My reflection last Friday took us to the fountain in a place of retreat I experienced a few years ago. This purpose built retreat space has a number of self contained study and living spaces. On my first visit, I was given the study room named ‘Carceri’. In English, ‘Prison’.
St Francis had his own ‘carceri’ above the town of Assissi. A place where he could spend time in solitude. The photograph above shows it as it is today; for him it was simply a cave!
The sister who allocated me the room had no idea of my own experience of Chaplaincy in prisons, and was amazed when I told her my story! God’s sense of humour! But it was a very special space. Solitude for 5 days and the wrestling with the noise in my head!
But it did confront me with my own inner self, often shut out of everyday life, in the hustle and bustle. I find lots of ways of keeping my conscious self away from the still small voice. Solitude does not mean silence! I kept going back, during my retreat to the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19;11-13, and the still small voice;
11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
I struggle constantly to lay the chatter aside and sometimes, the repetitive nature of the chatter becomes a personal prison of recurring thoughts. Elijah knew this I’m sure. But the simplicity of these words to Elijah made him move from the place of fear and move out of the cave into that wonderful moment when he hears these words from God, ‘What are you doing here Elijah? The subtext being…’Move on Elijah’.
That same still small voice, whispers into your life. It asks questions, makes suggestions and seeks to open up new horizons within our lives.