Though the beech is golden I cannot stand beside it mute, but must say “It is golden,” while the leaves stir and fall with a sound that is not a name. It is in the silence that my hope is, and my aim. A song whose lines I cannot make or sing sounds men’s silence like a root. Let me say and not mourn: the world lives in the death of speech and sings [...]

POETRY: My Silence Is The Lord by Paul Quenon

May 24, 2017

My silence is the Lord, I listen, his silence speaks at all time. When I listen not, my hearing is filled with words and my tongue takes to rambling. My resting place is the Lord a hideaway on a mountain height. The lonely seek and find him. My resting place is the Lord, a low valley by the runlet. All humble steps lead there. “Turn in to my place and sit quietly. Drink from my stream and my vintage. Cast off your shoes, discard your hardships and listen to my evening song: “I seek a heart that is simple. With the peaceful I spread my tent. I will wash your feet and dry them, my silence will be their perfume. “In your quiet steps I will follow. None will know whence we come and where we go. To the world you will be my [...]

POETRY: First Forgive The Silence by Mark Jarman

January 13, 2017

First forgive the silence That answers prayer, Then forgive the prayer That stains the silence. Excuse the absence That feels like presence, Then excuse the feeling That insists on presence. Pardon the delay Of revelation, Then ask pardon for revealing Your impatience. Forgive God For being only a word, Then ask God to forgive The betrayal of language. [...]

SILENCE: Tonic For Intolerance

July 1, 2016

I am intolerant. I could very easily stand up before a crowd of like-minded people and say, Hello.  My name is Julia.  And I am intolerant. The funny thing is that for most people I am not intolerant. Quite the opposite. But there are a few people for which I seem to have no control over my complete lack of patience and understanding. The list of these people isn’t that long, really.  It’s a little longer than this, but these are the shining stars in my fury: My mother. My former spouse. My own daughter. It has taken me all these years to just breathe out and admit to this last sin. But I have had to just admit to myself that my daughter is, very sadly, in some critical ways, her father’s daughter. The raging [...]

POETRY: I Turn My Silence Over, by Kary Wayson

July 1, 2016

I am in the tenth month of the ninth life of my silence. My baby’s grown fat enough to feed me. I turn my silence over. I turn it towards my mother. It wears the expressionless face of an oscillating fan. Each day, at intervals, a bell brings enormous horses to the middle of my alphabet. I turn my silence over. I’m not speaking to my mother. My mute has balloons for his hands. O Underbite! With your mailbox of a jaw. O Nothing! When I ask what’s wrong. I turn my silence over: an astronomical number. O, How I could go on! Market to market I go and come home. My silence runs parallel to the direction of my travel. My silence makes a district with just one constituent: I am the legislator of my mother. My silence [...]

LISTENING: A Taste Of Silence by Sue Monk Kidd

June 30, 2016

From Firstlight Often I feel like that famous contemplative, Charlie Brown.  My favorite Charlie Brown story is about the time he and Lucy were sailing on a cruse ship.  Lucy, great philosopher that she is, said, “You know, Charlie Brown, life is like a cruise ship.  Some people take their deck chairs to the back of the ship to see where they have been.  And some people take their deck chairs to the front of the ship to see where they are going.  What kind of person are you, Charlie Brown?”  He pauses reflectively, and then says, “I’m the kind of person who can’t get my deck chair open.”  In the contemplative life, I’m still trying to open my deck chair. Somehow, as a young woman with a [...]

PRAYER: Prayer For Silence, by Thomas Merton

June 30, 2016

Lady, Queen of Heaven, pray me into solitude and silence and unity, that all my ways may be immaculate in God. Let me be content with whatever darkness surrounds me, finding him always by me, in his mercy. Let me keep silence in this world, except in so far as God wills and in the way he wills it. Let me at least disappear into the writing I do. It should mean nothing special to me, nor harm my recollection. The work could be a prayer; its results should not concern me. [...]

POETRY: Silence, by Robert Bly

June 29, 2016

The fall has come, clear as the eyes of chickens. Strange muffled sounds come from the sea, Sounds of muffled oarlocks, And swampings in lonely bays, Surf crashing on unchristened shores, And the wash of tiny snail shells in the wandering gravel. My body also wanders among these doorposts and cars, Cradling a pen, or walking down a stair Holding a cup in my hand, And not breaking into the pastures that lie in the sunlight. This is the sloth of the man inside the body, The sloth of the body lost among the wandering stones of kindness. Something homeless is looking on the long roads— A dog lost since midnight, a small duck Among the odorous reeds, Or a tiny box-elder bug searching for the window pane. Even the young sunlight is lost on the [...]

NOTHINGNESS: Leisure As Silence, by Michael Casey

June 28, 2016

From Strangers to the City Leisure is not idleness or the pursuit of recreational activities.  It is, above all, being attentive to the present moment, open to all its implications, living it to the full.  This implies a certain looseness in lifestyle that allows heart and mind to drift away from time to time.  Monastic life is not a matter of shoehorning the maximum number of good works into a day.  It is more important that monks and nuns do a few things well, being present to the tasks they undertake, leaving room for recuperation and reflection, and expecting the unexpected.  Leisure allows openness to the present.  It is the opposite of being enslaved by the past or living in some hazy anticipation of a desirable future. [...]

