Be Still

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How often I have heard, and reflected on the words, “Be still, and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10), yet in the enforced quiet of our world today due to the spreading Coronavirus, I find myself restless. What an irony!

I have made many silent retreats at Manresa, in Pickering, to escape from the busy routines of everyday living. At the end of a weekend retreat I emerge refreshed and ready to tackle life again. But everything seems strange now.

The silence is eerie without the sounds of cars rushing by, people mingling in restaurants, malls buzzing with shoppers, and the usual chatter of a people rejoicing in each other’s company.

“Stay a hockey stick apart,” I am told, and I am suddenly more aware that “social distancing” is a requirement not a suggestion – and it is happening during Lent! I can honestly say that this is the longest Lent ever.

Flashing across our screens are the rising numbers of those infected by this virus, and worse still, of those dying from it. With our churches shut even for private prayer in this holy season, I have to follow Ash Wednesday’s Gospel, “When you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place…(Matthew 6:6).

I am invited to pray in the silence of my innermost being to a God who is a friend of silence. My room is now “holy ground,” as I wrestle with a new life in the trenches, fighting a battle with an unseen enemy.

As I look around, I see the crucifix, holy pictures, an icon, and candles. I recall one of my little granddaughters saying as she once glanced around my room, “Grandma, you are very religious.” But I’m not, I am just trying to follow Jesus, stamped on the passport of my life.

The flickering light of the candle draws me into a holy embrace. An Examen of Consciousness reveals moments when I have fallen down. Then I am quickly reminded of Catherine Doherty’s words, “With God, every moment is the moment of beginning again.”

Like a moth to a flame, I am drawn back to the TV spilling out more bad news for me to digest. This virus has wrapped its tentacles around our lives and seems to be squeezing us into submission.

I now reach for my Bible, and am comforted when I read, “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. Many are the troubles of the just man, but out of them all the Lord delivers him.” (Psalm 34:19-20)

That is a brief consolation for me, as I swing back into this chaotic pandemic reality. The mystery of why this is happening, leaves me standing on the edge of discomfort watching the world spinning. St. Ignatius of Loyola tells us that we have to come to our prayer space remembering that God is looking at us with love.

So like Mary, I ponder these things in my heart. I am slowly able to encounter God in these times that are really challenging.

Some of the most comforting words in the Bible are, “And it came to pass.” Yes, troubles do not come to stay. God in his infinite mercy delivers us out of them.

When I get restless again, I recall the famous quote from St. Augustine’s Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

The Coronavirus has handicapped us in many ways, but I believe in God, even when he is silent.

I am encouraged when I read Pope Francis’ words, “If you find it hard to pray, don’t give up. Be still; make space for God to come in. Let Him look at you, and He will fill you with His peace.”

Soon a song bubbles up and I sing jubilantly:

“Hush be still my heart, listen be quiet

  For deep inside my God is listening to me,

  Nothing moving, nothing stirring

  All is quiet, for I am with my God.”

Viola Athaide is a student in the Windows of Theology program at Regis College, Toronto. She currently teaches Scripture at her local parish church.

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24 Comments
  • Philip Shano
    Posted at 01:47h, 04 April Reply

    Thank you for your words and the invitation to find God in these strange days

  • Lorella D'Cruz
    Posted at 05:13h, 04 April Reply

    As one who normally finds sustained prayer elusive when on my own, Viola’s words are encouraging. I am slowly learning that it is by withdrawing from the tumult of everyday distractions that I can achieve a closer communication with my God.

  • Olga Protz
    Posted at 07:15h, 04 April Reply

    Loved those words this morning, am experiencing similar emotions through this time . Silence is a gift now and am learning to embrace it more and more. Thank you .

  • Vicky Chen
    Posted at 07:50h, 04 April Reply

    Thank you for sharing. So true!

  • Peter Bisson SJ
    Posted at 08:13h, 04 April Reply

    Amen! Thank you Viola.

  • Chantal Balthazar
    Posted at 08:52h, 04 April Reply

    These words are very comforting. Thank you, Viola.

  • Margaret (Peggy) Wilson
    Posted at 09:06h, 04 April Reply

    Thank you. I have spent three weeks with God and the TV. But this too will pass.

  • Jeanette Woodley
    Posted at 09:37h, 04 April Reply

    Our homes have become little hermitages of prayer. We have much more time on our hands to be “Be still and know that I am God.” It is a blessing in disguise in many ways that once we are back in our churches, we will have much more devotion and gratitude for our priests, the Sacraments and our community of fellow worshipers. Thank you for this thoughtful post.

