Saturday, April 4, 2015

Encounters with Silence

My landlords are downstairs on this second night of Passover. Their grown children’s vehicles are parked in front of the house, one van, one compact.

I can hear a steady reading through the floorboards rather than the telltale exchange of dinner guests. After an afternoon of young footsteps running down a hallway, there are no eruptions of children around a table.

I am ready for gears to shift, I am prepared for familiar voices all raised around the serving of a meal. I do not play any music in my upstairs apartment just yet. I am poised to be respectful.

My landlord has completed a wild winter of snow removal, his snow-blower blessedly noisy on those mornings that I needed my parking space cleared. I was lucky to have someone watching out for me week in and week out as the storms visited New England.

I am sitting with a small book of meditations first published by a German Catholic priest in 1938. Encounters with Silence has long been understood as one of those remarkable compositions by a theologian who knew how to turn his reflection into prayer.

I have owned my paperback copy of the book from my seminary days back in the 1970s. It is one of those books that never disappoint, that never fail to carry me deeper into myself. I always have a sense of the author as an intelligent man, a learned man whose intellectual acuity could have been a protection from facing his need for God – but it never succeeded in doing him that disservice.

On the other hand, his critics have asked how he could never have addressed what was happening in the Germany of his day. I met a man who was his driver in the later years of his life, escorting him to the universities in postwar Europe where he was repeatedly invited to lecture. His reputation worldwide never flagged.

I attended a talk he gave on one visit he made to the United States in the 1970s. His topic was the dialogue possible and even inevitable among world religions.

In one of the meditations in Encounters with Silence, Karl Rahner as a young priest being groomed for university teaching recalled his baptism: “Then my reason with its extravagant cleverness was still silent. Then, without asking me, You made Yourself my poor heart’s destiny.”

I read those words last night in church as I waited for the start of the Good Friday liturgy.

Somehow I find myself a Christian. Somehow I find myself a Catholic. Somehow in 2015 I find myself a churchgoer still. I am grateful for Father Rahner and the way his words address the healing silence before which I get to live.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How hungrily we read about ourselves!