Recently I showed some clips from one of my favorite films, Into Great Silence. It documents the lifestyle of the monks in a Carthusian monastery in France. Rather than being about monastic life, the film is like monastic life, and its slow pace and timeless sense of prayerfulness is intoxicating.
I spend enough time around the dismissive anti-religous to know that there are a lot of people who think that those monks are escaping from the real world, or are incapable of living with reality. When I watch them I know how brave they are. How could anyone imagine they are escaping? They live a life that offers no escape from who they really are. How many of us would be able to survive without the day-to-day preoccupations that distract us from the huge questions of our existence? How many of us could really let ourselves go and say to God ‘it is ok if no one remembers me. It is ok if there is no trace of me left in this world. I abandon myself to you and need no other recognition’?
Years ago I went on a long silent retreat. When I tell people that they smirk and laugh in a way that is actually somewhat hurtful. Because I’m highly verbal no one can ever believe that I spent some time in silence, but I did and it taught me a lot about being myself rather than acting like myself. I don’t think I’m built for the monastic life – like most people I am too proud to give up my pursuit of accomplishment and recognition. I envy the trust and courage of the monks at Grande Chartreuse who leave behind what they know and seek to be subsumed in God’s silence.
chocolate cake says
Reminds me of how I totally bit the head off of an aquaintance when she said we should kick the priest out of the bomb shelter because he’d be annoying and not useful for repopulating after the nuclear holocaust in a thought experiment a group of us were discussing. I love Fr. Maximiliam Kolbe and I felt fiercely protective of his memory at that moment.
I’ve never heard of it. Thanks for the tip!
I love this movie. I actually went to see it in the theater with not one, not two, but six catholic nuns and one vocational-seeker-soon-to-be-cloistered-nun-friend of mine. On the way there, the sister who was driving stopped to give change to a man holding a sign at a traffic light. That’s one of the few times when I remember thinking that “God bless you” wasn’t just a throwaway phrase, but it could have meaning and impact.
People react the same way to me when I tell them I did a silent meditation retreat….it’s a must.
Eileen S Christiansen says
I absolutely loved this movie. My brother and I saw it at the Kendall Theater and the experience has stayed with me. It was like the clock was going backwards as we watched it in the most mysterious and wonderful way. I would love to attend a silent retreat one of these days. It sounds like a great therapy for a singing music minister.
Margaret Felice says
Isn’t it fantastic! Challenging to sit with but a good challenge – and so illustrative!