SILENCE AND THE EXISTENTIAL DESERT

Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

Several years ago, while undergoing a dark night of the soul, I happened a book called Search for Silence by Elizabeth O’Connor.

O’Connor (d. 1998) wasn’t Catholic, but she was a Christian and part of a Washington, DC-based lay movement that served the poor, was dedicated to prayer, and lived in community.

A bit of 70s woo-woo creeps in—“I’m OK, you’re Ok, for example—but she quotes a range of thinkers: Kierkegaard, Jung, Evelyn Underhill, Meister Eckhart. Her thought is squarely based in Scripture. And she zeroes in on a central conflict of faith that is as relevant today, if not more relevant, than it was in 1972 when the book was published:

“The fact that we assume all the ‘good’ and ‘loving’ people should be in the church is indicative of our understanding of the nature of the church. We have even equated membership in the church with having arrived at a certain state of respectability. We have no room for the maimed and outcast, thieves, adulterers, the wretched and tormented. No wonder we so often have an oppressive organization on our hands ‘full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness’ (Mark 23:27 RSV).”

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

10 Replies to “SILENCE AND THE EXISTENTIAL DESERT”

  1. Silence. I need more of it.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Amen, Ingrid!

  2. Nanci E. Newcomb says: Reply

    I’m so thankful that Jesus sought out the outcast when He walked on the earth as an example of who the Father is. I am so thankful He glanced at me when I was totally lost.
    Thank you for your faith…it strengthens mine.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      And vice versa, Nanci….

  3. thank you that was a good piece. at our church the blessed sacrament is now in a window since people are not able to come in and you can sit outside and be present with Our Lord. I find myself often with nothing to say, only needing to be present with the presence. St. Therese said that “parents love their children as much when they are asleep as when they are awake” and I trust that I am loved in my empty silence. I have no gifts to bring or words to say. I am weary and spent and bleared and smeared. I like the metaphor with the creatures in the deep and their stress. It is good to walk this journey with you.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh Tess…I keep thinking of those confused and wounded young girls with whom you mentioned a while back that you work…your heart for them, and for your family, and so many others from what I know of you…How well I know that desert, filled with dry bones…no water…emptied out and hollowed myself…nothing to offer, no ears to hear and there is only silence anyway…Each morning I read that day’s entry from Robert Ellsberg’s All Saints…today is Thea Bowman, African-American sister, liturgist, musician, singer…She got breast cancer in her early 50s and her prayer was “Lord, let me live till I die.” When asked how she made sense of suffering, she replied, “I don’t make sense of suffering. I try to make sense of life…I try each day to see God’s will…” In solidarity and in Christ’s love this Holy Week…

  4. Inspirational and affirming as your articles often are for me. In a strange way this pandemic has been a blessing in disguise, for me at least, since it has been filled with many moments of silence and reflection that has brought me closer to Our Lord.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Yes, I feel the say way, Ron. Didn’t seem like much “was happening” but then again, it never does. One thing lockdown showed me was how content I am with my simple little daily schedule of prayer, reading, reflecting, writing, a long walk, a little piano, Evening Prayer…now that we’re emerging, I don’t much want/need anything more…Blessed Holy Week to you!

  5. Thanks Heather. You express it so much better than I could. Blessed Holy Week to you as well, as it has been for me. By the way, i’ve adopted your suggestion from a previous post about actually eating my meals at my kitchen table. Previously I was one of those who ate in front of the computer or tv or on the run. It’s so much better to actually thank God for each meal and to more fully appreciate how fortunate I am to be able to do it and to contemplate Him while I do.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      I’m glad ONE of us stuck to the plan, Ron. No seriously, even I have paid more attention, though I must say with traveling, driving, packing, and contemplating moving I have eaten on the run more than I might like. I’m looking at it as a form of fasting. Blessed Holy Wednesday to you!

I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS!