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?

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Marina Berzins McCoy
Marina Berzins McCoy is a professor at Boston College, where she teaches philosophy and in the BC PULSE service-learning program. She is the author of The Ignatian Guide to Forgiveness and Wounded Heroes: Vulnerability as a Virtue in Ancient Greek Philosophy. She and her husband are the parents to two young adults and live in the Boston area.

11 COMMENTS

  1. In silence I can hear the Trinity calling my name, or calling me to reflect on a need in the world around me, or in my own family or life. And, if I do not hear anything then I am being held in Love knowing I am never alone even in darkness.

  2. I just want to sit in silence in front of the tabernacle in the adoration chapel. There I can gaze at Him for all eternity and He can gaze at me too. Is He laughing at me? Is He taking me seriously? Is He even listening to all my woes and troubles and joys?

  3. I am retired and a recent widow. I am blessed to have my mornings free.I look forward to spending time with Jesus in the morning each night as I prepare for bed. I have scripture and prayer books and my rosary. But sometimes He says ” you don’t need those,you have me right here” Those are the special moments and I have a noon Mass to look forward to each day.I love my solitude and am not lonely as I have my constant companion to keep me company.

    • Your heartfelt words from your experience are helpful. May Our Father
      continue to comfort and bless you as you journey through loss. 🕊️

  4. 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.”

  5. 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?

    • Larry,
      What an amazing gift you are giving to your sales personnel! Not a lot of employers or business owners would even think of injecting spirituality in the workplace. The truth is, whatever work we do, we need to be guided by God. Our skills, talents, treasures are given to us to use for the greater good of mankind.
      I am a Filipino doctor based in Ohio. Like you, I started to practice Ignatian Spirituality in my profession and I have never been happier.
      Good luck with the book, and kudos to you for introducing Ignatian Spirituality to your sales staff!

  6. 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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