Friday, January 14, 2011

Silence & Solitude

I spent Tuesday through Thursday of this week up at Pacem in Terris which is a wonderful Catholic hermitage retreat center run by great people, and my favorites are the sweet grandmotherly old ladies.

Pacem in Terris (meaning Peace on Earth) is made up of 16 hermitages, a main house, and walking trails that wind through the woods and prairie. The whole idea is that you become a hermit for whatever amount of time that you are there, entirely focusing on being alone with God.  When you get there the sweet old ladies greet you, give you an introduction to the hermitage experience if it is your first time there, and drive you out to the hermitage where you will stay.

The small hermitage is nestled in snow covered woods in the winter months

The Pacem in Terris diet
The view from the hermitage

After you receive your food basket, and an overview on your hermitage space, you are left alone. If you have never taken time to turn off your cellphone, leave your laptop behind, forget about your ipod, and done away with the modern conveniences of running water and electricity, Pacem in Terris is for you. It's a practice in just being, not completing, doing, creating, making. I am not skilled in the art of doing nothing, so this was a great experience for me. Time did not matter. I journaled, read my Bible, prayed, walked in the woods, and watched the birds play in the trees. In the evening I sat on the edge of the rocking chair, searching for the stars appearing in the night sky behind the tree branches. 

The time at Pacem was peaceful, and absolutely filled with quiet. It was also challenging to quiet my mind and stop the thoughts whirring through my brain at a million miles an hour.

The time in the hermitage was fine, as I am one more prone to silence and solitude. But I was trying to see the real purpose and point for sitting around alone for a whole day. Psalm 84 came into my mind the last morning I was in the hermitage, and I had no idea why because I didn't remember what it was about. But after I read it I realized...

There are days when I have so much planned, and I am so busy. I like doing. I love to travel, and explore new places too. If I had a thousand days to explore the world, I would absolutely love it! I honestly can say that I would probably pick a thousand days of exploring and doing stuff rather than being in the presence of God. That was the whole point of my time at Pacem in Terris, for me to realize that I need to yearn for God, and not all the other things that I want to do. I need to learn to just be. 

Psalms 84:1-2

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
   LORD Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
   for the courts of the LORD;
   my heart and my flesh cry out
   for the living God. 

Psalms 84:10-12

 10 Better is one day in your courts
   than a thousand elsewhere;
   I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
   than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
   the LORD bestows favor and honor;
   no good thing does he withhold
   from those whose walk is blameless.
 12 LORD Almighty,
   blessed is the one who trusts in you.

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