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Catholic School and Silence

Hummingbird's picture

I went to Catholic school from age 5 to 13, so when Sr. Linda-Susan Beard spoke with our class on Thursday, I felt an immediate and somewhat overwhelming connection to what she was saying. I, too, was a very contemplative child and was particularly faithful from ages 8 through 12, but it's something that until recently I'd come to reject or deny in my personal history. I didn't pray on a regular basis by myself, but I did find comfort in praying in church with my class or during morning prayers each day at school. At the time, prayer for me often did involve asking for something from God. I prayed for family members to stay healthy. I prayed for peace in war stricken regions. I prayed for forgiveness for arguing with my sisters.

Sometimes, though, I was able to enter the entirely contempletive and silent kind of meditation that Sr. Linda-Susan Beard spoke to – and in those moments, I felt utterly at peace with myself and my surroundings. I remember distictly one day in seventh grade when my class went to confessions (to tell the priest our sins and ask forgiveness for those wrongdoings) and I spent almost thirty minutes entranced by the sunlight streaming through the stained-glass windows. I thought it was the most beautiful and God-filled moment I'd ever experienced. 

When I entered (my public) high school, I went through a very complete shift. I stopped believing in God and considered myself an athiest. I began to very deeply question everything I'd been taught to take at face-value in my religion classes. I took comfort in the idea of oblivion after death because I was terrified by the idea of being in one place for all of eternity (even if it was paradise). I saw the overwhelming flaws in the heirarchical system of the catholic church and I felt utterly disenchanted by the idea of religion.

In the process of this silence class, I have not become more religious. I have not regained my unquestioning faith of youth. I have, however, been able to re-experience that moment in church of complete silence and beauty. I have been working through the semester to complexify the idea of silence, and I still believe it's complex, but I'm deeply drawn by the "pregnant" (as Sr. Linda-Susan Beard phrased it) nature it can hold. In my last paper for Anne I wrote that "silence is an empty room" and implied the emptiness made room for possibility. I think I prefer the metaphor of pregnancy though, because it means the potential is already there – it just needs to develop. The fear of standing on the edge of a cliff or staring at a blank page – that fear of the unknown – is diminished with the metaphor of pregnancy. 

I'm not really sure where this is going except to say that I'm so grateful to have been able to experience this silence again. I hadn't realized or acknowledged how much I needed it.