Anne Lastman A Reflection “Peter,” The Holy Father, Pope Francis, without breaking the line of…
In our hyped and racy society the word “solitude” seems to mock. We have such a strong urge for noise that any moment “snatched” in solitude is at best thought of as abnormal or “waste of time”. How strange our society has moved into noise “mode” and silence is no longer thought of as “golden” but as an aberration.
This word “solitude” touched me recently. Let me explain;
Some days ago after a harrowing day in my office (post abortion grief counsellour)I decided I needed some solitude and I wandered out and meandered around the area of my office and towards the Catholic Cathedral nearby. It was probably about 2.45pm. As I entered quietly (as you do) I left the clamour of the busy streets and entered into a grace filled space. I dont know why, but thats all I could think of.
As I moved forward to the front, towards the altar, I seemed to feel a sense of contradiction. One part of me wanted to run outside into the noise again and another part had an urge to sit down right on the floor right in front of the altar. this feeling was so strong that I had to fight the urge to do it.
I continued to look around the cathedral as it seemed so quiet and there was a lady sitting quietly praying with eyes closed. Seeing her,I think reassured me.
As I continued to walk around where the smaller altars are, I seemed to sense a presence of millions of prayers that have gone up in this place. An ancient conversation made up of pleas, supplications and thanksgiving. Like John O’Donohue says “these stones, ever patient, ever still, continue to praise the silence of time” (p108). This is exactly how I felt as I looked at the surroundings and ancient stones which built the cathedral. As I walked slowly around, read inscriptions and names of past history I became caught up in the life that might have been.
In this cathedral there is such a sense of past and continuity. It was almost like a revisit of all the anceint times and rituals and ceremonies and feasts celebrated within these walls and I could either see or feel them, though I am not sure which. I could sense a sacredness in that solitude.
I don’t remember praying that day, or even sitting down for any length of time. Just simply spending an indeterminate amount of time captured in memories embedded in these walls. I didnt even hear when the other person left so that in the end I was really alone “with the alone.”
Perhaps I was ready for this moment because of the suffering and grief I had listened to that morning and maybe for a moment I needed to escape from that “normal” into a place where solitude was my most needed companion.
Several further words from John O’Donohue rang true especially on this day” the secret and the sacred are sisters. When the secret is not respected, the sacred vanishes” (p109).
I really sensed this, this day. I could imagine the myriad of secrets shared with the Lord in this place, yet all these secrets have been maintained because the sacred remained so strong.
John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World. (London: Bantam Press, 1998).