Visit the Abbey of the Arts online retreat platform to access your programs:

A Disciple of Silence

stones 1This past weekend I co-led our annual Oblate retreat with Sister Lucy, our Oblate director, on the theme of simplicity. Being with my fellow Oblates and supporting one another on the Benedictine way is always tremendous nourishment for my spirit.  Life has been so full these last few months and now I get to step into a simpler time and space myself.  My heart has been drawn to explore new ways of simplifying beyond just doing with less things, but to consider the way my thoughts and desires can clutter my heart.

I often find my creative energy drawn in a multiplicity of different directions.  For example, I love visual art expression and I want to learn calligraphy and make collages, create altered books and take an icon workshop.  All of these are wonderful things, but I have begun to consider what might happen if I committed myself single-heartedly to just a few select paths for this next season and opened myself to what they have to teach me.

What might happen if I became a disciple of photography?  What if for the next season I focused my energy on learning as much as possible from dedicating my longing for visual expression to this medium and put away the paints and glue for now?  What might I discover in opening my heart even more deeply to seeing with the eyes of the heart and allow this practice to teach me new things?

What if I were to become a disciple of writing?  What if I surrendered myself to the flow of words onto the page and followed their longings until I emerged on the other side?  How might writing be my teacher in these days about what happens when I follow a thread to new discoveries?  I might encounter myself as immersed in an ancient lineage of writers who realized that words can transform.

Perhaps I might become a disciple of the body and allow daily walks to take on even more profound meaning.  I might discover new connection to pilgrims across time who have allowed their feet to carry them across sacred ground.  I might hear in my body’s familiar and faithful movements a new invitation.

The teacher who is especially calling me right now is silence.  With so many good words uttered and written these last few months, I am craving a wide sea of wordless moments. I want to become a disciple of silence and hear in that shimmering soundlessness the voice of the one who whispers in stillness, whose singing vibrates in stones, who out of the silence calls forth a radical commitment of which I do not yet know the shape.

You might also enjoy

Monk in the World Guest Post: Kate Kennington Steer

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to our Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Kate Kennington Steer’s reflection Heart of Stone. I arrived at February 2023 in a post-viral fatigue fug, feeling beset by depression, with

Read More »

Soul of a Pilgrim Video Podcast Day 2

Blessing for Packing Lightly*Winnowing God, you ask us to release, let go, surrender, and yield all that we canin service of making space for what is most essential. The more we set aside that which burdens us and takes up too much spacethe more room

Read More »

Monk in the World Guest Post: Mary Camille Thomas

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to our Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Mary Camille Thomas’s reflection Sitting in Paradise. “Sit in your cell as in paradise,” St. Romuald says in his brief rule for

Read More »

10 Responses

  1. This posting is exactly where I am in my creatively led life right now.
    “I often find my creative energy drawn in a multiplicity of different directions.” ~ is my angst, too. I will open my heart to silence and hope for focus & clarity for what path it is my little feet need to patter down.

    I am so grateful that God led me here and that the stillness you so eloquently reminded me of will cover me and hold me as I process my next steps. You are a blessing to me through your work.

    Thank you~

  2. Christine:
    Thank you again for your inspiring and hope-filled words. I do believe that contemplative prayer is the only answer to conquer what Merton calls the false self. I hope this time for you will be fruitful. You do so much great work. And I hope your have a wonderful birthday while you are in this great silent space.

  3. I’ll be praying that your silence nourishes, replenishes and rejuvinates your soul in ways you havn’t even imagined. I am grateful that I found a fellow inhabitor of the desert of Benedictine & Celtic Spirituality. Thanks for your openness and willingness for the Spirit to have her way with you. Many of us are obviously benefiting from your prayer.

  4. Thank you for your inspiring words, Christine. Although I am an Benedictine oblate, it is so easy for me to forget Benedict’s words about balance in my life.
    Perhaps now is my time to discover something new for myself that I had not contemplated doing before, a new direction. How exciting that sounds!
    Peace & blessings to you.

  5. Thank you Claire – I love spreading the joy that comes with being Benedictine. :-) Blessings on your own wordless moments.

  6. wordless moments. I can relate to this. It won’t happen for a while as my family will be with us till mid-July. But afterward, I expect silence. I may find some wordless moments in-between busy times. That will be lovely.

    Thank you for a lovely reflection. Your love for the Benedictine Oblates is quite contagious, I find :-)

  7. Robin, thanks for stopping by – Into the Silent Land is one of my favorite books ever on contemplative practice (and I have read quite a few!)

  8. This is an intriguing read, coming as it does just as Michelle of Quantum Theology and I are beginning our discussion of the book Into the Silent Land.

  9. Tess, I agree with you completely (and Benedict!) :-) – my calling to single-heartedness (which feels different to me than single-mindedness) is for a season and my hope is that this focus and deepening always widens my compassion and welcome for the wide spectrum of human experience.

  10. I think there are many benefits to single-mindedness, and I think there is also the danger of not being open to other opportunities and of obsessing. It’s a question of balance (as I suspect Benedict might say).