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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Better to Keep Silence

There's more than one kind of solitude. And they don't all mean the same thing.

I've been wondering about my attraction to the Cistercians (Trappists), trying to figure out why this Order is so amazing to me.

I thought I was Dominican in spirituality; certainly, no "decisions" have been made. And the Dominican spirituality is not in conflict with that of the Cistercians. It's just interesting to me that although I have looked at Dominican cloisters, they don't attract me. And although in the past I've been in contact of the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist...I no longer care to visit them. Maybe because they're too big.

Too noisy. Too popular.

I've always hated crowds and noise. I've never been interested in what's popular, preferring what's silent.

Growing up, I was always the "quiet girl". Clamming up has never really been a problem for me. Yes, I have my social moments, but it's not constant. I'd prefer not to talk to people in the morning right away, or just before I go to sleep. Talking to God is just fine. Interacting with others all the time?

Lemme alone.

I think it's the balance of community and silence that is attractive. The balance of solitude with God, and interaction with the "world" of the monastery that makes sense to me.

I've never been one to have a flock of honking friends. It's always been a few close companions, meaningful friendships, built on something real, not superficial. I like people; I don't like shallowness. I believe in making connections, and being present for people in need. But not in building "friendships" for the sake of numbers.

People I met long ago remain with me, their images burned into my memory. Like the little girl in Mexico City late one evening. She was maybe a pre-teen, wearing a soiled yellow tshirt with a soiled pink mini-skirt, wiping windshields. As she finished the job on the car ahead of us, she accepted a peso or so, looked around, flat affect, and then moved through the stopped traffic, onto the sidewalk, and disappeared into the darkness of the slums of Mexico City. I'll never know her name, but I'll never forget her; we "met" that night and I can't forget her story, even for that moment.

On Facebook, I have found high school "friends", people with whom I existed in those hallways, but who were not my friends. I look at their lives now, get glimpses of who they've become...and I don't want to know them now. They weren't friends then, they aren't friends now, and they will never be so. We have nothing in common. It is not that I don't love them; rather, the opposite is true. It is just that we'd have no words to pass between us to break up the silence.

Better to keep silence, then. To honor good will, or place good will in the silence where in the past there was only animosity.

There is wisdom in silence. There is wisdom in communication without words. There is honor in solitude, especially when that solitude is a more perfect union of love that transcends anything we can understand through our senses.

I worry about telling my mother about this Call I may have. She has an inkling, and and we spoke of it a few years ago. But not since. Mom fears I will leave her and never return.

Dad had the same fear. It wasn't unfounded. I can't do that to Mom. Her solitude is forced; mine will be chosen.

I worry about my brother. He won't understand. Even though he seriously considered the priesthood at one time, now he's fallen away, and the idea of living in cloistered austerity is so alien to him, I fear he'll think he's been betrayed. I want to be able to entrust him to someone; maybe a Catholic friend with whom he could discuss his fears, and his own sense of abandonment.

Because it'll be there. It's not about me per se, but about having a sister, an only sister, and then she's gone. I think I'd better understand "losing" him to a monastery than he could understand "losing" me to one.

Even though our family isn't that close, the connection is there, the importance of family is there, and our love is there.

I don't have to make these decisions tonight, or reveal these secrets to those who can't yet understand them. But the day is coming. So as I discern, I know I can't focus on myself, but I must be sensitive to the most important people in my life.

Christ said that we must let the dead bury the dead, that we must leave brother and sister, mother and father behind. But sometimes He DOES want us to wait. We have to trust HIS timing, and not our faulty understanding.

Right now, I think I'm experiencing a certain kind of solitude. Although I share some of what I'm experiencing, the deepest things are reserved. I have no spiritual director, unable to find one as of yet. It would be helpful to talk these things over, and maybe some of those things I don't want to speak but perhaps maybe should.

Step by step, God calls, but not until He decides we're ready. We may hesitate, but He knows the time, He knows our concerns. And if He won't abandon us, we know then that He won't abandon those we love.

The hour groweth late, and I must go, pondering these things, ever more deeply.

Until the time for action is upon me.


Joe of St. Thérèse said...

The mind accomplishes much in silence. I've always been the quiet type in conversation as well. (Maybe that's another reason for my attachment to the TLM, silence)...I'll have to share with you in an e-mail what happens when Joe has time to contemplate.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful reflection. I'm taking a grad course now on St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, and we've just begun our reflections on The Way of Perfection. Teresa obviously valued silence and solitude a great deal. Silence is such an important virtue for one who truly wishes to intimately know God, and to attune the soul to the constant awareness of God's presence.

Mark said...

Thanks for these posts. As someone going through a similar discernment process, I find reading them very helpful. I find the pull of the Cistercian way of life very strong. It feels like it would be giving oneself totally to Christ, without holding anything in reserve, which is both scary and inspiring.

Unknown said...

my apologies for being pedantic but Cistercians of the Strict Observance = Trappists, Cistercians of the Common Observance = Cistercians.

Carthusians = the documentary "Into the Great Silence" and the book "Infinity of Little Hours." There is only one men's community in the USA located in Vermont. No womens communities.

Adoro said...

Kevin ~ Thanks, and I knew that...have no idea what brain fart made me confuse them! lol

Am on my way out the door, will have to edit later.

Adoro said...

OK, edited. I wrote this post way too late in the evening.

for the record...I'm not interested in the Carthusians, especially considering I'm a woman! Trappists and Cistercians...maybe! lol

Anonymous said...

There ARE Carthusian Nuns:

BUT none in the United States. Only France, Spain, and Italy, I think.

Hidden One said...

{Adoro, you spelt Dominican wrong in the list of labels for this post.)

Adoro said...

Man, I just can't do anything wright wit this post, can i?


Rachel said...

Aw, hope you keep posting anyway. :)

I am glad I have a slightly larger family than yours, if only because I won't feel quite so guilty about leaving them all if I become a nun. They'll still have each other.

A priest gave me this image: you're in a boat with your family behind you in the same boat. Jesus is standing in front of you on the water, calling you to come. Your family is crying and calling to you not to go; they need you to stay and help with the boat. Why should you leave them and go to Jesus? Because He can take care of your family much better than you can, and He loves them much better than you do.

(But of course I'm not saying that I know whether He *is* calling you to leave your family.)

Anonymous said...

Rachel, ~ That is a good image, and one I've heard, too. It might be helpful to some people who haven't made that connection. I'm certain that when someone joins a religious community, there are huge graces for that person's family. However, of course we're all human and having a nice image doesn't stop us from worrying about them. It wouldn't hold me back from making the decision to go, if it comes to that. But it does make it hard.

Then again, that's part of the sacrifice.

The Ironic Catholic said...

I'm going on an 8 day Ignatian retreat starting Monday. I'll pray for your questions and thoughts, OK?