Light blue with polka dots, that was the pattern of my very favorite dress at the age of five, my favorite age and one full hand, all 5 fingers could expand confidently. Dad punched extra holes in my white “Mary Jane” shoes to fit my narrow and very long feet without slipping.
My place was usually next to Mom or Dad and one of my brothers. But today, it was next to Grandma. Her legs hardly ever crossed and she sat with her knees held together. I tried but my legs hurt doing it. Maybe that would be something to learn when I advanced past one hand.
Surrounded by my family sharing one beautiful and smooth wooden seat. All of us fit on one seat! It was smooth and I kept slipping millimeters at a time before having to re-situate myself, scooting up again. Her hands were soft and comfortable. Holding Grandma’s hand made the silence tolerable.
Eventually she reached in her pocketbook and pulled out a small pouch. Inside were her collection of beads, the rosary. Now, I was left to manage the silence watching her hands move through the beads as her lips barely moved. But I knew she was praying.
That was my first experience with silence. Being surrounded by my family. Later I would learn that it was through this seemingly simple act of just being that was the gift. Being in the presence of those that I loved. Forcing me to look around and witness the folks in my life pray. It was a feeling of peace and also curiosity.
What should I be doing inside of my own head? Can God hear me? When will Mass start? How much longer? Maybe I can catch a glimpse of Grandpa’s watch. I’m supposed to be praying. God, please help me to pray.
Just in time. Father gives me a smile as he is about to give the cantor the infamous nod to begin Mass. The gentleman usher who recognizes me, leads me to a spot up towards the front third. A little embarrassed to be so tardy, but glad to be present, I slowly put down the kneeler (just as the first song begins), to say a small prayer that I wrote in the third grade. Almost 40 and I’m still carrying around with me the prayer that my child self wrote. The words have still rung meaningful through the years. Someday, I may share it with you.
Something is missing.
Silence. Where is the silence? Time after communion to kneel and pray goes so quickly, maybe because there is more to talk with God about than I realized at the age of five. Soon the last song, before heading out to answer the many promises of my “yes” over the days past.
As an adult, it’s easy to recognize that getting to church early was not easy to do for a family of five with visiting Grandparents. Yet, my loves, made it possible. Now, it’s rare that the silence in God’s house is experienced. Even upon arriving early, I am distracted by the whisperings of a Mother and daughter behind me. The inner family jokes occuring in front of me. After Mass, people gather in the pews and catch up on weekly happenings. There is an immediate break in the atmosphere.
None of these reasons for sound are bad. Each are actually special and can be viewed as a blessing between family and friends. And perhaps God is joyful about the love shared between us as we prepare to pray and then move about our days.
What does it mean to be silent?
Something special about being in God’s house is experiencing it with those we love. And with a community of people around us. But where is the communion with God that goes on inside of us in silence? The candle shines brightly next to the tabernacle and the flame is so beautiful. The candles for the souls of those in heaven flicker in a unified group under the stained glass windows of our Saints. Mary and Joseph statues hug the altar and I can’t help but notice the candle flame causing the beads being held by Mary’s statue glisten. And then I recall the soft hands of my grandmother and the beads from her pocketbook.
Outside of Mass, silence tends to be referred to as “meditation”. And in the 90’s the days of “jazzercise” the idea of “meditation” may have even caused one to giggle. Right … like there’s time to meditate … who does that? Now, it’s the next greatest thing and incorporated in almost every yoga class. Goats can even help us! But what about the real G.O.A.T. The real Greatest of All Time? The word pray or crossing ourselves in silence before a meal brings so much attention! Like it’s not culturally acceptable.
And do we practice silence in our own homes? How many of us take even 5 minutes a day to just clear our mind and listen? Listen to God. To be in His presence. Do we know what it means to be in the presence of our own families without the interruption of a mobile machine?
Honestly, it took a major surgery for me to realize the gift of silence again.
And now, it’s so vital to my day that I cannot imagine life without taking at least a few moments for God each day. It’s through that initial realization and continued need for silence that caused enough stirring inside my heart to write this post. So, what does it mean to be silent?
The only way to know what it means to be silent and experience the stillness of the Lord is to calm ourselves enough to make it a priority. Time is precious. Time is something that you cannot get back. We all have the same 24 hours in a day.
Now it’s up to you to find your five minutes. Find your whole hand of fingers stretched wide to sit in silence and stillness. Perhaps you will be like the girl in the blue dress and not know what to do, but her questions are still valid.
What should I be doing inside of my own head? Can God hear me? I’m supposed to be praying. God, please help me to pray.
Perhaps it will be your favorite 5 minutes of the day, a whole hand of fingers stretched out wide.