As our departure for the Camino draws ever closer, I am drawn to thoughts of solitude and silence and the gift of this respite. It is rare indeed when we allow ourselves to hit the pause button and interrupt our busy lives, and just reflect. I have come to realize just how much of my past life has been lived in a state of hyper activity where silence was shunned, perhaps even feared. When we are convinced that all manner of good things emanate from our ability to control our lives through hard work, knowledge, good judgement, and commitment to following an upward path to success, our peace is at greatest risk. It is the overwhelming sense of our own greatness (self-importance) that blinds our way forward, and locks away the humbleness so necessary for spiritual growth. There is nothing in this material world that has permanence either in substance or in its ability to please and pleasure us. Yet, we remain in thrall with its glitter, mesmerized by the siren’s song of mind numbing sales pitches that pound our ears and crush our souls. We remain defenseless until we reach that point where the search for truth turns us away from these ever present distractions and towards the light of God’s peace.
I continue to read Thomas Merton, and find his guidance to be an invaluable companion on my journey of faith. In his book, No Man is an Island, he illuminates the path to peace which is awakening to God’s love, and loving God in return.
He tells us, “If our lives are poured out in useless words we will never hear anything in the depths of our hearts, where Christ lives and speaks in silence.”
“There must be a time when the man of prayer goes to pray as if it were the first time in his life he has ever prayed: when the man of resolutions puts his resolutions aside as if they had all been broken, and he learns a different wisdom; distinguishing the sun from the moon, the stars from the darkness, the sea from the dry land, and the night sky from the shoulder of the hill.”
“In silence we learn to make distinctions. Those who flee silence, flee also from distinctions. They do not want to see too clearly. They prefer confusion.”
“A man who loves God…avoids the unending movement that blurs all beings together into a crowd of indistinguishable things.”
“Those who do not know there is another life after this one resist fruitful silence…Even when their own tongues are still, their minds chatter without end and without meaning, or they plunge themselves into the protective noise of machines…”
“How tragic it is that they who have nothing to express are continually expressing themselves, like nervous gunners, firing burst after burst of ammunition into the dark, where there is no enemy.”
“If the spirit that kept the flame of physical life burning in our bodies took care to nourish itself with the oil that is found only in the silence of God’s charity, then when the body dies, the spirit itself goes on burning the same oil, with its own flame. But if the spirit has burned all along with the base oils of passion, or egoism, or pride, then when death comes the flame of the spirit goes out with the light of the body because there is no more oil in the lamp.”
“If at the moment of our death, death comes as an unwelcome stranger, it will be because Christ also has been an unwelcome stranger.”
Embracing the solitude of a Camino, and using that to offer our love to God is always a compelling part of being on pilgrimage. Any journey can offer the allure of excitement, but the essence of our pilgrimage is not to be found in the charms of the physical world, as pleasant and intriguing as they might be.
We shall walk, as we live, in the hope and joy of God’s grace and mercy, ever thankful for the gift of being called to do so. Oh, and BTW, we plan a hell of a lot of fun as well.