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The most real thing we can do this Lent is to pray and ponder in the silence of creation

       In the wee hours of the morning, after you have prayed Vigils and lectio - before there is even a hint of light in the eastern sky - with a mug of coffee in hand, you sit at your desk and ponder.

       You have snuffed out the desk light, and now the room is dark. The curtain is drawn over the window in front of you, save for about a quarter portion of the window. This you leave open; you want to see outside.

       Snow falls; your mind drifts. Over what? Praise and thanksgiving, mostly. Dreams and schemes as well. Sister Bay, Gills Rock and the loneliness of Highway 42 between those two towns, perhaps. The remembrance of a kiss from your spouse.

       A clock ticks, accentuating silence. You luxuriate in this silence, because deep down in your gut, you know what’s coming: The noise of the forthcoming day. Shh, you tell yourself, enough of that; be in the moment, the moment of silence, darkness and holiness.

       As you sit there watching the night, you are thankful for the gifts God has given you: spouse, children and health. Employment.  Never having been hungry. Warm in winter, cool in summer. And as you watch the snow flying through the night, through the silence just outside your window, you know exactly why those gifts are so precious. They can be, or have been, snatched away from you. And so, you are grateful, and you mutter thanksgiving to God for those precious gifts.

       If you sit at your window long enough, you watch the miracle of night becoming day. A gradual process, of course, not like our electric illumination that makes light and darkness a technological feat, subject to our whim. On off, on off.

       God, on the other hand, takes his time.

       Now you begin to see that which earlier had been muted or in shadow. The snow is piled neatly on the limbs of the maple tree; a chipmunk scurries across the sidewalk, leaving behind itty-bitty tracks; arborvitae stand crowned with snow.

       The clouds are low and leaden.  

       The silence is ebbing away. Cars crank up, and your neighbor drags the recycle bin down the drive. Across the street, through the window of the house, you can see the neighbor’s television is on – selling this and that, stuff you don’t need or actually want. But Mr. Television is trying mighty hard to convince you that you not only want it, you need it.  

       Time to rise from your desk and prepare for the day. And so you do.

       Work, work, work.

       And sometime during that day, while your earning your daily wage; while you laugh at the joke your co-worker tells, even though you don’t see the humor in it at all, but you don’t want to hurt his/her  feelings so you laugh anyway. Sometime during lunch, when the talk at the table turns to politics, and the politics ain’t yours; during the meeting that is not only silly, but also totally useless; when you shoot a glance at the clock, hoping it reads later than it actually is, while you are asking yourself if this is all there is, and you’re afraid to answer the question…

       Sometime during all that, you remember the silence and peace of the early morning, when you were sitting at your desk praying, watching the snow fly, and pondering God and the mysteries of old. When the memory of that time is so vivid and warm and glorious that for just a moment - for just a fraction of a second - you are transported back, but then poof! It’s gone. And in total befuddlement, you ask yourself, “Was all that real? Or, was I just fooling myself? Playing games?

       It was real, my friend. Oh, it was real.

       The job will end. The money will go to another. Co-workers will retire, move away and die. Politics, and politicians, will fizzle out. Time will cease.

       You know what will last? God. His creation, Silence. Peace. Faith, hope and love.

       The most real thing you will do tomorrow morning, I guarantee it, is pray and ponder.

       Here is what is real:

       “How different the one who devotes himself to the study of the law of the Most High! He seeks out the wisdom of the ancients…he preserves the sayings of the famous…and is at home with the obscurities of parables…He sets his heart to rise early to seek the Lord who made him, and the petition the Most High; he opens his mouth in prayer and asks pardon for his sins.” (Sir 39:1-5)

       We are at the doorstep of Lent. Be different, this Lenten season, people.

       Be real.


Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



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