Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Silence & Listening

Dear Abbey Members and Friends,

You may recall that Angela, Seton, and I posted daily meditations on the Abbey Blog spot and on the Abbey YahooGroups listserve during Holy Week. We received positive feedback on that. In discussion at our last team meeting, we decided to begin a weekly posting on Wednesdays, rotating among the three of us. Our hope is that the meditations, or thoughts, we provide will be a springboard for an electronic discussion and an opportunity for all of us to grow spiritually. So we invite you to respond with your thoughts, feelings, suggestions...

If any of you who are in our physical or virtual Abbey Communities wish to share in our weekly posting rota, please let one of the three of us know. We welcome your participation.

With that prelude, let me give you my thoughts for this week.

I visited the St. Benedict’s Abbey, Atchison, KS, web site and read a posting by their Abbot, Barnabas Senecal, reflecting on the life of one of their long-time monks, Brother Martin Burkhard, who recently died.
Following are a couple of excerpts that spoke to me,
“Brother Martin knew silence. Not only the silence that settles around a person who loses his hearing, but the silence of being alone, the silence of choice when one is listening well to another, the silence of one at prayer, the silence of sharing a moment of sadness with another, the silence of an artist who knows that inspiration comes from within, in response to beauty and possible beauty around him, and the silence of acceptance.”
“Brother Martin knew the silence of acceptance, giving rise to an ability to live with what is, not to be anxious about many things, to accept what he could not change. He allowed this to be a positive, to be a realist. He would complain, and he could say his disagreement, but that never took away what one confrere called ‘his sweetness.’”

WOW, to me this is a very powerful reminder of what it means to be in relation with God and one another. Brother Martin’s life exemplified what, I believe, we are called by God to be. To take time and really listen well to one another is one of the greatest gifts we can give. For me, this is one of the hardest things to do. My life and perhaps yours as well seem to be filled with so many worthwhile things that need to be done. In the midst of all these activities, it is difficult to slow my mind enough to be present and listen when a colleague, a friend, a spouse needs some of that time to be listened to. How hard it is in a meeting or conference when ‘gut issues’ are being discussed to REALLY take the time to listen to the speaker and not focus on our response. In our Listening Groups, it takes an effort of will to listen to what God has for us to say to another rather than the easy path of giving our own guidance or judgement. We all crave to be listened to – to be able to tell our ‘story’ to another and have that other be present for us in a non-judgmental way. When we can do this, we truly are walking in Christ’s steps. I’m successful occasionally; but, more often than not, I fail to be fully present for another. My challenge is to not give up hope, but to ‘pick myself up’ and try harder the next time. The good news is that there is great support and encouragement in our Community. I pray that we can come to the end of our days and, like Brother Martin, say that we too knew the silence of being.

Shalom and blessings, George

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