MEDITATION: Learning To Be Silent by John Main

June 28, 2016

From Word Into Silence We now need to take a closer look at the sort of silence that is needed for meditation.  Meditation is not the time for words, however beautifully and sincerely phrased.  All our words are wholly ineffective when we come to enter into this deep and mysterious communion with God whose own Word within us is before and after all words.  “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord. In order to enter into this holy and mysterious communion with the Word of God dwelling within us, we must first have the courage to become more and more silent.  In a deep creative silence we meet God in a way that transcends all our powers of intellect and language.  We are all basically aware that we cannot apprehend God [...]

PRAYER: The Value Of Silence by The Taizé Community

June 27, 2016

Three times a day, everything on the hill of Taizé stops: the work, the Bible studies, the discussions. The bells call everyone to church for prayer. Hundreds or even thousands of mainly young people from all over the world pray and sing together with the brothers of the community. Scripture is read in several languages. In the middle of each common prayer, there is a long period of silence, a unique moment for meeting with God.   Silence and prayer If we take as our guide the oldest prayer book, the biblical Psalms, we note two main forms of prayer. One is a lament and cry for help. The other is thanksgiving and praise to God. On a more hidden level, there is a third kind of prayer, without demands or explicit expression of praise. [...]

PRAYER: Prayer Of Silence

June 27, 2016

From The Benedictine Foundation of the State of Vermont Companions, the wise tell us that God abides in silence— that God speaks in the silent serenity of the heart. Let us not speak of silence; rather, let silence speak to us of God. Together, let us enter, through the door of serenity, the silence of our heart. The chatter of our fears, our angers, our anxiety— the chatter of our desires and curiosity, of our projected plans and unfinished work— falls away in serenity and makes space, an open space, for a new heart, created in the silence of prayer, created in the prayer of silence… a heat that is free, peaceful, quiet and calm; a heart that is one… a heart so large and wide that it embraces the God of all and the all of God, [...]

POETRY: Praying by Mary Oliver

June 10, 2016

It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, it could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few small stones; just pay attention, then patch a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t a contest but the doorway into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak. [...]

POETRY: The Land Of Silence, by May Sarton

June 3, 2016

1 Time beats like a heart; we do not hear it But we are nourished as by sleep after pain. Death is so close to life that we can bear it. The smallest veins drink time and breathe again. 2 The horizon is inhabited by mountains, The foreground presents birds. In the morning I saw the gray dove In the bare trees, active as a mother, And in the evening without words The intense violet light Lifted the mountains away into night. And I knew I did not have to make a choice But only to look at each thing as it came, To look as one might listen to a voice Unknown, but calling a familiar name. 3 Now I am here in the land of silence, Of the near dove and the distant hills, I know that the surface is the essence, No stripping down to what is already [...]

POETRY: Substitution, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

June 1, 2016

When some beloved voice that was to you Both sound and sweetness, faileth suddenly, And silence, against which you dare not cry, Aches round you like a strong disease and new— What hope? what help? what music will undo That silence to your sense? Not friendship’s sigh, Not reason’s subtle count; not melody Of viols, nor of pipes that Faunus blew; Not songs of poets, nor of nightingales Whose hearts leap upward through the cypress-trees To the clear moon; nor yet the spheric laws Self-chanted, nor the angels’ sweet “All hails,” Met in the smile of God: nay, none of these. Speak THOU, availing Christ!—and fill this [...]

WISDOM: Silence by Joan Chittister

December 17, 2015

From Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light One of the elders said, “Just as it is impossible to see your face in troubled water, so also the soul, unless it is clear of alien thoughts, is not able to pray to God in contemplation.” S   ilence is the lost art in a society made of noise.  Radios wake us up, and timers on TVs turn off the day-full of programs long after we have gone to sleep at night.  We have music in cars and elevators and office waiting rooms.  We have surround-sound that follows us from the living room to the kitchen to the upstairs bath.  We have public address hookups in every office building and large, loud, screaming sound systems mounted on street corners.  We exercise with [...]

SERMON: All Saints And All Souls Day by Karl Rahner

November 1, 2015

All Saints day and All Souls day are the feasts of every saint and of every soul who has died and gone home into the eternal love of God.  All of them and therefore not only those already celebrated by name in the church’s feasts throughout the year but also the silent, unknown ones who have departed as if they had never even existed.  There are no legends about them; their lives are recorded neither in poetry nor in history, secular or ecclesiastical.  Only one person knows anything about these saints, and that of God.  He has inscribed their names in the book of life, which is the heart of his eternal love. But we are supposed to celebrate these saints who are not known to us by name.  How can we do this – really do [...]

