In a world where movement, noise, endless “to do” lists, deadlines, and long work hours are the norm– is it any wonder we sometimes find ourselves depleted, overwhelmed and just plain worn-down by daily demands and the flurry around us? Beyond this, we live in times where busyness has reached epidemic proportions and tends to leave us feeling guilty when we aren’t keeping busy enough! Amid the chaos, God calls us to be counter-cultural and go against the grain of our fast-paced world. More directly, he calls us to be still. Why? Because it is only through stillness we are brought closer to him. In fact, Psalm 46:10 explicitly says this – “Be still and know that I am God.”
There is no better time than during Lent to begin the practice of spiritual stillness. Since nothing is more important than our relationship with God, it is necessary to develop the discipline of interior stillness in to order draw nearer to him. Stillness isn’t about laziness or shirking our responsibilities. It is about taking time each day to be still before God in order to receive his grace so we can better fulfill our duties according to his holy will.
While he lived a highly active life, Blessed John Paul II often emphasized the importance of taking time to be still. In his 1995 Apostolic Letter, Orientale Lumen, he wrote, “We must confess that we all have need of silence (stillness), filled with the presence of him who is adored. This is what man needs today; he is often unable to be silent for fear of meeting himself, of feeling the emptiness that asks itself about meaning; man who deafens himself with noise.”
Likewise, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI also advocated for stillness, “We live in a society in which every space, every moment must be ‘filled’ with initiatives, activities, and sounds. Often there is not ever time to listen or to converse. Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us not be afraid to create silence inside and outside ourselves if we wish to be capable not only of hearing the voice of God, but also the voice of those near us, the voice of our fellow man.” Similarly, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “We need to find God and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
If you are like me, training yourself to be still is a supreme challenge! Yet, it is possible! Turn off the TV, phone, internet, and radio and create a quiet atmosphere. Then quiet the noise of your own mind. Make yourself comfortable and focus your thoughts on God, asking him to rid you of all that which blocks your relationship with him. Then, simply be still and silent in his presence. Try starting with 10 minutes a day, ideally in the morning or evening, and then increase the time as you can. If your mind becomes distracted follow the spiritual advice of St. Francis de Sales – “If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master’s presence. And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back and place it again in Our Lord’s presence, though it went away every time you brought it back, your time would be very well employed.”
Spiritual stillness can also be practiced throughout your day – over a quiet lunch break, during your morning commute, in front of the Blessed Sacrament and even amid chaos! For as Saint Catherine of Siena said, “there is a ‘secret cell’ within us, where at any moment, whatever one may be engaged in, God’s presence can be found.”
The benefits of spiritual stillness are many for it helps us to see ourselves more clearly. It rejuvenates our hearts, minds and souls – fostering holiness, prayer and mental clarity. Stillness helps us to remain faithful to God’s will and opens the way for spiritual growth within us. It creates order amid chaos and provides us an opportunity to praise him for his goodness. Stillness is restorative, redemptive and redirecting. Far from being oppressive or a waste of time, it instead frees us to be attentive to God who yearns to speak to us in the silence of our souls.
This Lent, why not begin to learn what Popes and Saints have long practiced. Entrust yourself to God in stillness. During these 40 days, let’s join Christ in the stillness of the desert and there ask the King of Kings who “makes all things new” (Rev 21:5) to restore and renew us. For as Saint Augustine once wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
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