"Who of us today can go to one's room — or 'cloister' — and be content? Who can spend a Sunday afternoon doing mostly nothing? Who even knows what the word saunter means anymore? Who wants to wait for anything — especially to wait in silence?

When it comes to media, most of us want to be not only informed by the media, not only entertained; we want to be impressed by the dazzle and drama and the flash. As to sporting events, we do not do so well with baseball; too many lulls in the action. Basketball? Actually, just show us the last shot at the buzzer in overtime. You tell your child to turn off the video game and go outside to play and he says, 'What is this — 1962?!'

"Thomas Merton knew the importance of peace and quiet, of silence and solitude. Early on in his monastic life within the community, Merton was reading and researching the lives of the hermits of old. He discovered at the very least that inner solitude, detachment — a hermitage of the heart — were the minimum requirements for serious prayer and meditation. As he saw the modern world getting louder, more crowded, more demanding, he saw the need for a little cloister of his own. But even his hermitage had become less than ideal (partly due to his own need for social contact).

"On one leg of the last trip he would take, in India on November 18, 1968, he wrote, thinking of Gethsemani: 'Though I fully appreciate the advantages of the hermitage at Gethsemani, I still have the feeling that the lack of quiet — and the general turbulence there (external and internal) last summer are indications that I ought to move.' Though just a few sentences later he notes, 'It (Gethsemani) is my monastery and being away has helped me see it in perspective and love it more.'

"He gave utmost importance, despite everything, to the solitude and the silence. We require these in our lives as well, to assure time and space to ponder eternal questions. These things are necessary for us in order to take the 'narrow way' Jesus asks us to take, the way Thomas Merton took.

"Where can you find a place in your life for silence and for solitude?"