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Archive for the ‘solitude’ Category


“Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.” (Is 55:6)

Our faith teaches that, “The Lord is everywhere and always present. (CCC 2802) Yet we, like St. Augustine, will seek Him in all kinds of places, but will ultimately find Him within. St. Teresa of Jesus says that, “all one need do is go into solitude and look at Him within oneself and not turn away from so good a Guest.” She asks us to try to “understand this truth: that the Lord is within us, and that there we must be with Him.” (Way of Perfection, 28:2-3)

God, however, speaks silence, and for most of us He is passed by to the noisiness of the day and events that fill it. No one thinks to find Him in the silence – so near and within.

In The Interior Castle St. Teresa describes the soul as a castle, and in the center of the castle is the “place where the very secret exchange between God and the soul take place.” (Interior Castle 1:1,4) Here in this deep solitude and silent exchange, the soul and God deepen their love.

Even sin does not remove God’s presence from the soul. St. Teresa explains, “It should be kept in mind here that the fount, the shining sun that is in the center of the soul, does not lose its beauty and splendor; it is always present in the soul, and nothing can take away its beauty and splendor.” (Interior Castle 1:2, 3) However, sin does have an effect in the soul’s ability to find God. She goes on to say, “[But] if a black cloth is placed over a crystal that is in the sun, obviously the sun’s brilliance will have no effect on the crystal even though the sun is shining on it. . . How sad a thing it is to see a soul separated from this light!” (Interior Castle 1:2, 3-4) Souls in mortal sin have covered this light and become totally dark, and their works are darkness too. She exhorts anyone in such a state to strive to remove sin from their life and to once again enjoy this light!

The prophet Isaiah lovingly calls these souls back to God saying, “Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving.”  (Is 55:7)

All we have to do is turn back to Him, with all our heart and to “Go into solitude and look at Him within oneself.” (Way of Perfection, 28:2)  Speak to Him there and listen to Him speak to you in the Silence, letting Him love you, while you return the love. Then God’s majesty and presence will shine in the hearts of souls made just. (CCC 2802)

“God alone is enough.”  —Teresa of Ávila

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Silence is the longest precept in the Rule of St. Albert written for the Carmelites. We are instructed to keep silence and to work in silence because “silence is the way to foster holiness.” For Carmelites this precept of silence is seen as a means for recollection, not as penance. It is a privative, though a happy one because it is what makes possible our union with God. This is also the most difficult precept of the Rule. There is noise everywhere! A constant montage of noise fills every moment. And if by chance one can escape the exterior noise and find some solitude, then there is the barrage of interior noise that goes on within one’s own self!

What happens in silence is an amazing thing. Robert Cardinal Sarah has a new book titled The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise.  In it he stated that, “What is extraordinary is always silent.” This phrase really stuck a cord and moved me to contemplate this thought more.

He goes on to explain that, “The greatest mysteries of the world are born and unfold in silence.” For example a “tree grows in silence.” “Springs of water flow at first in the silence of the ground.” “The sun that rises over the earth in its splendor and grandeur warms us in silence.” (Sarah, p. 34) Other extraordinary things also came to mind as I read this: The dew appears on the grass in silence, and clouds form and grow gathering in the sky, all in silence. A new human life grows in its mother’s womb in silence. Snowflakes fall to the earth in great silence.

At prayer an extraordinary thing also happens. The soul encounters God and unites with Him in heart, mind and will. Therefore the need to move away from the noise, to find secluded places to be alone with God Alone.

In The Twelve Degrees of Silence by Marie-Aimee de Jesus OCD, she expresses this beautifully. “Just as a flower unfolds in silence and its scent worships its Creator in silence, the interior soul must do likewise.” (Marie-Aimee de Jesus, p. 54)

To pray in silence. Silence in the presence of God. This is love in action for a contemplative for “The silence of love is love in silence.” (Marie-Aimee de Jesus, p. 50)

Continue to contemplate these thoughts as I end with one more image from Marie-Aimee de Jesus. “A silent heart is a pure heart; a melody singing in the heart of God. Like a sacristy lamp flickering noiselessly at the tabernacle, and like incense silently rising at the Savior’s throne, such is love’s silence.” (Marie-Aimee de Jesus, p. 51)

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Silence is the longest precept in the Rule of St. Albert. For Carmelites this precept of silence is seen as a means for recollection, not as penance. While it is a privative, it is a happy one because it is what makes possible union with God.

Prayer, silence, and solitude -these three things go together and complement each other.

By being silent one is able to stay away the evils that come about in the abuse of words. What do we have to talk about? What is it that we communicate when we speak? Ideas?

