We always want to fill silence. With small talk, with nonstop activities, with churning thoughts. We’re so used to filling every moment of every day that we become uncomfortable with resting in silence. Yet it is in the silence that we find God and grow closer to him.
The summer is a time to slow down — spiritually, at least. Our responsibilities and schedules may not lighten up, but we can intentionally spend more time in contemplative prayer. The welcoming weather of summer lends itself to silent reflection in nature.
It is in silent meditation and openness that we can encounter Christ. As St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “God cannot be found in noise and restlessness. If we really want to pray, we must first learn to listen: for in the silence of the heart God speaks.”
We must calm our minds to discover what God wants to share with us. So fight the temptation to fill the silence. Instead, stop, wait, and listen. Spend undistracted time outside, admiring God’s creation and inviting him to speak to you in the silence.
One of the best ways to detach from the distractions of daily life is to spend time outside, taking in the beauty of nature. It can just be a simple stroll, moderate hike, porch seat, or waterfront perch. Don’t make this time too physically strenuous — keep your mind and body at ease. Practice mindfulness, opening yourself up to what God wants to share with you.
Bring along your Bible, other religious text, or use an app to read Scripture. Whatever form of meditative prayer you prefer, focus on consuming the word of God. The meditative and imaginative methods set forth by St. Ignatius of Loyola are powerful ways to use Scripture to pray, choosing a specific verse or section of Scripture to meditate on.
In his book The Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius encourages us to view the world, all of humanity and nature, as God does to enter into the story of the Gospel. This meditative experience requires the activation our senses to visualize the part of Scripture we choose to reflect on, which we can more easily do in nature.
We can imagine the people and places with our sight, we can hear the words they speak and the sounds around them, we can project the smell, taste, and touch the physical environment presented in the Gospels. While outside, this type of meditation is enhanced as our senses are stimulated by the nature that surrounds us.
Throughout your day, seek out little moments for meditation and mindfulness. A few minutes of silent, undistracted conversation with God here and there give us small retreats from the ups and downs of daily life. Find these moments outside, too, waiting for the subway, walking into the office, taking the kids to the park, or going for a coffee break.
During a 2010 homily in Westminster, England, Pope Benedict XVI said, “This kind of prayer, real prayer, requires discipline; it requires making time for moments of silence every day. Often it means waiting for the Lord to speak. Even amid the ‘busy-ness’ and the stress of our daily lives, we need to make space for silence.”
Summer is the season of traveling. We plan trips with family and friends or travel solo to decompress and enjoy experiencing new or familiar places, near and far. Wherever we go, and whatever the nature of our trips, we can find ways to experience God and assume a pilgrim’s spirit — visiting a local shrine, praying the rosary on a hike, and so on.
Silence also brings us closer to our contribution to salvation history. Pope Benedict XVI continued in his homily, “It is in silence that we find God, and in silence that we discover our true self. And in discovering our true self, we discover the particular vocation which God has given us for the building up of his Church and the redemption of our world.”
This summer, make an extra effort to seek out brief
moments or extended time in prayerful silence. Go out in nature to experience
the fullness and wonder of God’s creation. Your relationship with Christ will
only deepen through this mindfulness.
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The Napa Institute Summer Conference brings together some of the world’s most prominent Catholic and Christian thinkers each year to engage, encourage, and inspire the over 700 participants who gather from every corner of the country and around the world. This conference provides unique opportunities to build community, share ideas, and grow in friendship with some of the most effective Catholics leaders in the country.
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