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I've learned silence within monastery walls.

BY Stella_Matutina on March 10, 2016
12 | 6 Favorites
A few years ago, to my immense surprise, God led me to discern a possible vocation to contemplative religious life as a cloistered nun. In time it became clear the contemplative life was not meant for my immediate path, but the experience resulted in many graces and lessons that transformed my prayer life and my relationship with God.

As part of my discernment, I spent a month living as an inquirer within the enclosure, or cloister, of a monastery of nuns about 30 miles from my home. While there, I befriended one of the younger nuns, and we’ve continued to be close friends. During a recent visit, I told her about Six-Words and some of the memoirs I’d posted. She asked me as a special favor to write about the importance of seeking interior silence. Today is her birthday: this memoir is for you, Sister.

"Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence…."
-T.S. Eliot, from Ash Wednesday

There are two types of silence: exterior silence and inner silence.

We live in a noisy, fast-paced world of high demands and instant gratification: texts and emails straight to our phones, Internet at the tips of our fingers, Facebook likes within seconds, and to-the-minute tweets. With constant access to communication, entertainment, and information, finding solitude and time to pray is an ongoing challenge.

Within the enclosure, nuns surrender this outward noise (among many other things), so that Christ alone may dwell in the utter silence of the cloister, filling it with his word and presence. Novices and inquirers were not permitted access to computers – no Internet, no email, no Facebook, no Twitter. We were discouraged from making any unnecessary noises ourselves – closing doors audibly, heavy footfalls, needless whispers or conversations – because they would have disturbed that same spirit of silence. Exterior silence meant avoiding anything that did not foster inner silence.

Learning inner silence is not an easy task: it requires great discipline and much patience. Our minds are flooded with racing thoughts and worries, and the clamor of our own uncertainties can drown out the presence of God in our souls.

Even if just for a few minutes a day, we need to unplug literally and mentally from the world around us to reconnect with God. Prayer is food for our souls and fuel for our spiritual engines. Amid the hustle and bustle of life, we must carve out sacred time and solitude to quiet our hearts and minds, take an inventory of our deepest feelings and desires, and listen to the whisper of God speaking to us.

The peace that the silence of the monastery brought to me during my month there – and continues to bring to me now, when I practice it – is hard to describe. Silence in the practice of the presence of God grounds me and gives me equanimity and mental clarity.

I take part of each day now to dwell in silence. You can do this, too. You can create your own quiet inner monastery cloister. If you have the opportunity to practice an hour of silence sometime during the day, you may want to try it and see how it makes a difference for you. Like the nuns and monks of the Middle Ages who lived the vow of silence, you may find spiritual treasures you had not imagined would be revealed to you – not only in your silent time, but throughout the day.

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