Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Finding a Deserted Place

Reading through the Gospels, one of the things we find is that Jesus is very much someone who is always on the move, along with the apostles. Jesus and then the apostles preach, listen to people’s needs, cure them and bring them peace and comfort. But as we all know one can’t run on an empty tank. Perhaps this is what is on Jesus’ mind as he says to the apostles, who report to Jesus this week about all they have done after being sent out in last week’s Gospel, that they should “come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

As the Gospel unfolds, these well-intended plans don’t quite work out as people get wind of where they are going and go out to follow Jesus to get more help from them, and He doesn’t dismiss them but continues to minister to them.

I imagine most of us would do the same if people had an urgent need, but many times there isn’t an emergency that needs to be tended to, but we can lose sight of tending to ourselves. Life is so hectic. We run from one situation to the next, and have work, school, sports, and a million other activities going on all the time. You add to this how we are all multi-taskers with phones and laptops and tablets, sometimes true “down time” can be hard to come by.

I do think it’s important though that we all try to find a “deserted place” to go to. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi points out that silence is not just for the women and men who have chosen a cloistered life. In his words, “reflection, meditation, contemplation are as necessary as breathing…time for silence – external but above all internal – are a premise and in indispensable condition for it.” When we find time for silence, we can hear the voice of God.

With that in mind, one thing to consider it trying to find some time for both silence but also rest and leisure in your life.

With respect to the latter, I think rest and relaxation are so important for both individuals and families. When I was at a prior parish, I was invited over to a family’s home for dinner and a family game night. They set aside a night each week where they made sure to eat together, and then after dinner the family played some board or card games together. What a great concept – eating together. Family dinners used to be staple each night, but with so much competing for our time it seems sometimes even eating together has to be put in to our iPhone calendar. Hopefully we don’t have to do that within the family though, but have time for eating together and just enjoying one another’s company. This allows people to know what’s going on in one another’s lives and brings us closer together.

With the former, silence can also be very helpful for us as individuals. There are retreat centers you can find locally that actually offer silent retreats. As for me, I prefer moments of silence, and often vacation alone. For me, watching the stars come out over Lake Superior or out west in the mountains are retreat-like experiences for me. But each day, I try to find time for silence. Try to find your own deserted place too and remember prayer and encountering God does not always entail talking. Our common devotions often involve words, but sometimes just in silence we can grow so close to God. So find a spot you like. A park or a church; a library; or your living room or porch after others have gone to sleep.

Maybe like Jesus you feel everyone is on you all the time with one need or another from the boss to the kids to the relatives to the demands of your schedule. Don’t be afraid to say “I can’t go out tonight” or “I’m just too busy.” Down time and silence are very good things because they allow us to fill up our spiritual tank – so find your favorite “filling station” and let God fill your heart with His grace and wisdom.

God bless,

Fr. Paul