SPIRITUAL SILENCE

Unheeded

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“It’s important that we listen for the voice of God.”

          Those were the words of the pilot of the plane that safely took off from Palu Airport on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, minutes before the horrific Sept 28 earthquake and tsunami.

          Pilot Mafela had been feeling uneasy all of that Friday before he landed the plane on that island. He was so troubled that he recited the 23rd psalm and began to loudly sing songs of praise as he taxied the plane to a landing.

          Then, his anxiety unabated, he requested permission to take off 3 minutes ahead of time. He cut short the turnaround time to 20 minutes and didn’t even leave the cockpit during that time. As they were taking off, the pilots saw the runway bend and wave like a curtain blowing in the wind.

          They were 3 minutes ahead of schedule and those 3 minutes saved them.

          But Captain Mafela is more specific. He credits the prompting of the Holy Spirit for this miracle escape.

“It’s important that we listen for the voice of God.”

          That twin tragedy of earthquake and tsunami occurred on the 28th of September. On the 28th of October began a storm devastation like no other in parts of Italy. Flash floods took lives, large swathes of forest land were flattened and hundreds of cars at a port awaiting export caught fire and were destroyed. Long time residents say they have never experienced such a thing in their decades of living in those places. Listening to survivor accounts, from Indonesia to Italy, some adjectives echo.

Apocalyptic

Unexpected

          But I believe that in both countries, there would have been those, like Captain Mafela, who heard a whisper in their spirits. Who heeded that whisper. And escaped. Not all would have heard – some because that whisper never came to them, others because noises dulled its pleading.

          But those that did hear and who obeyed were either saved themselves or the whisper in their spirits was that they warn others whose lives were ultimately saved. People lived because someone had listened and obeyed.

          This year, especially from August, I’ve had one upheaval after another. This is no way compares to the natural disasters experienced the world over. But reading the signs meant for me in Indonesia and in Italy specifically, I suddenly see that the losses I have suffered from August were in fact a removal of noise.

          Chances of career advancement were diminished. I lost a turbulent friendship of 20 years. I am losing my place of belonging at my workplace.

          With each loss, I sink deeper into the earth. It feels like I am leaving the light and being forced into shadows and darkness. But suddenly today, it’s beginning to dawn on me that I am interpreting it all wrong.

          I am being removed from the noise.

          Because noise doesn’t just come from stress, distractions and unnecessary busyness. It is also in initiatives to reach out to those who do not want our help or who demand of us in order to abuse. Noise in found in destructive friendships. In bullies who take over our ears and diminish peace in us. Noise also comes from seemingly good aspirations such as to earn money for the family, to seek a place or position where we can contribute better – but which are not willed by God for us.

          Noise is created when I hold on to what is not willed by God.

          And when God cuts me off from a person or a place or a hope, if I rebel in sorrow over that loss, I create a deafening pandemonium within my spirit.

          It builds up and drowns out what I need to hear.

          And the Spirit’s soft whisper goes unheeded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for Silence

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          I’ve lived a lifetime this week. Of worry, agitation, jittery hopes. A world where the winds changed course every hour. Of journeying through successive portals of hope, despair, jubilance. Every soul on this same journey traced similar routes of uncertainty as the angels fought for Freedom for us.

         Then, through a weave of unexpected twists and turns, guided by the Light of Prayer and Miracles, the sun finally broke through the clouds.

          And joy raised its gold swell in hearts. Suddenly, everyone had news and thoughts and analyses and jokes. In this massive cavalry of citizens long suppressed and oppressed, we were brothers and brothers shared everything.

          Every happening. Every video. Every thought, tale and snigger.

          We were brothers and brothers supported each other in everything. No one turned off their phones nor their tv’s. We gave ear and eye to every morsel that spoke of hope and freedom. 

          Never mind that it took our rest, our sleep;  no one turned their faces away from the other. When I finally went to bed in the wee hours, it was with jubilance and excitement at further developments in this newly won freedom.

          Yet, awakening scant hours later, it was the refrain, The sound of silence, that garlanded my hearing.

          But the hours I had risen to were those of deeper excitement, intrigue and giddy happiness. They were definitely not of stillness and silence. And so, I sailed on, buoyed by those rejoicing waves.

          The sound of silence played on undeterred.

          It was after one in the morning the next day that the angel held my face and turned it away from the noise till I gazed into his eyes.

Flee to the hills.

