Seeking Silence (and Summer Books)

Jesus comes to us in deep silence.

 When peaceful silence lay over all and night had run the half of her swift course, down from the heavens from the royal throne leapt your all powerful word ~ Wisdom 18:14, 15

My life is so busy it concerns me. Its pace brooks no hesitation, no daydreams, and very little interior silence.

I sat in front of the Blessed Sacrament about two weeks ago, and spent an hour filling one page of a legal pad with my many obligations, concerns, worries, to-do lists, and questions in an attempt to lay them all at the feet of Our Lord. I asked Him to help me to simplify—to identify priorities and release whatever might be getting in the way of His will for my life. There is no question I felt a sense of peace afterward, but no specific guidance was forthcoming on where to trim the load. I left feeling like God just wanted me to keep going.

However, a couple of days later, my husband suddenly made an uncharacteristic and quite impassioned plea for me to finish my mystery novel. It's something that has been slowly taking shape over the last several years and is nearly finished. A project, begun on a lighthearted whim, has deepened through much prayer and the passage of time. But I tend to shelve it, again and again, for more "important" work. I consider my little fictional world a guilty pleasure and a distraction, and have just been assuming that God needs me "out there" in the real world, more than within the pages of a tale of faith, murder, and redemption.

Within days of my husband's startling speech, I developed a stress fracture in my left ankle, from working out too hard. I was fitted with an air cast that threw me off balance and out of proper spinal alignment. The pain was considerable. I had to cancel several commitments, get to the chiropractor, and slow way, way down.

Around the same time I rather timidly asked my editor at this website for June and July off to finish a couple of projects—my novel being one. She was great about it. Next, I notified my staff at that I would do the same with the website. They've all been supportive, too (and a few will continue posting through the summer). Soon afterward, I met with my spiritual director, Monsignor Charles Fink, who counseled me wisely and shared a treasure that really affirmed the need to take a break from my routines.

Father Fink (as he prefers to be called) is a convert to Catholicism, a Vietnam War veteran, an avid reader, and the Director of Spiritual Formation for the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, in Huntington, New York. He's a remarkable, humble priest with a soft voice and an incredibly gentle spirit. He reminds me a lot of my dad, another bookish, gentlemanly fellow (also a Vietnam Vet and devoutly Catholic).

I trust Father Fink to pray for me, to share good and nourishing thoughts and ideas, recommend books, and respond to my many questions. I'm always scribbling notes when I'm with him. Like my dad, Father Fink prefers to write most things long-hand, rather than typing them at a keyboard. So it really surprised me when he told me about his truly extraordinary website project, devoted to the writings and audio recordings of the late, great retreat master, British priest, Father John Keep.

Another convert, scholar, and war veteran, Father Keep spent the last several years of his priestly life as chaplain to a community of Visitation Sisters in the picturesque English town of Waldron, in East Sussex. In addition to his duties to the Sisters, for decades he gave a series of monthly retreats that were open to both lay people and religious. Many of his short talks were recorded, and thirty years of written talks were preserved for posterity by his publisher, John Whelan.

About twenty years ago, Father Fink came across an advertisement for tapes of some religious talks that were billed as "positively addictive." He ordered the first set of five tapes, found them excellent, and then ordered another five. They were consistently "marvelous" and indeed habit-forming. He later wrote to Mr. Whelan, wanting to learn more about this wonderful priest and preacher, and was invited to England to meet him, staying a week and befriending both men. The brief retelling of this story is worth reading. In the years that followed, these invaluable resources would be entrusted to Father Fink to share freely with the world.

Totally orthodox in their content, Father Keep's retreat meditations are presented in a quiet simplicity that required a real adjustment of my American sensibilities. I had to yield to the unhurried pace, the gentleness of the big man's voice, the depths of meaning in his brief presentations.

5/24/2011 4:00:00 AM
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    About Lisa Mladinich
    Lisa Mladinich is a Catholic wife and mother, catechist and workshop leader, and the author of the popular booklets, "Be An Amazing Catechist: Inspire the Faith of Children," and "Be an Amazing Catechist: Sacramental Preparation" available from Our Sunday Visitor. She is the founder of