Tag Archives: Catholic Church

Finding Silence


Thomas-Merton-8-23-17

Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation.

—-Jean Arp

Silence has many dimensions. It can be a regression and an escape, a loss of self, or it can be presence, awareness, unification, self-discovery. Negative silence blurs and confuses our identity, and we lapse into daydreams or diffuse anxieties. Positive silence pulls us together and makes us realize who we are, who we might be, and the distance between the two. Hence, positive silence implies a choice, and what Paul Tillich called the “courage to be.”

—–Thomas Merton


For over seven years we lived on a very busy city street. During that time I began to believe that silence was just a myth that is found in some far off place. I, like the German sculptor Jean Arp, began to believe that silence was passing into legend. Two and a half years ago I moved into a much quieter, though not silent, neighborhood. Once again, I enjoyed birdsong and could hear the sound of the wind flowing through the trees. It was as though I was rediscovering creation. Soon I realized that my new home has noise as well. Determined not to let my silence be taken away from me, I began to embrace the noise as a pathway to inner silence. That sense of silence acted as a catalyst for a new and stronger spirituality.

Merton refers to the damage caused by negative silence in “Love and Living.” My observation is the more we are surrounded by noise the more likely we are to fall into negative silence. I believe that it is caused by the constant awareness of that background noise that is always present. We become so frustrated by our inability to escape the uproar of humanity and position ourselves at the feet of the creator. We fight so hard to escape the uproar, we never find peace. The path remains elusive to us because we are concentrated on the negative. True silence is out there waiting for us to discover it.

True silence is positive silence, which is August-23-Personal-quotea time and a place of self-discovery. From that place we can be in the presence of God. The prophet Zephaniah says, “Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is at hand; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests. “I believe that only way to truly be before the Lord is in silence. How can we really hear God above the din of the world unless we clear our minds and focus on Him? The Bible, early Christians, medieval mystics, modern monastics and all other sorts of people in sincere search of God have a common cry -SILENCE!! This cry instructs us to find a quiet place and present ourselves to God. The quietness allows God to calm us, settle us and speak to us, and more importantly, for us to hear God.

No matter what your circumstance, try not to believe that the quiet place is a thing of the past. Take the time to hear your surroundings and listen to God wherever you may be. The throng of urban life doesn’t have to drive us into the negative silence of brooding and moping. Discover the glimpses of silence that God allows you. Try not to be frustrated with the sounds of His creation but to offer them up as part of your journey to your inner self.


PRAYER

 

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.


Amen.

 

—-Thomas Merton


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Suffering

“Might the authority of those who suffer bring the diverse cultural and social worlds together?” –Johann Baptist Metz

I believe this profound question about suffering, from a modern German theologian, succinctly and precisely expresses the religious breakthrough that Christ has offered humanity. It is also foundational to understanding the unique Franciscan view of the world. True gospel authority, the authority to heal and renew things and people, is not finally found in a hierarchical office, a theological argument, a perfect law, or a rational explanation. The Crucified revealed to the world that the real power that changes people and the world is an inner authority that comes from people who have lost, let go, and are re-found on a new level. Twelve-step programs have come to the same conclusion in our time.

Richard-Rohr_home-view

Richard Rhor

Both Francis and Clare had this kind of inner authority that is still part of their essential message for the world. They let go of all fear of suffering; all need for power, prestige and possessions; any need for their small self to be important; and came to know something essential–who they really were in God and thus who they really were. Their house was then built on “bedrock,” as Jesus says .

Such an ability to really change and heal people is often the fruit of suffering, and various forms of poverty, since the false self does not surrender without a fight to its death. If suffering is “whenever we are not in control” (which is my definition), then you see why some form of suffering is absolutely necessary to teach us how to live beyond the illusion of control and to give that control back to God. Then we become usable instruments, because we can share our power with God’s power (Romans 8:28).