Seek silence, he wrote on my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Of This World

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          I’ve asked God for a special grace for the new year: the stillness of soul that was Mother Mary’s, where every whisper of heaven found ready anchor. No matter what my struggles may be, I want this grace of an inner cloister so attuned to even the softest breath of an angel. I have asked for similar graces before, but never this special, extraordinary attribute of the Mother of God. And I ask for it because if there was anything the last week before Christmas had taught me, it was that there were forces that did not want me to be still of soul.

          When I understood that, I knew that I had to have it.

          That last week. I must have begged and begged for Christmas silence to pervade my spirit. An unexpected quietening did come when I finally stepped away from myself and sank my heart into the joy and enjoyment of my children.

          Yet, that didn’t satisfy me enough. Something was still missing. There was still noise, even if it was much reduced.

          It bothered me. I didn’t want less; I wanted none.

          Practically speaking, to live in this world means I cannot always let go and relax. The beginning of the new work year would bring with it its own storm of demands and deadlines that must be met if I am to earn my paycheck, and waves will ride high.

         But I don’t want to be so caught up in the gales so as to miss the silent flutter of angels’ wings when they come to bid me listen. I want the world’s hold on me to be nothing I cannot turn my back on whenever heaven summons my spirit. Something tells me that the madness of the last week of Christmas is a harbinger of that which is to come for me, where the world will shout and attempt to shake me to distraction, and heaven’s calls fall unheeded perhaps, among swirling rushes.

          But in Mother Mary’s stillness of soul lies the remedy I seek against this drowning.

          To live in this world and yet, be not of it.

 

 

 

SEEKING SILENCE

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          In the noise and distractions of the past weeks, someone has slipped in quietly. He has found his nook, made his home in the silence he calls a friend. Called to a duty he knows well. Watching. Praying. Waiting for me to turn my back resolutely on the chatter that disturbs.

          Waiting to take my hand to navigate the coming twists of path the lie ahead.

          I think about him, and the little I know. My memory traces the stories of old. His immense love for those placed in his heart. His determined protection of the vulnerable. He was a man blessed with an unexpected and special fatherhood. Tenderly guided by the voice of an angel, he immediately embraced the sacredness of the calling. I never knew a father like that, but thankfully, my children have such a daddy – one who has cradled and loved and nurtured them, just like the father of his Lord did before him. Having seen my husband give his heart and soul to our children, loving them even in his pain, I know that the biblical narratives about the silent and resolute heroism of the Holy Spouse of Mary are goldpearls of truth; such a father did, and does exist.

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          They call him the Silent Saint. Often, his is a ministry of love beribboned in quietness. Whether it is to build a staircase for nuns, or to help the desperate find employment or shelter, he finds little need of words, but in love, sets to work on the task to ease the ache of need. I think of the noise that surrounds me, and which makes itself king over my waking hours. I think of my own contribution to the babel, every frivolous word uttered, every shuddering hyena-cackle, and I wonder if those minutes could not have been put to better use, for every second of every minute, someone is in a pain we can help to alleviate. I know I am not called to perpetual solemnness or sepulchral tones. But, what if, just a couple of times, I could have retreated from empty mirth, and gone instead to a place of need, and prayed for a soul not known to me? How hard could that have been? St Faustina once prayed for the grace of interior and exterior silence, so Jesus may have a place to rest His head. My prayer these days is that I too know the grace of interior and exterior silence so I remember to press aching souls into St Joseph’s heart. I will need the gift of silence to discern silent pain and need, and he knows how necessary that is because he truly lived that call on earth. In a world where the currency of empty speech is gaining value and respect, he has led the way first to show us the power and value of silence, and that it has its place of worth in every pilgrim soul.

          I believe it was in the carefully cultivated silence of this saint’s soul, that the angel made his visitations. And it was in this blessed and holy quiet that this gentle man pondered the message of the dreams, and discerned his Master’s voice. As the world’s vain braying reaches a crescendo, and the clamour competes for my attention, I fear that I would no longer be able to hear the Shepherd’s gentle call. To tell it apart from other spikes of cacophony. To understand what He says, what I am called to do. 

          I sense an urgency to seek silence till it embraces me. I need silence to love, and to persevere to love  – whether through prayer or deed. I cannot care as much as I am called to if I am pulled in a hundred directions, lulled to the dangers of noise in my spirit, for this noise is the brittle grit that clogs up charity.

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          Now, more than ever, in the racket of worldly preoccupations and empty pursuits, I need the silence of St Joseph’s soul to know where the abyss of indifference lies, because I sometimes sense its open mouth lies much closer than I think.