On Thursday mornings, we have about thirty minutes of contemplative prayer instead of the usual Morning Prayer service at SSJD. When I first came to the convent, I had never done anything remotely like it. It was a completely new experience for me. To tell the truth, I seldom experience complete silence around me in the way this particular kind of service induces it. Even if there happened to be silence externally, though, the loudness of my thoughts made it difficult to come to terms with the disparity between the two worlds: inner and outer.
I’m a musician and so, my mind is often filled with pieces of music. This can be either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on what situation one is in. It is of course, a wonderful blessing to be able to listen in one’s own head to a grand and beautiful symphony in perfect tune, or an uplifting song, or whatever the case may be. This is useful when one is rehearsing music, when one needs to recollect the music and recreate it. It’s useful when one needs to listen carefully to what is actually being played, and to compare. However, this can be disconcerting when one needs to “switch off” and go to sleep, or when the piece of music in question falls into the “annoying earworm” category. Sometimes the music becomes undesired, and one no longer wishes to hear it being played any longer or at least for it to hit the metaphorical “pause” button for a little while.
This of course meant that the first few encounters of 30 minutes of silent prayer were quite disconcerting, as it initially amplified the music in my head by several inaudible decibels. I could now hear what was being played more clearly than before; I could actually see the pieces of music perfectly visualized. This all seemed incredibly useless however, as I didn’t need to actually recreate the music in the near foreseeable future and so, I sensed it was somehow interfering with my ability to connect properly in silent prayer. I needed the internal music to pause, so I could hear what it was I needed to hear in the prayer time.
By the third time we did the contemplative prayer though, things had become significantly easier. The Holy Spirit had inspired me to calm down within; I felt that I could now do 15 minutes of focused prayer without letting my mind float to its usual soundtrack. I also noticed that I felt more centered.
About a week ago I read somewhere that someone mentioned that “praying together in silence for 30 minutes is very powerful”. I was intrigued by this statement and immediately began asking,
“What does it mean to pray together in silence?”
“What is the difference between praying silently, and praying out loud?”
“What is significant about the fact that people are doing it together as opposed to by themselves?”
It is safe to say that I am very new to this method of complete silent prayer, but I am discovering more in the process and simultaneously feeling there is much to learn. I am eager to see how praying in silence can be a powerful experience. I am so grateful to being a Companion this year and learning about new ways of experiencing the love of Jesus in community.
H. Becker, SSJD Companion