No. Actually, most of what we communicate are images and impressions – mostly foolishness and nonsense. But God gave us the gift of speech to communicate ideas. In reality the more we speak the more our interior recollection is clouded. Words which do not express ideas will only manifest matter. Matter just makes dust! While on the contrary, silence makes for recollection. Silence is difficult and poorly observed. This we can all agree. It costs.

For St. John of the Cross to be silent is to be seen in terms of contemplation.

“The Father spoke one Word, which was his Son, and this Word he speaks always in eternal silence, and in silence must it be heard by the soul,” (Sayings of Light and Love #100)

Today try to observe silence. During the day let’s wrap ourselves in silence:

speak little         think little

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“In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer –  to God.”

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In Luke 6:12 we see Jesus praying in the night.  Sometimes He would spend the entire night in prayer. It is highly unlikely that the Lord did this every night, but it was a common practice of His. This is something that we can do too, not in a legalistic way which would not be profitable, but also not to neglect this practice completely. An easy way to do this would be to pray whenever we awaken in the middle of the night.

We could pray to repair the damage that is often done at night in the cover of darkness.

 “the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness [and] put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy.” Romans 13: 12-13

We could also pray for those in need: those suffering some sickness or who are enduring some incredible pain or those who are lonely, lost and downtrodden.

“the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up.”                                                                               James 5 :15

Whenever we awaken in the night, we can start praying for anyone who comes to mind or perhaps pick up the rosary meditating on the mysteries of our Lord and His mother. We should not pray with anxiety about all this that goes on in the world but with great calm, trusting that the prayers are doing good in the world. And if we should happen to drift off back to sleep before completing the prayers, this too should not disturb our peace and calm.

We should pray even before going to sleep, spending at least 15 minutes in prayer before drifting off to sleep.  Then when some time in the night we awaken, we can begin prayer again. Praying at night, however, should always be in God’s control. 

Praying in our beds when we awaken in the middle of the night is an ideal place to pray. It is a place that is solitary, quiet and undistracting for the senses, since it is dark. (cf. Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book 3, ch 39) These night hours or minutes when the world is hushed in slumber are precious alone moments with God in undisturbed communion with Him and is a way to pray always.

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Advent is a time where we await Jesus’ coming. He has already come in the flesh, and this is the reason for this liturgical season – to celebrate anew His coming as Savior and Redeemer. This is also a time to think about His second coming when He will come in Glory. In between these two comings He manifests Himself to us, and it is to these manifestations that we need to be Awake!

This Advent let us invite Him to join us in the interior of our heart: in deep recollection, in silence and in solitude. Invite Him in through a deep interior recollection combined with silence that is both interior and exterior and in solitude so that we can hear His voice and prepare for His coming however He may manifest His presence.

This is a season of quiet. A time to set aside useless chatter, self-love, sensitiveness, the prattle of fantasy and imaginings, and the thoughts that flit from here to there. In addition it is a time to get rid of any preoccupation with useless things, so that we can listen and hear the Lord speak. In this way we can be awake and attentive and will not miss “the time of His visitation”. (Luke 19:44)

“Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come…May he not come suddenly and find us sleepy.” (Mark 13)

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St. Teresa was no stranger to the experience of illnesses. She suffered some severe physical torments especially at the beginning of her adult life. At one point her illness at this time had become so intense that she remained insensible for four days. Everyone was expecting her to die, so she received the last Sacraments. They had even dug a grave for her in the monastery grave yard! However, she did recover from this and writes that she gained many graces from this particularly: patience in dealing with the illness, bearing with all of it without complaining, and the will to confess what she had done wrong, even venial sins.

sicknessShe then began to live a distracted life even while still suffering a variety of different illnesses, some severe others not so. She had given up prayer. Her father believed that the reason she had not been praying was because of her sicknesses. However, she writes in her autobiography that, “I saw clearly that there is no excuse for giving up prayer.” She told her father that it was all she could do to keep up with the choir duties. But she says, “ this was not sufficient cause to set aside something for which bodily strength is not necessary but only love and a habit; and the Lord always provides the opportunity if we desire.”

 Sometimes there are occasions or sicknesses which will prevent us from being able to have free hours for the solitude necessary for prayer. Nevertheless, “there is no lack of other time when we have the health for this.” She expounds further that a soul that loves can offer the sickness up, accepting what is happening and conforming the will to God’s. This is an act of love. “Prayer is an exercise of love, and it would be incorrect to think that if there is no time for solitude there is no prayer at all.” So even our illnesses can become prayer and transformed into an act of love.

There is never a good excuse for giving up prayer.

(The Book of Her Life, St. Teresa of Avila, ch 7)

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