If the title of this blog post made you think of the African American spiritual, click here. If it reminded you of the Paul McCartney and Wings classic, click here. And if I’m an idiot for wasting your time with this stuff, click here.
Now, on to Lent.
My practice of spending 10-15 minutes a day in intentional silence has begun swimmingly enough, which is really to say I have not missed any of Lent’s three days. God must be overwhelmed by my heroic efforts.
So far, I have done all my meditations in my bedroom. I live on the first floor of a beautiful house in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood. The building is more than 100 years old and has many fine qualities. Thick, sound-proof walls is not one of them.
A few minutes into my Ash Wednesday meditation, as I sat cross-legged on my bed and wondered when my 10 minutes would be up, I was startled by a noise next door. It was the unmistakable sound of someone using unnecessary strength to pound on a door.
“STEVE!” a voice bellowed. “HEY, STEVE!”
‘Hey back at you, jackass,’ I thought. ‘Why don’t you give Steve …
Ah, Lent. At no time of year is the discrepancy between my ambition and ability more evident.
In years past, I have generally seen Lent as an opportunity to accomplish personal goals and address shortcomings. Tired of eating so much chocolate? Give it up for Lent. Want to write an epic one-man musical about the life of Theodore Roosevelt? Set up a strict schedule, and do it for Lent.
In years when I was feeling particularly industrious, I even came up with two or three Lenten practices! Inevitably, I failed and probably did so for a number of reasons. Some of my Lenten ideas were dumb, e.g. the Teddy Roosevelt musical. Others were overly-zealous, e.g. the Teddy Roosevelt musical. Others had nothing to do with the real meaning of Lent, e.g. the Teddy Roosevelt musical and virtually all the rest.
What is the real meaning of Lent, then?
I suspect it is largely about conscientiously examining our spiritual and everyday lives and exploring behaviors we might adopt or turn from that will ultimately bring us closer to God.
This is not to say my past Lenten goals could not have feasibly led …
A young man holds the U.S. flag as people wait for the first Angelus prayer of Pope Francis (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
A week in and it’s clear: Pope Francis is a man of surprises.
It started minutes after his election to the See of Saint Peter. He appeared on the loggia in a simple white cassock to greet the hundreds of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Before blessing the faithful and the merely curious in the traditional formula, Francis asked the crowd to bless him first in silent prayer. And for 30 seconds, they and hundreds of millions of people watching throughout the world joined in silent prayer for the new Holy Father.
That moment evidenced that Francis is clearly just that: holy. His closeness with all of us during these days of great trial and possibility is so clear. His predecessor, Benedict the Meek, was a brilliant theologian who taught the Church, especially young Catholics, who Jesus Christ was and continues to be. In his first encyclical, Benedict said that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a …
These are the only words spoken by the hero of The Artist — this year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture — in approximately 100 minutes of screen time. These two little words reverberate far more than the wall of sound that fills our lives at any given moment.
What does it say that this year’s most honored film at the Academy Awards celebrates silence? The success of The Artist, Oscar’s other big winner, Hugo (which also picked up five awards), and fellow nominee The Help, speaks to a need in our culture that goes beyond entertainment. Their public and critical popularity is due in large part to nostalgia. I’m not talking about the kind of cloying, empty nostalgia found on a show like VH1′s I Love the 80s or similar fare; rather, a deliberate, pointed nostalgia that has very specific demands for the present moment. These films demonstrate via the medium of the past what we are lacking in our culture today.
Like all significant works of art, they raise questions that demand answers from both the world we live in and ourselves: Where is the desire and belief that a small group of people …
FAST from all talking today (to be in solidarity with those who do not have freedom of speech.)
PRAY for universal human rights.
GIVE a donation to a human rights organization or place $10 in your FPG bowl. (Your Fast Pray Give Bowl is a container you’ve set aside to hold the money saved from various fasting challenges, to be used for whatever charity you choose at the end of Lent.)…
Scientific American has a fun podcast on one of the more irksome elements of modern life: Hearing half of the inane conversation of a fellow passenger on mass transportation.
Researchers have found that it is more distracting to listen to half of a conversation — dubbed a halfalogue — than it is to listen to two people chatting in front of you. Although, as someone who spends a lot of time working at coffee shops, it’s really distracting to a) listen to someone get fired; b) hear to one woman offer bad dating advice to another woman; and c) try to focus when two men are discussing their weight-lifting regimens – and the importance of interspersing yoga three days a week – in very loud voices. But I digress.
Whether it is the office, on a train or in a car, only half of the conversation is overheard which drains more attention and concentration than when overhearing two people talking, according to scientists at Cornell University.
“We have less control to move away our attention from half a conversation (or halfalogue) than when listening to a dialogue,” said Lauren Emberson, a co-author of the study that will be …
Protect the silence in your day and consider a silent retreat this summer
“Words are very
— Depeche Mode
There is not enough silence in the world. More than ever before, daily life consists of a near-constant bombardment of noise and messaging.
When I am introducing people to Centering Prayer meditation, the first challenge for many is the simple weirdness for them of being silent and in silence, “alone” with their thoughts, for more than a few minutes. Between cell phones, iPods, the radio on at work or in the car, and the TV flipped on the moment they walk in their door, they manage to keep background noise going all day.
The paradox with meditation and other forms of silent prayer, and especially with silent retreats, is that even though they are formless and goalless, they achieve something wonderful — something potentially transformative: they create space, physical and mental space, to become more open.
That space, made most apparent by silence, can be an uncomfortable place to be. Why is this? Why is the weirdness threatening for some? One answer is that offered by Fr. Jim Martin in his latest book, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Anything:
We may fear silence because we fear what we might hear from the …
Faith, spirituality and religion are too often looked upon as the province of “experts” who spend all their time in places of worship. At BustedHalo.com we frequently hear from readers who desperately want to explore their spiritual questions but feel alienated from traditional faith communities. The fact is that our experience of sacredness is as unique and personal as our fingerprints, but we sometimes fail to recognize these moments as God’s way of speaking to us in our everyday lives.
“Where’s God?” chronicles the countless different ways people experience transcendence. In episode #2 Ph.D. student Tara Good describes her experience of God outside the walls of church.
It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel toward our distant goal.— Helen Keller
Fast from any unnecessary talking. If your day is filled with idle chatter (both verbal and electronic), try to speak only when necessary and only about significant things.
Pray for 15 minutes in purposeful silence, trying to quiet your mind and listen to how God might be speaking to you in your life.
Give a small donation or help to a group that has no voice. Alternatively, drop $2 in your FastPrayGive Bowl. (Your FastPrayGive Bowl is a container you’ve set aside to hold the money saved from various fasting challenges, to be used for whatever charity you choose at the end of Lent.)