In the first floor hall of the new wing, there is a sign hanging from the ceiling that says “Quiet”. There is another one like it in the hall below that leads to the Solanus Center. They appear to be electric signs that could be lit when needed. I have a hard time imaging the need for an electric sign, though, as I picture the friars’ lives inside these walls as quiet more often than not.
We have our own version of the “Quiet” sign, printed card stock signs that remind us all when a silent retreat is in progress. Those signs will be out this coming week. Beginning Friday, we will have a silent retreat group with us for eight days. The only sound we expect to hear in the halls during their stay will be the chime of the bells announcing their gatherings throughout the day. I imagine it will be a glimpse of what life was like here in the seminary days.
As most workplaces go, this place is pretty quiet most of the time. Still, being silent for a whole week while getting on with the business of the Center will be a challenge. Even the slightest noise travels and echoes through these halls like the Grand Canyon. We may need more than just the signs to meet the challenge of entering into and maintaining the silence, though.
It is on Sunday afternoons, when all our guests have left and staff is gone, that I notice how quiet silence really is. Walking the halls, all I can hear is my own footsteps and the sound of my breathing. In those moments, the silence is almost tangible. Some have said that the silence in these old halls bothers them because they feel so alone, but I enjoy it. A quiet walk through silent halls clears my mind and settles my spirit. I never feel alone because I feel the spirits of all those who have walked these halls in years past and it comforts me. But I also have to make a conscious choice to take the walk, to be quiet, in order to experience the fruits of the silence.
Whether we find silence by walking in nature or walking these halls, we all need quiet times to experience those fruits that come from entering into the silence: clarity of mind, calming of the spirit and the awareness that we are never alone.
For quiet times and for the fruits that grow from our entering into the silence, we say Deo Gratias!
P.S. I can’t help but wonder if the location of those two electric signs is a clue to their purpose, as they are above and outside of the former television studio. Perhaps there is a friar reading this Chronicle who knows the answer and would like to share it in the comments below?
Marge, your reverence and insights about how magnificently sacred St. Anthony’s is, reveals the the deep sense of silence that nurtures your life.
Your quiet, silence message is a great memory!