Such a counterintuitive insight surely explains why these two medieval dropouts–Francis and Clare–tried to invite us all into their happy run downward, to that place of “poverty” where all humanity finally dwells anyway. They voluntarily leapt into the very fire from which most of us are trying to escape, with total trust that Jesus’ way of the cross could not, and would not, be wrong. They trusted that his way was the way of solidarity and communion with the larger world, which is indeed passing away and dying. By God’s grace, they could trust the eventual passing of all things, and where it was passing to. They did not wait for liberation later–after death–but grasped it here and now.

—-Richard Rhor

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Day 37–April 1

Mark in Forty Days

This year I am reading through the Gospel of Mark during the forty days of Lent. My suggested plan is that you do these readings in Lectio Divina  format.

Today’s reading

Mark 15:1-20

Prayer Thought

Lord  you were mocked and beaten unjustly for me. Please give me the courage to stand for you in my relatively easy station in life. Give me , I pray, ways to stand for you. Amen

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Day 32–March 27

Mark in Forty Days

This year I am reading through the Gospel of Mark during the forty days of Lent. My suggested plan is that you do these readings in Lectio Divina  format.

Today’s reading

Mark 14:1-26

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Saints as Well

Once upon a time long ago a young man decided to become a saint. He left his home, family, and possessions and journeyed into the hot sands of the desert where he eventually found a dark cave. He thought, “I anthony_egyptcan find God here. I will be alone and nothing will disturb me.” He prayed day and night in the cave, but God sent him many temptations. He imagined all the good things in life and wanted them desperately, but he was determined to give up everything and be with God alone. After many months, the temptations stopped and the young man was alone with God.

Then one day God called to him, “Leave your cave and go to a distant town. Look for the local shoemaker. Knock on his door and stay with his family for a few days.” The holy hermit was puzzled by God’s request, but nonetheless left the next morning. He walked across the desert sands and by nightfall had reached the village. He found a small house, knocked on the door and was greeted with a smile and a welcome. The hermit inquired if the man was the local shoemaker. Hearing that he was, the hermit was pleased, but the shoemaker, seeing that the hermit was tired and hungry invited him in to stay. The hermit was given a hearty meal and a clean place to sleep. The hermit stayed with the shoemaker and his family for three days. The two men talked quite a bit and the hermit learned much about the shoemaker, but he revealed little about himself, even though the family was quite curious about him.

Then after three days the hermit said good-bye to the shoemaker and his family and walked back across the desert to his cave, wondering all the while why God had sent him on this mission. When he arrived back at the cave, God questioned the hermit. “What was the shoemaker like?” The hermit answered, “He is a simple man; they have a small home. He has a wife and a baby. They seem to love each other greatly. He has a small shop where he makes shoes. He works very hard and makes very little, but he still gives money and food to those who are less fortunate. He and his wife pray each day; they have lots of friends.” God listened to the hermit and replied, “You will be a great saint, as you wish, but the shoemaker and his family will be great saints as well.”

….a legend of St. Anthony of the desert

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Day 23–March 16

Mark in Forty Days

This year I am reading through the Gospel of Mark during the forty days of Lent. My suggested plan is that you do these readings in Lectio Divina  format.

Today’s reading

Mark 10:1-16

Prayer Thought

Lord help us to be responsible for the commitments that we have made and give us the strength to be faithful. Let us take seriously all that you and given us and be good stewards of our lives and our families. Amen

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Day 11–March 2

Mark in Forty Days

This year I am reading through the Gospel of Mark during the forty days of Lent. My suggested plan is that you do these readings in Lectio Divina  format.

