This year my wife and I took a wonderful road trip to the hills of North Carolina and northern Georgia. The city of Dahlonega, Georgia offers an authentic mountain getaway only an hour north of Atlanta. In Dahlonega we stayed at the peaceful Mountain Top Lodge Bed & Breakfast.
I discovered on this trip that I am in so much need of real silence. In this life we don’t know what real silence is. Even our blood makes a kind of continual noise. We don’t notice it because we’ve been accustomed to it ever since childhood. There are many things in life that we rarely succeed in hearing, harmonies we can’t appreciate, all because the noise drowns them all out.
God speaks in silence and it is in silence that my best prayers originate. I have always respected Native American spirituality for their love of silence and the beauty of all creation. Two prayers I frequently use in the morning come from Indian chiefs:
From Chief Tecumseh comes this beautiful morning prayer:
“When you arise in the morning, give thanks to the morning light. Give thanks for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. And if perchance you see no reason for giving thanks, rest assured the fault is in yourself.”
My favorite is Yellow Hawk’s tribute to life:
“O Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind and whose breath gives life to all the worlds: Hear me. I am small and weak; I need your strength and wisdom. Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset. Make my hands respect the things that you have taught my people. Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock. I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother but to fight my greatest enemy: myself. Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes, so that when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame.”
Several times over the years my Dad and I made retreats at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky where Thomas Merton lived. My wife and I even visited Merton’s hermitage years after his tragic death. Gethsemane is a Trappist monastery where the power of silence is most evident, powerful and haunting. Gethsemane is a community of Cistercians of the Strict Observance where silence is observed. Silence is one of the hallmarks of the institution.
In the Scriptures, it is recorded where Jesus went to the mountain for prayer, recollection and silence. Going to the mountain was preparation for Jesus’ ministry. As I see the
modern world getting louder, more crowded, and more demanding, I need a little cloister of my own. I found it in Georgia and at Gethsemane. At home, I find it certain rooms that are my sanctuary.
Even though I am an extravert, I give utmost importance, despite everything, to solitude and silence. We require these in our lives as well, to assure time and space to ponder eternal questions.
I ask you the question: “Where can you find a place in your life for real silence?”
By Bob Mueller
Bob Mueller is a Bishop of the United Catholic Church, bobmueller.org
P.S. Walk this way!