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In Silence We Can Hear and Grow

Dark-Christmas-Fireplace

In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth… Deeper reflection helps us to discover the links between events that at first sight seem unconnected… For this to happen, it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds. -Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Noise and over-activity are enemies of self development and contentment. Distraction of the mind can become abstraction of the mind if not held in check.  The medieval priest and writer, Thomas a Kempis, wrote an entire chapter in his Christian classic book The Imitation of Christ entitled “The Love of Silence and solitude”. It begins with this:

Set aside an opportune time for deep reflection and think often about God’s many benefits to you. Give up all light and frivolous matters, and read what inspires you to repentance of soul and not just entertains you.

There is great wisdom in these words. They may puzzle a frivolous generation. Why set aside time for deep reflection or read that which spiritually edifies or inspires repentance of soul? That doesn’t titillate or amuse.

This is the Facebook generation that prefers gossip and chatter and seeks to be solely entertained in spare time. It is an age that has lost the ability to listen to silence and gain the internal rewards that can come from it.

Noise! Noise! Noise and clamor fill our waking hours. It is an imperative to intentionally retreat from it all for the sake of our emotional and spiritual balance. We should follow Pope Benedict’s directions: “… it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.”

Set aside time to walk in the woods or wooded trail, along the shore of a lake or sea to listen for the voice of God. Our Lord spent time away from the crowds to seek solitude and so should we.

For obvious reasons I am often unable to go far into the natural world. My wheelchair may get stuck in a forest or bog down in the sand along a lake. But God has given me a hedged backyard in which to convalesce or rest in the spring, summer and autumn. It is all I need.

As the sun sets I have often spent time with a visiting grandchild. We talk about everything from God to ladybugs while roasting marshmallows at the fire pit. It is a sweet and gentle time –the stuff of memories (for us not the ladybugs). Eventually Grandma calls him for bath time and bedtime. After little teeth are brushed and prayers prayed, sleep finally descends upon the child.

I return to my peaceful backyard. It is night. I am alone yet not alone. The fire dies into glowing embers and I sit in the darkness: tranquil, content, happy. Which is more: the serenity of the starry sky above me or the serenity within my heart? God’s peace descends upon my open soul. I adore Him. Nothing more needs to be said. Another day concludes.

In winter months, my environment changes. I’m cloistered in my little house. Extreme cold, snow and ice often stop me from venturing outside for days at a time. That is okay. The frigid temperatures outside are pushed back by the warmth within me. The contrast is striking.

I have my fireplace, my books, the quietness of my bedroom and mountains of blankets and quilts to keep my body warm while God keeps my soul and heart warm. He speaks to me. No words are necessary. In silence I am better able to listen and to understand. Ideas are born while the snow drifts against my window. Spring will come.

I am loved and I love.


Mark Davis Pickup is chronically ill and disabled with degenerative multiple sclerosis. He is an advocate for life issues and disability inclusion across North America. He and his wife, LaRee, have been married for 38 years. They live in Alberta Canada with their two adult children and five grandchildren. Mark is available to address issues of euthanasia, assisted suicide, and issues revolving around suffering that often fuel calls for euthanasia. He writes regularly at http://markpickup.org and http://humanlifematters.org. For bookings, contact him by e-mail at MPickup@shaw.ca or telephone (780) 929-9230. Mark Pickup's bi-weekly column can be read in the Western Catholic Reporter (Canada) at http://www.wcr.ab.ca/.


  • Guy McClung

    Dear Mark-In your silence, something that most of us do not seek out, please remember me and my family in prayer. And I will pray for you. Check out Bishop Gracida’s material and thoughts on endoflife issues at AbyssumAbyssum and I think you will find a kindred spirit. Some years ago I turned the radio off in my truck and it metamorphosed into a somewhat quiet movable feast/shrine. You can let God have you captive there. And sometimes fellow drivers, no doubt enjoying their own little movable chapels, even give me spiritual direction, pointing me heavenward with one of their fingers. Guy McClung San Antonio

    • Terri K

      O-o-o-o-h, that’s what the finger gesture means! :0)

      Seriously, I stopped listening to the radio in the car a few years ago too. I find it a good time for prayer as well, unless the kids are with me. In that case I’m not praying in silence, I’m praying /for/ silence.