SPIRITUAL FORMATION: Keep Water Over The Door Of My Lips by Lois M. Farag

March 7, 2015

From Balance of the Heart The Tongue, Slander, Silence, and Judgment Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3) James in his epistle discusses the threat of the tongue.  The tongue is as treacherous as a fire in a forest: once the fire ignites it takes a long time to control, and even if it is controlled, there is always damage.  James also says that the tongue “stains the whole body.”  The stain is a sign that the body has become impure.  The tongue is hard to control or “tame” and is “a restless evil full of deadly poison.”  What is even worse, the tongue curses “those who are made in the likeness of God.”  This is a very scary depiction of [...]

POETRY: It’s The Silence, by Pedro Kilkerry

March 6, 2015

Translated from the Portuguese by Mark A. Lokensgard It’s the silence, it’s the cigarette and the lit candle. The bookcase looks at me in every book that looks. And the light on one of the volumes on the table. . . But it is the blood of the light on each page. I do not know if it is really my hand that wets The pen, or really instinct that grips it tightly. I think of a present, of a past. And your nature Covers Nature itself with leaves. But it is a meddling with things. . . Agitated I take up my pen, I dupe myself into thinking I describe The illusion of one sense and another sense. So distant it goes! So distant your step becomes soft A wing that the ear animates. . . And the chamber mute. And the parlor mute, mute. . . [...]

LENT: Recollection, Silence, And Ignorance, by Richard Valantasis

March 4, 2015

From Centuries of Holiness The need for discourse in the spiritual life never really fades away.  Given the complexities of postmodern existence and the speed with which new phenomena both come into existence and change people’s way of life, there will never really come a time when discourse – engagement with ideas and new things, with social connections and social interactions, and with concern for the physical environment – will dissipate.  Discourse is a reality in the postmodern spiritual life.  But discourse does not solely define the modality of the religious life.  There are also times when seekers become capable of moving beyond the discourse into silence and into holy ignorance. Recollection is the foundation of [...]

LENT: Keeping Silence, by Leeana Tankersley

March 3, 2015

From Found Art I know people who like to go on to the desert for entertainment.  They take their sand toys to Borrego Springs or Ocotillo Wells or Glamis or any of the other deserts right outside San Diego, and they run dune buggies and sleep in their motor homes.  This kind of weekending is of no interest to me.  I am not much into cactus and coyotes and dream-catcher earrings.  The only redeeming thing I can think of when it comes to deserts is that they always seem to be close to casinos, and I do love casinos. Because the desert is foreign to me, living in one was weird, something that took getting used to.  Living in an ancient desert was weirder yet.  Right outside my flat was the Bible-times desert where people endured [...]

POETRY: Song—If You Seek. . ., by Thomas Merton

February 28, 2015

If you seek a heavenly light I, Solitude, am your professor! I go before you into emptiness, Raise strange suns for your new mornings, Opening the windows Of your innermost apartment. When I, loneliness, give my special signal Follow my silence, follow where I beckon! Fear not, little beast, little spirit (Thou word and animal) I, Solitude, am angel And have prayed in your name. Look at the empty, wealthy night The pilgrim moon! I am the appointed hour, The “now” that cuts Time like a blade. I am the unexpected flash Beyond “yes,” beyond “no,” The forerunner of the Word of God. Follow my ways and I will lead you To golden-haired suns, Logos and music, blameless joys, Innocent of questions And beyond [...]

PRAYER: Prayers Of GratitudeAnd Praise, by Edward Hays

May 26, 2014

Blessed Are You, Lord Our God, Who Gives To Us Nourishment In Times Of Silence And Solitude From uplifted hearts, hearts full of gratitude, may this prayer of thanksgiving rise to You, God of All Gifts and of Great Generosity. We are thankful for times of stillness which allow us to listen to that holy river of prayer flowing in the heart; for the presence of Your Holy Spirit within, the Spirit who prays [...]

SATURDAY READING: Desert Hermits by Sara Maitland

April 5, 2014

From A Book of Silence  In her late forties, after a noisy upbringing as one of six children and an adulthood as a vocal feminist and mother, Sara Maitland found herself living alone in the country, and, to her surprise, falling in love with silence. During these years in Weardale I grew deeply contented.  I lived in a place of extraordinary wild beauty.  I was fit and well.  I had all these fascinating things to think and learn about.  I was never lonely and never bored.  I had enough satisfying work to do.  I felt my prayer life and my theological understanding were developing, and moving forward in ways that seemed both natural and exciting.  I felt I was creating a way of living, freely and silently, that might be useful to a [...]

SILENCE: The Silence Of The Psalms, by Thomas Merton

April 3, 2014

From Bread In The Wilderness One thing remains to be explained, we have emphasized, in this book, the truth that the Psalms most often become contemplation when, through them, we manage to unite our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ, so that he in turn lifts us up in his own triumph and raises us to a foretaste of his glory.  Why this emphasis on suffering?  Suffering is not the only theme in the Psalter. We bring the substance of our own lives to the Psalter and offer it to Christ to be transformed by him.  It is all matter for sacrifice.  But since life on Earth is what it is, we all have plenty of trouble, plenty of suffering, plenty of misery.  We have our joys too.  And we should not omit to offer them to Christ and [...]