Two words that seem lost in our fast-paced world are silence and solitude. Start with silence. Sure, I find silence difficult. I like to break the silence especially when I think have something important to say. Other times, I use a smart-remark or joke to brush the silence away.
Solitude is a friend of silence. Of course, solitude leaves us to our ourselves. Often, we get restless and uneasy. On occasion, we are overcome by loneliness and can get into trouble. With loneliness comes sadness, anger, dread, and down the rabbit hole goes solitude.
Rather than go negative, silence and solitude can become good friends and companions. Silence, allows another person to have the floor, or gives them a chance to speak, or we simply are present to the other as a gift. In our relationship with God, the same holds true when we “chill” and quiet ourselves down by listening for a Word from God.
Solitude is usually borne out of silence and it too, allows us to create space in our own life and the lives of others. A person of solitude is less likely to be manipulative and clingy or as we say today, “codependent” and unable to let-go of the people, things, and experiences that grab us and hold our attention. However, with solitude we are more at home with ourself and a welcomed guest into a deeper relationship in keeping company with God.
Silence and solitude are not new to our spiritual vocabulary but they can get lost in the noise and movement that takes place in any given day. It is one reason why they are disciplines for the spiritual life. Like an athlete in training, or guidance from a coach, our pilgrimage made room with silence and solitude on the day we heard the story of St. Kevin in Glendalough.
In Glendalough we had no idea what we were getting into. The name Glendalough means “Glen of the Two Lakes.” That gives most people immediately an idea of the beauty found in the natural setting of this site. But more importantly, as we walked around and saw the monastic site and the grounds, it was apparent there was a special aura or feeling hard to describe. In fact, it was best to simply experience the holiness of the place.
In addition to telling the story of Kevin and his desire to be a hermit, our guide shared with us some of the legends and stories that were associated with the discipline of the solitude and silence.in St. Kevin’s daily prayers. What became apparent to us through prayer, God’s was the presence of God revealed through the animals, the running water in the nearby streams, the birds flying overhead, and of course, the breathtaking beauty surrounding the valley and the glen. The vista surrounding us was a jaw-dropping back-drop of the Wicklow Mountains referred to by St. Kevin as, “the creatures of God,” There was a divine harmony right before us of God’s masterful creation and the care St. Kevin extended to the environment, touched us all.
So, there we stood in silence and solitude allowing the earth, the mountains, the birds, the air, to fill our lungs with life, and then, then, the rolling clouds in the sky sprinkled rain down upon us. It wasn’t bad. We didn’t run. No one complained. It was as if the rain was coming down from heaven and our group was on pilgrimage—praying for a moment with St. Kevin—in the silence and solitude as our presence was washed before God. It was a thin place.