Lent as the Season of Stillness

Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ
Be silent. Be still. Alone. Empty before your God.
Say nothing. Ask nothing. Be silent. Be still.
Let your God look upon you. That is all.
God knows. God understands.
God loves you with an enormous love,
And only wants to look upon you with that love.
Quiet. Still. Be. Let your God love you.
-Edwina Gately
Yesterday I joined the young men who are students in the Senior School of the Sacred Heart School of Halifax. This assembly begins with a prayer, part of which was this poem by Edwina Gately. Watching the students’ expressions as their school mates read the words, "Be silent. Be still. Alone. Empty before your God" remined me of the absolutely necessity of silence in our lives if we wish to attain some type of balance. Without stopping, without being still how can we sense the Mystery that lies within us in our deepest core and around us in the midst of creation?
Praying this poem also reminded me of the interview Krista Tippet had with Pico Iyer called, “The Urgency of Slowing Down”. During the interview Iyer explained that we live in an ever faster accelerated world, one in which there is little time for the space and silence we need to simply catch our breath. He calls us to slow down in the same ways that Gately does.

Today we begin Lent. The entire focus of Lent is to slow down in order to pay attention to the core of our being. Lent is the season of stillness for the sake of connecting with the source of our being. Consider this snippet of Tippet’s conversation with Iyer:

Tippet: Here is something beautiful you wrote: “The point of gathering stillness is not to enrich the sanctuary or the mountaintop, but to bring that calm into the motion, the commotion of the world.” We haven’t used the word “spirituality” yet. You make the same connection when you write explicitly about spirituality, that it arises out of the disjunction between us and the transcendent. Spirituality is in some kind of tension with stillness, right? That, in fact, this is the place where we meet our demons as well. I feel like that’s there in your writing.

Iyer: Beautiful. I absolutely agree with that. Sometimes “mystery” is a word I use as an equivalent to spirituality. You’re right. I think our relation with the Divine is a love affair. It’s a passionate love affair. It’s also as tumultuous as any affair that we have in the world with somebody we care about a lot. So it’s not all sweetness and light and probably shouldn’t be because the sufferings and the demons are often what instructs us much more than the calm, radiant moments.

Iyer: I would say that spirituality is, as we were just saying, the story of our passionate affair with what is deepest inside us and with the candle that’s always flickering inside us and sometimes almost seems to go out and sometimes blazes.

Following this train of thought I think Lent demands us to wonder what the consequences might be to the essence of who we are if we never opt for stillness. Without the silence and aloneness how can our hearts grow? The question before us on the eve before Lent begins, how does each of us want to spend the next 40 days we prepare for Easter? What changes will we make in our day to day lives to crave out the time and consciousness for stillness?
Schools of the Sacred Heart share in the educational mission of the Society of the Sacred Heart as articulated in the Goals and Criteria. The structure supporting Sacred Heart education in Canada and the United States includes the Conference of Sacred Heart Education and the Network of Sacred Heart Schools.  Together they provide services and programs to ensure vitality of mission for the member schools sponsored by the Society of the Sacred Heart.