  • Carol von Zuben
    Posted at 09:43h, 04 April Reply

    Viola, this is absolutely beautiful .Thank you so very much for sharing yourself with us at this very sad and difficult time.

  • Karen Arthurs
    Posted at 10:16h, 04 April Reply

    Viola you have a special jingle in your sharing during our quiet time for utmost reflection. How long the time must have seemed at the foot of the cross, for those who loved Jesus. Your sharing is uplifting!

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 10:38h, 04 April Reply

    Viola, thank you for your honest depiction of how you are feeling. I appreciate it. These are confusing times, and you have shared the reality of what most of us are feeling, and trying to make sense of. God is calling us in the silence, to come back to him with all our hearts. Also not to forget others in this time of tumult and need. Love God and love our neighbors. Thank you for sharing some food for the journey Viola, and May God bless you and everyone.

  • Bernice Dookhan-Khan
    Posted at 10:42h, 04 April Reply

    Thanks for sharing. God bless.

  • Suzanne Renaud
    Posted at 11:15h, 04 April Reply

    Thank you for this beautifully written essay, capturing what I have been thinking and feeling during this very difficult time.

  • Suzanne Renaud
    Posted at 11:16h, 04 April Reply

    Thank you for this beautifully written essay, capturing what I have been thinking during this very difficult time.

  • Susana P Que, MD
    Posted at 12:03h, 04 April Reply

    Thank you for this article. It is really a reminder for all of us “To be still” and to be reminded that, “The Lord is our God” and this too, we pray, will come to pass”..
    God bless you always.

  • Sylvia Lee
    Posted at 14:30h, 04 April Reply

    Thank you Viola.

    May this crisis bring us more closer to God and hear His voice in the silence of our hearts !

  • (Deacon) Dileep Athaide
    Posted at 14:47h, 04 April Reply

    What a wonderful timely reminder during this extended period of self-isolation, Viola! Especially so, as many of us turn to on-line Masses, group-praying and reflections/mini-Retreats, through Webinars and ZOOM and so on – no doubt necessary in our attempts to maintain our sense of Fellowship, while our church structures are closed. As you point out, we now have this great opportunity of solitude for precious silent time with our God; and hopefully we will make this gift will stick with us even after we return to our normal too-busy lives, whenever that might be! As always, your posts are most inspirational; many thanks and blessings!

  • Christine Domingo
    Posted at 18:41h, 04 April Reply

    Thank you, Viola, for this beautiful reflection. And yes, this will pass. It will leave behind its mark with long-lasting effects but for many believers it may also a time of grace, bringing us closer to the Lord through quiet prayer; through deep and difficult trials; through the pain of loss. Yes, I find much solace in His words: “be still and know that I am God” and His promise that He will never abandon us. Thank you again for sharing your talent. God Bless you.

  • Carol Krull
    Posted at 18:50h, 04 April Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and these beautiful quotes, Viola. Very comforting at this time when it is so easy to be troubled and anxious.
    CAROL KRULL

  • Fay Vaz
    Posted at 21:54h, 04 April Reply

    Viola,
    You have captured and shown all how well we can use these precious moments – not disparing, but trusting that the Lord is listening when we speak and when we listen he speaks – very well written, i can just picture your little santuary! God bless you always

  • Fay Vaz
    Posted at 21:55h, 04 April Reply

    Viola,
    You have captured and shown all how well we can use these precious moments – not disparing, but trusting that the Lord is listening when we speak and when we listen he speaks – very well written, i can just picture your little sanctuary- God bless you always

  • Teresa Correia
    Posted at 07:53h, 05 April Reply

    So very well expressed
    Thank you dear Viola for this beautiful post

  • Lidia Maria Anestopoulos
    Posted at 19:24h, 05 April Reply

    Dear Viola,
    Beautiful reflection, and a great reminder how powerful prayer silence is.
    Blessings and keep safe.

  • Ana. Maria
    Posted at 14:12h, 08 April Reply

    GOD
    a friend of silence……..always present, with us,…..
    pray, fast, actions that help us pass these times
    God is looking at us with love
    Thank you my very dear teacher
    And friend , Viola.
    Your shared experiences and words , are always
    Kept with affection In our hearts
    Ana Maria

    in our hearts

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