Savage ChickenI have been thinking a lot about silence during these days of Lent, and soberly realizing how little I have of it.

It’s not that my nuns and friends are particularly noisy or that I live in the midst of a bustling metropolis. It’s that I am surrounded by — and surround myself with — stuff, necessary stuff most of the time, but stuff nonetheless. Maybe it’s the pile of books that I am reading or mean to read, or the various gadgets that help me do my ministry, or the every handy smartphone with endless opportunities to engage stuff, or the many thoughts and projects on my plate. These and so many other things fill not only my day but my mind and heart, encroaching on that space of silence, of sheer nothingness, of God alone.

You might think (as many people do) that we Catholic sisters and nuns live a quiet, docile life of serenity in ceaseless communion with God and our neighbors. Not so. Even my friends who are contemplative nuns and hermits must contend with the noise of everyday life. Being a sister or nun does not exempt one from life (thank God for that!) or from having to develop a personal and communal sense of silence.

si·lence  (slns) n.

1. The condition or quality of being or keeping still and silent.

2. The absence of sound; stillness.

3. A period of time without speech or noise.

A wise nun got after me the other day for placing a bit too much emphasis on the “action” part of being a  “contemplative in action”. She was right. Too often we can get caught up in the stuff of everyday life — good stuff like ministry, outreach, caring for others, work responsibilities, recreation — and “feel bad” for taking time for just being still, being alone with ourselves. For me that also means being in a space of holy emptiness to receive God more fully.

I know this sounds crazy, but I am going to set an alarm on my handy smartphone app to call myself to stop, be still, and welcome the flood of nothing!