Monday, September 16, 2013

Teaching silence

I teach back to back on Mondays and Wednesdays, setting up my stuff for pchem in the science center, then trekking up the hill with my rolling basket of stuff for the course I'm teaching on contemplation in the West.  The latter is a seminar class, so conversation is the stuff of which it is constructed. We do a lot of talking about silence.  But silence is so fundamental to the practice of contemplation, it's hard to imagine not having some significant experience of silence to help put what we are reading into context.

Last week we spent three days at the old Jesuit novitiate in Wernersville.  There was a 7-day silent retreat ongoing when we arrived, emptying out of the cars into the western cloister, trying to slide through the silence with barely a ripple.  The weather was hot and humid and my briefing in the lobby included tips for keeping your room cooler and reminders to drink plenty of water.

It was odd being on duty in the space where I am usually as off as I can be.  My phone came with me in case the college needed to get in touch with us, I checked my email a couple of times a day, I kept our schedule flowing. 

Patient Spiritual Director gave a terrific talk on spiritual direction in the modern era, complimenting our conversations about the tradition at the time of the desert ascetics.

This week we are reading a variety of narratives of silence (an eclectic collection including  Patrick Fermor, Sara Maitland, and a utterly riveting recording of Thomas Merton instructing the novices on sacred silence), but we have a better ear for what they have to say.

1 comment:

  1. How amazing for these young people to have this experience at this age - and to have the desire for this experience. Only through the Holy Spirit. Blessings to all.