"Twenty-one weeks is the absolute maximum amount of time that I can go without some meaningful silence and solitude, or else my nerves get shaky, my work suffers, and my relationships start running on empty. That period of roughly one hundred and fifty days is about fifty percent farther than I should attempt to travel without a retreat.
"I need time to listen, to examine, and to confess, time to take off some of the hats I wear. I need time to listen for the Voice, if for no other reason than so I will recognize it more clearly in the ways it speaks into the noise and bustle of the life I lead.
"The silence that I seek must be nurtured until it lives in me no matter where I am at the moment. It was easy to find silence on the mountain at Sumatanga, but what do I do now that I no longer am required to go there? How is one to hear the Voice if one cannot even hear oneself think?
"The silence that I seek cannot merely be the absence of the numbing noise and debilitating detail of life in our society. It must be something more. It must be a solitude that is transcendent, a stillness that can be found in the midst of the noise, a silence that is portable."
— Living Prayer
God Speaks to Us
"We love to read and tell the stories of the way that God spoke to Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Jonah, and the rest of them. However, we do not often remind ourselves that before they were heroes of the faith, they were wanderers and wastrels, shepherds and stutterers, altar boys and mama's boys, small-time business folks and clumsy parents. Folks like us, pretty much. The difference is that they thought they heard the Voice and were foolish enough to say so and to act upon what they thought they heard.
"We, however, claim that God speaks to us and then wait patiently in our pew for someone with a degree and a robe and a hospital parking pass to tell us what the Voice might be whispering to us deep inside. We pray for guidance and then worry about whether the voice we hear within is the Voice. We quote Saint Paul's admonition to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, and then tremble at the thought of acting on the counsel given to us in our hearts in the night.
"Perhaps we are afraid that God does not regard us highly enough to speak to us anymore — a rather funny position to take for those who claim to be the children of God. Perhaps we are afraid that God no longer speaks to anyone much anymore or that we can no longer recognize the Voice. It could be that we are afraid that God does still speak and that we will hear and that the God of publicans and sinners and scared and scurrilous will want to make something new in us as well.
"I am convinced that the Voice that whispered us into being still whispers within us and all creation. I am dead certain of it sometimes, terrified of it at other times, longing for it at all times. The silence that so often seems to overcome me is more likely a matter of my not trusting my own ears than it is a matter of the Voice having gone suddenly, inexplicably silent."
— Between The Dreaming and the Coming True: The Road Home to God
The Things That Bind Christians Together
"It is tempting for me to say that I have traveled the perfect road to a well-rounded faith. In reality — and this is one of the few things that I am sure of — it is only my own road to faith. It is similar to the journey that others have made, it is the exact opposite of some, but it is certainly not a prescription. It is simply the way that God has drawn me and led me and looked back at me through the windows over the years.
"Another thing that I have become sure of, regardless of the amount of evidence to the contrary, is that whichever window we are looking through, we have far more in common than we often think we do. The things that keep Christians apart from other Christians are not nearly so important to me these days as the things that bind us to one another. It is curious how we seem to talk so much about the former and pay so little attention to the latter."
— The Body Broken: Answering God's Call to One Another
"Seasons change, of course, even in the monastery. The Rule has a whole series of things that change for the monks when the seasons change. The workload changes and so do the clothes. The hours for daily prayer are shifted around because of specific work that has to be done. The meals change and so do the times in which they are served.
"All of which suggests to me that from time to time I need to be about the business of examining my life and the way that I am living it. If for no other reason than to be sure that my rule for prayer and rest and community and work still makes sense in the light of the new days in which I am living.
"Sometimes letting go of a spiritual practice can be as important as adding a new one. Sometimes reshaping one to account for a new set of circumstances is needed. Sometimes there is a hole in our spiritual practice that must be filled, and we can tell it because we are beginning to run on empty.
"No one knows those things unless they have a rule, formal or informal, and unless they stop to look at it from time to time and make note of what is to be found there.
"Only by taking our life apart from time to time and examining it carefully, and then putting it back together thoughtfully and prayerfully, only then can we have some measure of confidence that we are living the life that we are meant to lead."
— A Good Life: Benedict's Guide to Everyday Joy