Autumn is slowly stealing summer’s deep greens, re-painting with a vibrant palette and deepening the contrast with shifting shades of sky. Summer holidays are buried in the business of everyday. Traffic rumbles past now with purpose and power. Schedules burst with obligations and responsibilities, activities and celebrations, social media and entertainment. In the wild surge of it all, quiet beckons.
It might be when stress swells from a wave to a tsunami. Maybe it is that “last straw” moment when frustration creates a breach. Maybe it is the spilling of tears or an exhaustion that cannot be satisfied. It may simply be loneliness as opposed to the sense of “alone-ness”. Whisper or wonder, that beckoning finds each of us at different times. And when it does, we stand just at the very edge of the mountain, in the crosshairs of an intersection, at a place to choose.
That place is ideal for taking a step back, practicing attentiveness, lingering in awkward uncertainty with the conviction that it is meant to be. “Quiet” can take the shape of silence, the rhythm of the Pachebel Canon, the touch of the softeest breeze. Emptying cares and stress, fears and anxieties, hopes and dreams into that Quiet creates the chance to connect with the something greater than self, to know the mystery of the mystical in a very real physical world. It literally mirrors first steps in the age-old practice of contemplative prayer.
That space, too, offers a place to drill deeper. Firm and confident repetitive words and phrases, even the most familiar of prayers, can re-focus a heart and soul from what is fearful to what is impossibly wonderful. Language, words, re-package the mediocre and ordinary into steps on a life journey. Language links the secular and the sacred, engages the fullness of self in the world.
In the Quiet, it is possible to see the interfacing of the human and the divine, the secular and sacred. There are fewer distractions; engagement with something greater is possible. Catholic culture offers a wide continuum of possibilities for those private and communal moments. Best of all, it is not a success or failure continuum. It is far more than that.
Quiet is about the fullness of freedom to be human. And so is Catholicism. In so many ways, it is a “judgment-free zone” that offers options and opportunities, examples and role models. But the key is for each person to find the way, the tools, and the time, that enables and empowers them to grow and develop. There are no promises about comfort or ease, but there is the consistent message that living offers challenges socially, morally, politically, and personally. Growth and journey are continual; plateaus may be reached, but the stretching and demands of living diminish only with death. Catholicism, in philosophy and practice, is about the integrity of doing the best you can with what you have at the moment….and trusting that others are doing the same. To breath deeply in the quiet spaces makes it all possible.