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The Sound of Silence

By Mike Mccauley on
Mike Mccauley
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Apr 06 in Musings
Imagine this- fifteen people sitting in a large dining room area eating breakfast together. Not so hard to picture, right? Now imagine this- no one says a word the entire meal. Everyone slowly eats, looks out the window or smiles if someone catches their eye...but in silence.
Our pastoral staff took a quick 24-hour retreat at the Mt. Calvary Holy Cross Benedictine Monastery in Santa Barbara this week. The Monastery is Episcopal in affiliation, with four older monks who live and work the retreat center in very Catholic fashion. They celebrate the offices of the day in the small chapel- Vigils, Lauds, Vespers and Compline- as well as a midday Eucharist. If groups like ours are staying on site, the worship happens. If no groups are present, worship still happens- the four Brothers alone reciting scripture, singing antiphonally and praying for the world. Every day, on schedule, with remarkable consistency.

Breakfast is the only silent part of the daily schedule at the Monastery. We added a few other times for our group as well. But a meal without noise is remarkable. For five or ten minutes, I barely knew how to act. Then I started to notice things- birds flying by the window, the color of the sky as the sun came up, the faces of people around me. Since we weren’t in conversation, no mental space had to be allocated for “what do I want to say or ask about next?” It was just...well, quiet. And that quiet slowly moved from the atmosphere around the dining room until it took up residence inside of us as well.

At least for me, it’s that inner quiet that is needed to listen for God’s voice and not just my own thoughts. “Be still and know that I am God,” the Lord said through the Psalmist.  Somehow, it often takes stillness to remind me that God is God, and I am not. I’m not in charge. I am not, contrary to the famous Invictus poem, the master of my fate or the captain of my soul. The world doesn’t start or end with me. I am one very small part of a much larger narrative God is writing. I understand that better with inner silence. There’s no need to go to a monastery to be reminded of it. Maybe just try a short walk...or a silent breakfast.
                        Pastor Dan

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