By Heather Walker
ROME — Amid the challenges and fears of the current pandemic, suddenly many people found their daily routine turned upside down. A plethora of online offers, such as fitness and educational programs, conferences and webinars, offered a chance to evade the hardships of the moment, but many people found this increased online activity was either overwhelming or not enough to meet their need for community.
The Lay Centre crafted the five-week series of reflections, entitled “Wellsprings of Silence,” in an attempt to offer spiritual nourishment that could be appreciated on one’s own time, anywhere in the world.
More than 200 people registered for the series, composed by some friends of The Lay Centre, which had as the recurring theme the importance of silence.
Father John Keating, O.Carm., began the series by reminding participants that there are “so many words that do not build peace! How often we hear divisive, harsh and destructive language circulating and destroying so much of what is held dear and precious! This is, of course, silence of the tongue."
“Surely, the antidote must be the recovery of the balance of sound and silence, for this can flow into gentleness, tenderness and compassion. Perhaps today there is a call to be attentive to that balance and to ‘smallness’ rather than to greatness,” he continued.
Dr. Karen Petersen Finch took us into “the deep end of prayer,” using imagery of the shallow and deep ends of a pool.
“Someday, I will no longer be afraid of silence. For now, it is enough that God is willing to meet me in the shallow end or the deep end of my prayer life. Everything I could ever need is waiting for me in God,” she wrote, citing the second verse of Psalm 40.
Grace Pratt Morris-Chapman wrote that silence is like a gift: “God in his grace invites us to draw near through the gift of silence and solitude; it is about time we opened up our lives more and more to receive the richness therein. It requires us to submit to God’s ways of ordering our lives and pausing ever so often to let the rhythm of grace order our steps.”
Rev. Olivia Maxfield-Coote and Rev. Sebastian Harries offered a joint reflection that invited participants to step outside in nature.
“In the contemplation of nature, we find ourselves perpetually renewed,” they wrote. “Our sense of mystery and our imagination is indeed kept alive and rightly understood, because in contemplating nature we are contemplating the wonder of God’s creative and healing love.”
Dr. Donna Orsuto offered the closing reflection, in which she contemplated the peaceful oasis of The Lay Centre, located on the grounds of the monastery of the Passionist Fathers, founded by St. Paul of the Cross. She offered a reflection on insights she has gained from his writings and reminded participants of each individual’s ability to “stand together with those who suffer, in ‘the silence of faith and of love,’ recognizing that really in quietness and trust will be our strength.”
The written reflections were accompanied by musical compositions or images of sacred art that enhanced the insights that were shared.
The Lay Centre is currently working on an online series for the fall, entitled “Nurturing Resilience.” More information on the topic and on how to register will be forthcoming.