Learning from the Silence – Words of Wisdom from St Benedict

by Christine Sine
Washington State park Anacortes

A place for reflection and quiet - Washington State park Anacortes

Tom & I are just back from one of our quarterly retreats at Annacortes.  These are always good times for us to focus and reset priorities for the next three months.  A time like this always reminds me of St Benedict who uses 2 words for silence: quies and selentium.  

Quies is the silence that comes with the absence of noise.  The silence the comes as we turn of the TV, disconnect from the internet and discard our cell phones.  It is an extremely important form of silence that all of us who live busy, urban lives need to enter into.  And it is one aspect of the silence that I always appreciate during our retreat times.

Silentium is an attitude of attentiveness towards God.  It is the silence of making space for, taking time for and paying loving attention to the One we proclaim to be our God and King.  This kind of silence is often more difficult to enter into because it doesn’t just mean finding a quiet place, it means establishing a quiet attitude.  It requires us to  set aside the distractions of our minds and hearts, draw from the stillness that is within us and communion with the spirit of God in a very special way.

I often write prayers during our retreats that help me focus my own need for this attitude of silence.  They often revolve around garden imagery for me because the garden is the other place, apart from retreat in which I most frequently encounter the silentium of God.

On subsequent retreats I revisit these prayers, repeat them, savour them and often rewrite them until I feel that I have once more entered into the silentium of God.   Here are a couple that I found myself using on this retreat.  The first is more of a poem then a prayer, but because of that I find that its rhythm sticks with me as I return to the busy world.

God as I come into this place of solitude, into this garden of prayer,

May I feast on a silence of plenty, for I know you await me there,

May I come to where your heart is calling, into your place of quiet,

May I leave behind my worries and distracts and walk with you in the garden of life.


God may I savour each moment as  a place of communion with you,

May I let go of all that distracts me and holds me captive,

May I attune my ears to your words and respond in reverence to your quiet whispers,

May I wrap my heart around your presence and allow your ways to echo in the depths of my being,

In this place of quiet may I allow you to transform all I am and all I do,

So that I can live life to the full in your resurrection created world.



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Paul John Martin September 23, 2011 - 11:31 am

“…but the Lord was not in the hurricane,…the earthquake, ….the fire. After the fire came a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard that, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him….” [1 Kg 19:13] Thank you for the reminder to listen…


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