Time in Silence

woman sitting in silence

For the past several months, I have been building in one monthly retreat day into my calendar, on the advice of a spiritual director. I had been complaining that although I try to set aside an hour to pray in silence in the morning, I often long for the longer spaces of silence a time of retreat provides. Time in silence is nourishing and grounding. Silence gives the space to hear God speak, whether through words I hear within or through a movement of love or an answer to a question. Silence itself also speaks. St. Paul writes of the Spirit, who “intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). In silence, I can hear my own sighs for God and know that the silence of God is part of God’s also sighing for me—and for all creation.

This month, I found a retreat house that is willing to take me as a day visitor, where I can spend as long as I like in the chapel, walk on the quiet grounds, and sit a while. But other locations also work as a space for a day of retreat too: walking on a beach or in the local arboretum, and finding a small coffee shop afterwards to warm up and to reflect. In cold weather, I can set aside a welcome and inviting corner of the house as a prayer space apart from the distractions of dishes in the sink, papers to grade, e-mails to answer, etc. (It’s always the “etc.” of tasks that gets me!) Sometimes I take a single line of Scripture into a day of retreat and pray with it for the day, turning over its different dimensions, imagining the scene, or letting a phrase sink in. Other times, a beautiful bird or tree is the scripture, speaking through the way God shows God’s self in that unique event of creation. Sometimes the sweetness of silence itself beckons.

A regular work day can also hold short moments of this retreat-like structure, for example, admiring the silhouette of a bird against the open sky as a moment “apart” on a walk to the next meeting, or stealing a few moments of silence in my office just to “be” rather than to “do.”

Where do you find spaces, large or small, for retreat?

Sharing the Wisdom of Time - perfect gift for Christmas, birthdays, retirement party, graduation

About Marina McCoy 68 Articles
Marina McCoy is an associate professor of philosophy at Boston College, where she teaches philosophy and in the BC PULSE service learning program. She is the author of Wounded Heroes: Vulnerability as a Virtue in Ancient Greek Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2013). She and her husband are the parents to two young adults and live in the Boston area.
Contact: Website

6 Comments on Time in Silence

  1. This is a good reflection on the ways we can engage ourselves in time spent with Our Lord. Recognizing the need to just quiet our minds, hearts and souls to be with God begins it all for me. A real valuable, intimate time is that spent at Eucharistic Adoration. In my parish we have Eucharistic Adoration about 3 times per month on Friday nights! It is my favorite time of the week! It is for app. 1 hour. When I come home I feel so refreshed. I purposely choose the Friday night Eucharistic Adoration as an intentional time set aside to be with God. A long walk early in the a.m. in good weather times just can’t be beat. Not going to that “quiet time/space” for me leaves me with that feeling that something is missing. Quiet time is such a contrast to “busyness.”

  2. How true Marina! As an entrepreneur based in manila, my Silence is the daily examen practiced in early morning. Soon as I get up. The silence of the examen taught to me by my spiritual director, a Salesian Brother, Bro Ramon Callo is lifechanging. Bro mon is giving a three-day “ignatian retreat” jan 19-21,2019 to my salespeople in a real estate franchise in manila philippines. This will be first step to writing a book on “examen and entrepreneurship” with 4 case studies of directees of bro mon. With the book, we believe we will win a small cell in the entrepreneurial business world for our King. Pray for us marina. It is a classic battle first fought in front of Pilate when he asked, “who should I release to you Jesus Barabbas or Jesus of Nazareth? Marina St Ignatius now has his Examen taught by the most unlikely spiritual director, a Salesian, not a Jesuit, Brother not even a priest. What would Ignatius say? When the book is written by end of 2019, would loyola press be open to publishing it along with Shepherd’s Voice of Bo Sanchez?

  3. Thank you for this! Right now I am quite blessed with the gift of time. I find myself wanting that silent time, And believe God is calling me to listen more and be in silence. It touches my spirit to read I am not alone.

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