I’ve become a fan of Fr. Richard Rohr, the Franciscan priest who founded the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albequerque, New Mexico. In particular, his view of Franciscan spirituality resonates with my own feelings about living a Franciscan life in the secular world. But I’ll save that for another post.
Over Christmas week, December 21-27, Fr.Richard posted a series of meditations on the importance of Silence. While I was teaching, I often felt the lack of silence in my life at a visceral level; silence was a thirst that I never seemed able to quench. Now that I’m retired, I cherish the hours of silence that make up a portion of many days.
Here are Fr. Richard’s meditations:
- Silence is at the very foundation of all reality. It is that out of which all being comes and to which all things return. (Sunday’s Meditation)
- The running from silence is undoubtedly running from God, from our soul, from our selves, from the truth, and from freedom. (Monday’s Meditation)
- The two correctives of all spirituality are silence and service.(Tuesday’s Meditation)
- Sometimes grace is an uprush and sometimes it is a downrush, but it is always from a silence that is larger than you, surrounds you, and finally names the deeper truth of the full moment that is you. (Wednesday’s Meditation)
- As a general spiritual rule, you can trust this: The ego gets what it wants with words. The soul finds what it needs in silence.(Thursday’s Meditation)
- With contemplative eyes, I can live with a certain non-dual consciousness that often allows me to be merciful to the moment, patient with human failure, and generous toward the maddening issues of our time. (Friday’s Meditation)
- Rest: Centering Silence (Saturday’s Meditation)Contemplative prayer can be traced through the Desert Fathers and Mothers, Pseudo-Dionysius, early Christian and Benedictine monasticism, some early Franciscans like Bonaventure, the unknown author of the The Cloud of Unknowing, the Carmelites, Brother Lawrence, John of the Cross, and Teresa of Ávila, but then was largely lost everywhere (Jean Pierre de Caussade, S.J. being one clear exception). After the dualistic fights of the 16th century it was largely forgotten with almost no teachers emerging even in the contemplative Orders. If you learned it, it was by the Holy Spirit, or on your own—by study of the sources above!
In the 1970s, Trappist monks Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, and William Meninger reintroduced Christians to contemplation through the simple practice of Centering Prayer. Centering Prayer is one good way to draw us into the silence that surrounds and holds us, but of which we are too often unaware. It helps us sink into the wordless reality of who God is and who we ourselves are.
1. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, breathing naturally, relaxing deeply. Become aware of your love and desire for God in this moment.
2. Choose a word or phrase that expresses your intention to be open to God’s presence (such as this week’s Gateway to Silence—“Just be.”—or Grace, Rest, etc.).
3. Hold the word gently, without speaking, repeating it in your mind slowly.
4. Whenever you become aware of anything (thoughts, feelings, sensations), simply return to the word, which symbolizes your intention.
5. Gradually let the word fall away as you slip into silence. Rest in silence.
6. Continue in silence as long as you wish (20 minutes twice daily is suggested by many teachers).
Gateway to Silence: