The Silent Challenge

Bulletin Article, Ordinary Time Sunday 20B

During our time overseas, a friend of mine once met a Ukrainian priest. At various times in the history of that country, it was illegal to practice the Catholic faith, and priests could be killed if they could be identified. Because of the persecution, this Ukrainian priest was not in the habit of wearing his collar and blacks. He did, however, consistently wear a button that simply said, “10 minutes.” Inevitably, people who met him would ask about this button. He would start by just giving some statistics about how insignificant 10 minutes of a day or week can seem. Ten minutes is less than 1% of the 24 hours in a day, and it is less than 0.1% of an entire week. 

After giving these statistics and perhaps others, he would present them with a challenge or a sort of experiment. He would challenge them to spend just 10 minutes of the upcoming week in complete silence, to shut off their phone and computer and TVs and iPods and iPads, and to just sit for 10 minutes straight in silence. He challenged them to do this every week and eventually every day. At the end of his conversation with them, he would give them his phone number and ask them to report back, if they wished, or to contact him with any questions.

Now, even though in his first conversation with them, he would never mention God or suggest praying during their 10 minutes of silence, those who would take up his challenge and call him to talk about their experience would often end up talking and asking about God and about prayer. Through these simple conversations and the challenge to spend just 10 minutes in silence, he was able to guide many people to grow in their faith and spirituality, and he even helped several people eventually discern and enter the priesthood or a religious vocation. How much difference can 10 minutes make? Quite a lot, actually, depending on how you use them.

If you’ve ever been to Broomtree Retreat Center, you’ve probably seen the motto, “In the silence, God speaks.” We have a difficult time nowadays finding genuine silence because of how busy we are and because we’re constantly connected to our phones and Wi-Fi and everything else. But without at least some time with genuine silence, we run the risk of losing touch with our deepest desires and the beauty and awe of existence. Just 10 minutes can make a big difference if we are willing to risk facing ourselves and being in the presence of God for that long. Take the chance. Take the time for some silence in your life on a regular basis, and let me know what you discover. God bless and keep you in His merciful love. 

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