Finding Ourselves in the Silence

longing

It’s hard for me to be quiet for long. Although I don’t like noisy, crowded rooms, I love having my music around so much that my headphones are practically glued to my ears. I hate making small talk, but if the conversation centers on Doctor Who or Buffy, I’m more than likely to talk someone ear off. There’s a calm to the quiet, but it’s still unsettling to my modern mind, which is so used to having some kind of background noise.

Gaining an appreciation for silence is something a lot of religions seek out. Elizabeth Gilbert practiced an intense Buddhist meditation called Vipassana while staying in the ashram as a way of practicing detachment. Vipassana requires just sitting in silence and not shifting the body once you’ve sat down. Practicing this particular meditation helped her gain an appreciation for the idea of being less talkative and neurotic.

Catholicism has its own appreciation for silence and has its own form of silent meditation. Sure we have praise and worship, Liturgy of the Hours, and a million litanies, but the Church also offers Adoration. I love the silence of Adoration. More often than not, though, I tend to use Adoration to dump all my thoughts in the presence of God. I pray a Rosary and then babble on in my thoughts.

Eventually, the calmness of the hour I spend in Adoration finally sinks into my heart. There’s a great freedom in letting go of your thoughts and focusing more on God’s presence. Vipassana doesn’t allow for thoughts of God because some Buddhists consider God to be “the final object of dependency, the ultimate fuzzy security blanket, the last thing to be abandoned on the path to pure detachment.” Liz Gilbert preferred her “Slumber Party Theology.”

Neither of these philosophies hit the mark. There’s a beautiful paradox in the way that Catholics detach themselves from worldly things and surrender themselves to God. It’s not becoming dependent on a warm and fuzzy imaginary friend. God is not safe, after all. The Pharisees and Romans didn’t crucify the Son of God because he was telling everyone what they wanted to hear.

Mother Teresa explains this better:

In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.

When we are silent in the presence of God, we become less of ourselves and more like Him. An interesting thing I observed about Eat, Pray, Love is that although Elizabeth found the happiness she sought from her mid-life crisis, there were times that she came off as a tad pretentious and self-centered. She never liked the idea of Christ being the only path to God. Sorry, lady, but it’s right there in black and white in John 14: 6 “ “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I understand that some people will probably find that concept of only one way restrictive. But letting God into our lives and allowing us to lose ourselves in Him paradoxically brings out the best version of ourselves. Having a life in Christ doesn’t mean that everyone becomes a cookie-cutter copy of each other. You just have to look at the community of saints to see that in that “one path,” there is diversity. Bishop Robert Barron compares it to light being fractured through a prism into an infinite number of colors. Instead of many paths leading to one way, finding ourselves in God leads to a more beautiful life.

There’s a song by Matt Maher called “Empty and Beautiful” that captures this spiritual journey of God finding us and how emptying ourselves into Him leads us to finding True Beauty.

Lent Day 15: St. Joseph is Awesome!

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten meditation for today talks about how the ego gets in the way of becoming holier. If you ever encounter a person who has this “I’m holier than thou!” vibe, they’re doing it wrong!

A wonderful example of someone who lived a wonderful holy, humble life is St. Joseph whose feast day is today.

My friends Rachel and Kateri made this wonderful video about St. Joseph that goes beyond the images we usually associate with the foster father of Jesus.

The usual assumption about St. Joseph was that he was a widower, possibly old enough to be Mary’s father, and died sometime between Jesus’s preteen years and full adulthood, which could be supported by the fact that he doesn’t appear in the Gospels when Jesus officially began his ministry or at the Cross at Jesus’s death. Besides that, Catholics believe that Mary stayed a virgin after she was married. That could only happen if she was married to someone who wasn’t sexually interested in her, right?

But what if he wasn’t? What if Joseph was around the same age as Mary? After all, the child Jesus would need a role model, an example of the man he would eventually become. It would be hard to picture a child thinking of becoming a grown man if the prominent example is past his prime. Archbishop Fulton Sheen instead has his own theory: That Joseph was a young man, prime marriage material, and able to provide a living for Mary and Jesus.

But what would explain Joseph’s death? The fact that back then, men tended to have shorter life spans than women. Still applies to today, but back then the life expectancy gap was even more extreme. 

Point is this: Picture Mary as a teenager (12-14), since that was how old she could’ve been to marry at that time. And picture Joseph as somewhere close to that (say 13-16). And picture ALL of the things you heard about the things leading to Jesus’s birth and picture yourself as a teenager or a teenager in your life. Could you do the same things Joseph and Mary did in those circumstances? Probably not.

If Joseph and Mary were around today, their relationship status would be: “Joseph and Mary are in a relationship and it’s complicated” because according to the Catholic church, Mary was conceived without sin and they will raise God made flesh. So yeah, complicated relationship, but they made it work because they put God’s needs before their own. Mary and Joseph are the Gospel’s OTP! (That means one true pairing!)

Joseph as a young man provides a great testament to the fact that men can in fact be in control of their hormones. Read about how Joseph reacted to everything that happened to Mary and all the things God asked him to do. Notice that he doesn’t say a single word in the New Testament, but instead listens and obeys God. If men and women put God first and treat each other with the dignity and respect that God created us with, there would be a lot less conflict between the genders.