Today’s reading

Mark 5:21-43

Prayer Thought

Lord you are a touchable God. When rules fail us, and they always do, you allow us to reach and touch the hem of your garment. Let us live everyday of our lives knowing that you are a God of presence and touch. Amen

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Ash Wednesday and Lent

Lent is about mortality and transformation. We begin the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday with the sign of the cross smeared on our foreheads with ashes as the words are spoken over us, “Dust thou art, and to dust thou wilt return.” We begin this season of Lent not only reminded of our death, but also marked for death.

ash_wednesday picThe Lenten journey, with its climax in Holy Week and Good Friday and Easter, is about participating in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Put somewhat abstractly, this means dying to an old identity—the identity conferred by culture, by tradition, by parents, perhaps—and being born into a new identity—an identity centered in the Spirit of God. It means dying to an old way of being, and being born into a new way of being, a way of being centered once again in God.

Put slightly more concretely, this path of death and resurrection, of radical centering in God, may mean for some of us that we need to die to specific things in our lives—perhaps to a behavior or a pattern of behavior that has become destructive or dysfunctional; perhaps to a relationship that has ended or gone bad; perhaps to an unresolved grief that needs to be let go of; perhaps to a career or job that has either been taken from us or that no longer nourishes us; or perhaps even we need to die to a deadness in our lives.

You can even die to deadness, and this dying is also oftentimes a daily rhythm in our lives—that daily occurrence that happens to some of us as we remind ourselves of the reality of God in our relationship to God; that reminder that can take us out of ourselves, lift us out of our confinement, take away our feeling of being burdened and weighed down.

That’s the first focal point of a life that takes Jesus seriously: that radical centering in the Spirit of God that is at the very center of the Christian life.

—Dr. Marcus Borg

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The Lenten Observance

The 40 weekdays beginning on Ash Wednesday, going through Holy Week, and ending on the Saturday before Easter is the season of Lent. The six Sundays occurring during Lent are not counted as the 40 days since Sundays celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

Originating in the 4thLent 2015 century of the Church, the season is marked by a time of prayer and preparation to celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter. Many biblical events are associated with the number 40, but Lent is most commonly connected to the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for his ministry as he faced the temptations that could lead him to abandon his mission.

Christians today use this period of time for meditation, introspection, and repentance. The Church usually marks the season by prayer, fasting, and charitable giving. It is a time for the Church to focus on prayer, penance, and repentance as we acknowledge our need for God’s grace. All of this is a preparation to celebrate Christ’s atonement and resurrection of Easter.

The last week of Lent is Holy Week. During this holiest time of the liturgical year, the Church relives the final week of Christ’s life. On Palm Sunday, believers celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus in Jerusalem. On Maundy Thursday, we revisit the Last Supper, while on Good Friday we recall the passion and crucifixion of the Lord.

Lent is about what Christ gave the world – salvation. The observation of Lent is a way to place ourselves humbly before God as we confess our inadequacies, strip ourselves of pretense, and open our souls before God to receive His grace.

We are part of a continuous line of Christians who have celebrated for 2000 years the One who was born in poverty, lived sinlessly, died on a cross, and rose from the dead. Jesus secured us a place in the Kingdom of God – here and now, and eternally in heaven. He opened wide the doors of kingdom – living in today’s world. He offers peace beyond our dreams, joy beyond our expressions, wisdom beyond our understanding and accomplishments beyond our abilities.

Lent gives us 40 days to prepare for a joyous Easter response to grace.

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I Can’t Remember

The late Brennen Manning shares this humorous look at forgiveness in The Ragmuffin Gospel.brennan

A few years ago, rumors spread that a certain Catholic woman was having visions of Jesus. The archbishop decided to check her out.

‘Is it true, m’am, that you have visions of Jesus?’ asked the cleric.

‘Yes,’ the woman replied.

‘Well, the next time you have a vision, I want you to ask Jesus to tell you the sins that I confessed in my last confession. Please call me if anything happens.’

Ten days later the woman notified her spiritual leader of a recent apparition.

Within the hour the archbishop arrived. ‘What did Jesus say?’ he asked.

She took his hand and gazed deep into his eyes. ‘Bishop,’ she said, ‘these are his exact words: I CAN’T REMEMBER.

We all has some difficulty imagining that god is really that way. “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)

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