THE SEDUCTION OF FALSE SILENCE AND SOLITUDE

One day, last week, wearing my mask, I went to Costco to buy some Kona Coffee (my favorite). In their famous food court, I watched a table of six teenagers sitting, eating either pizza or Costco’s famous hot dog and drink combo, or in two cases, both. Picture this scene. These six teens are at one table, eating their food, oblivious to any other shoppers, equally blind to the six others at the table beside them. One characteristic which they all displayed was they all wore headsets attached to an iPhone or some such device. I sat there just watching them eat. No one said a word. They occasionally would look around but quickly return to the privacy of their iPhone. Then suddenly, as if by a secret code known only to them, they all got up at the same time and left. I asked myself what it was that I had just witnessed. I still don’t know, but this event triggered a meditation on silence and solitude, charisms that are the core of Lay Cistercian spirituality (silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community). Here are some random thoughts from a broken-down, old, Lay Cistercian as he reflects on reality.

  1. Music or looking at the television (or writing this blog) could conceivably be an excuse to be by yourself, but it is not the alone of which I speak, a physical distancing (as in COVID-19), where you remove yourself from others to be by yourself so that you can be alone with Christ (and of course, the Holy Spirit, the second advocate.) I must remember to keep my focus on Christ and not on Netflix. Some days are better than others.
  2. It is ironic and yet quite logical that contemplative monks, nuns, and Lay Cistercians seek solitude in the midst of community. For me, when I attend the Lay Cistercian gatherings, I always come away with the feeling that I have just touched the Holy Spirit (or probably more theologically correct, that the Holy Spirit has touched me.)
  3. Silence, in order to meet Christ, allows me to listen to Him and not to the meanderings of my mind.
  4. Contemplative practice is not done in an hour but rather takes many, many attempts. It is an art.

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