Pausing and entering into silence and solitude is one of the most ancient ways to practice our faith.

The invitation to enter into silence and solitude can feel both refreshing and a bit frightening. In a world where busyness and ever-increasing noise are the norm, to pause, to stop, and simply exist in silence feels counter cultural. Because it is.

The Desert Fathers did not think of solitude as being alone, but as being alone with God. They did not think of silence as not speaking but as listening to God. Solitude and silence are the context within which prayer is practiced.

Henri Nouwen

To pause and be present with God in silence and solitude is one of the most ancient spiritual practices. Moses encountered God in silence and solitude in the flaming branches of the Burning Bush. Jesus sought silence and solitude throughout his life, including in his final hours in the Garden of Gethsemane. The ancient Desert Mothers and Fathers withdrew into the wilderness to be with God. Entering into silence and solitude offers our tired soul a place to rest and to be reminded by God that, “You are loved, not for what you do or what you accomplish, but simply because you are you.”

The Labyrinth at Holy Family Retreat Center

As much as we may crave the peace and love which can be found in silence and solitude it can be challenging to enter into this practice. To pause and be present only to God and ourself feels disorienting. Our minds, unsure of this new space of silence, attempt to fill the emptiness with a million thoughts and questions. Our bodies, distrustful of stillness, attempt to push us to “do more,” to “be more.” And all the while, our soul cries out for us to stop and listen; to hear the still, quiet voice of God calling out to us in love, inviting us into relationship, into prayer.

Henri Nouwen described the practice of silence and solitude as part of our call to “unceasing prayer.” He said, “If solitude were primarily an escape from a busy joy, and silence primarily an escape from a noisy milieu, they could easily become very self-centered forms of asceticism. But solitude and silence are for prayer.”

Wherever you are in your faith journey, we invite you to spend a few moments in silence and solitude in the practice below.