Day 1 of full silence was mostly orientation. I spent much of the day trying to discern the best way to spend my time and getting the “lay of the land” around the campus where I’m staying.
Today I’m starting to settle into a routine which I suspect will set the pace for the rest of my time. In his book Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey Into Meditative Prayer (I’m reading this book right now) Richard Foster writes about three steps of meditative prayer or silence: 1) be present where you are, 2) behold the Lord, 3) listen.
Step 1 for me this week is easy. I’m here. I’m present. The only reason I’m on this campus is to be present with God. So, I’m focusing on steps 2 and 3. Primarily, what I wish to do in these 5 days is behold the Lord (meditate upon him, think about him, have my heart and mind captured by him) and listen to the Lord.
Here are the practices I’m engaging in to accomplish these two things:
- Praying through the Paraclete Psalter each day. This Benedictine resource guides you through 4 periods of prayer each day (called Lauds, Midday, Vespers, and Compline). Each period of prayer utilizes the Psalms.
- Practicing Contemplative Prayer at least twice a day. This involves focused silence in a still place simply trying to be with God.
- Engaging in Lectio Divina once or twice a day. In this practice I read a text, I reflect on a word or phrase which sticks out to me, I respond in prayer to God about what I’ve heard through that word, and I rest in God.
- Practicing the Examen once or twice a day. This is a habit of reviewing the day and striving to discern what God was doing or saying in the midst of it.
- Meditating on nature and on Christian art. I’m very visually oriented and these visual stimuli help me think about God (see below).
- Spending time with a spiritual director. The one time we break silence is during our hourly appointment with a spiritual director who helps us process what we’re experiencing in the silence.
- Reading Christian literature on spiritual growth. Currently I’m working through Foster’s book.
- Writing/blogging/journaling. I’ve long found that writing helps me process things and hear God’s voice better.
One of the blessings of being on the campus of a Jesuit college is that I have access 24/7 to their two chapels. One, Saint Joseph’s Chapel, is a stunning place. I’ve spent several hours just meditating on some of the Christian art within it. In particular, the chapel has large sculptures depicting the traditional 14 stations of the cross. In “twitter-style” Christians long ago began depicting what they believed to be the most significant scenes of Jesus death using art or sculpture and short sentences. In the Catholic church there are 14 of these stations. Each includes a snapshot of that moment in Jesus’ final hours and a very brief verbal description of what’s happening in that scene. Below are the 14 stations depicted in Saint Joseph’s Chapel.