Silence Before Him

As we step into the fluttering leaves of autumn, things start to get busier. The change of seasons brings along its own excitement, spurring new thoughts and activities.

This year, our fellowship’s theme was “the feminine” in Franciscan spirituality. St. Clare placed a premium on contemplation in general, but she gave specific emphasis to just gazing at the San Damiano Crucifix. She taught a process of gazing and contemplation whereby the penitent sits looking at the Cross, emptying herself of all thoughts. I tried this many times, and numerous agitations and distractions emerged pretty quickly. After a while, I wondered, what more is there to see?

Then, one day, it happened. While gazing at the Cross, time slowed and then seemingly dropped away. No longer was the Cross the object of my gazing; it became someone with whom I was in a relationship. For a few precious moments the Cross was gazing back! For Clare, the goal of gazing was have distance and distinction blurred until she could say, “The Cross and I are One.”

This method of contemplation intrigues me. In fact, the entire subject of contemplation infuses my heart, prayer and conversation with my Franciscan brothers and sisters. So, why all the fuss?

Contemplation ceases when silence ceases. It is an effort to find real silence living as we do in an “always-on” or “instant-on” society. Words and sound are all around. But taming the constant chatter is not a luxury — it’s a necessity. Noise forces us into the shallows. Instead of diving deep, we snorkel. Even if we manage to scuba, we‘d be better off in a spiritual submersible.

Personally, I’m done swimming on the surface. In whatever time is left to me in this world, I want to go as deep as possible to hear the sweet voices of angels and the song of the One who asks me to lean in and really listen.

That process demands real silence. I do hope as we move into the gift of fall, we all can taste the sweetness of true quiet. The theme for the Franciscan Fellowship in 2018 will be “Finding and Cultivating True Silence: The Way of Intimacy.”

 ~ Brother Anton