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The Mountains and the Valleys…

There was a time when I would regularly visit a Chinese restaurant with a friend, partly because we enjoyed their food, which was delicious, but also because we’d visited Hong Kong together and it was an unspoken way of recreating a shared good memory from the past. We were always given two fortune cookies at the end of our meal and one that I particularly remember and liked said:

"To reach the highest mountains, sometimes we must cross the deepest valleys"

At the time, I had a habit of collecting these fortune cookie sayings, partly because I’m a pushover for a philosophical quote but mostly because they seemed to be largely inspirational, in their own, unique, fortune cookie kind of way. But the thing I most liked about them was how frequently they also incorporated the reality of the harder aspects of life, that can sometimes bring us down so suddenly and debilitatingly to our knees. For all their ‘fortune-cookie-pop-psychology-soundbiteness‘ I could still hear the echo of an ancient and essential truth within them.

And so it is with all things that speak to our hearts and souls, I believe, everything that touches the place of sacred truth that lives within us, whether written or spoken, read, seen or heard. Something inside us is stirred by it and whispers a quiet but unmistakeable “Yes”.

I heard the fortune cookie saying “To navigate your way successfully and positively through Life, you must accept your feelings of both sorrow and joy as an integral part of it because, if you deny this truth and choose to wallow in one, or falsely cling to the other, you will forever be mired in the no-man’s land of ‘half-living’ and ‘half-feeling’ that lies in between. It’s only by recognising the truth of these two opposites, accepting them as part of Life, feeling gratitude for them and facing them bravely, that we keep moving forward and keep learning along the way.”

If we try to artificially sustain one experience or emotional state we put immense psychological and spiritual pressure on ourselves because, in doing this, we fight the very nature of Life itself. To feel Life in all its fullness, and to accept that there’s a purpose in that fullness, having something important and inherent to teach us in and of itself, is the best way to leave ourselves open to hearing what it is that God is trying to say to us. I believe.

Sometimes we’ll hear His message in the experience of the ‘high’ or ‘low’ itself; sometimes in the effort and determination it took to reach the point where we were heading; sometimes by reliving the experience in our telling of it to someone else; and sometimes just in personal reflection and/or prayer. The gift of the message comes in many forms and ways but the important thing is having faith that there is a message, and allowing ourselves the time and space to hear it. More often than not, in my case, it’s been a message about valuing the gift of Life itself, in one form or another, recognising the value of the people within my life, or coming to appreciate the intrinsic value of myself, that lies at its core.

Our mountains can feel higher and something to truly celebrate, when we take the time to reflect on them with feeling, our valleys of darkness can feel less deep, when they help us to appreciate and be grateful for what we had, or what we have. And both can give us the perspective and encouragement to keep on going, when we find the courage to share them with others and so prove to ourselves that we truly are not alone.

This inspiring video illustrates the joy and wisdom that can be found, when we allow ourselves to fully experience both the real and symbolic mountains and valleys that come our way as part of Life. I hope you enjoy it and can take as much from it as I did.


If we can hear the wisdom held within it, 
not quibbling over words or what is meant, 
the time we spend to read this timeless poem,
will bless our souls,
with blessed time well spent...


by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
 Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
 But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
 Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
⁠Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
⁠And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

This business of happiness…

Today I plucked a book of Christian teachings by an American Pastor off the bookshelf of a friend. I was waiting for the kettle to boil and, as I’d been wrestling with a writing project for a few days, I hoped I might find a bit of spontaneous inspiration by leafing through its pages.

I came to a section called ‘Getting rid of weight’ and it caught my eye because the writing problem I’d been wrestling with was starting to feel a bit like a self-imposed weight. And, in a way, it did inspire me because what I read made me say “No!” out loud and prompted me to put aside the project I was struggling with and to tap out this blog piece instead.

The sentences I read that stirred my reaction were:

Everything that makes you happy is not good for you. Everything that is good TO you, is not good FOR you“.

It sounded like the kind of Christian teaching that I’ve spent most of my life trying to get away from and, maybe, will spend the rest of my life trying to counter with what I write. Who knows? Only God, I suppose. But it also brought to mind a memory from many years ago, about the influence of the instruction that we receive as children and how it has the power to inspire our lives or to burden them, depending on how a belief system is taught.

The memory related to a training course I attended at the start of my working life. It was a course about ‘Assertiveness’; how to communicate our views, needs and beliefs in an open, honest, respectful and direct way, without allowing ourselves to be overly-influenced or pressured by more dominant voices and personalities than our own. One of the course attendees was a sincere, open-hearted, earnest and authentic young man. He had recently got married, had started a new job and was an active member of his local Church. Unlike the rest of us, who were being paid to attend by our employers, he’d paid for the course himself because the combined strain of the demands placed on him by his life were beginning to affect his mental health, and he was trying to find a positive solution.

In one of the ‘breakout sessions’, where we sat in small groups and talked about real-life experiences we were facing and how we’d like to be more assertive in them, he shared a basic belief that he’d carried with him throughout life, and that stemmed from the way in which the Christian doctrine had been taught to him. His belief was that he always had to put other people’s happiness before his own. That any ‘free time’ he had, when he wasn’t working, should be given to others first if they made requests of him, rather than ‘selfishly’ doing things that he would rather do, would like to do, or would enjoy purely for himself.

My heart went out to him when he said, simply, “I’d just like a bit of time to myself, but I don’t know how to get it, because it’s wrong to put my needs before others. I just don’t know how to say ‘No’ to other people.”

The idea that a life centred in faith is somehow a marathon trial of self-deprivation and that forfeiting our personal happiness is a prerequisite of serving others, is so contrary to the life of deeply-rooted faith that I’ve found for myself, by actively searching for it, that I feel forcibly moved to speak out.

It was going in search of true happiness, several years ago, that led me back to faith in a creative, wise, loving Being greater than myself. It was trusting the wisdom and presence of that Being (which I now know as, and call, “God”) that taught me to stop passively accepting experiences and treatment that were making me unhappy and to recognise that a desire to feel true happiness was neither selfish nor a sin.

The teaching that tells us we are no more than ‘servants’ or ‘slaves’ to God’s will, and that we only have real value if we subjegate our own wishes and desires to that will, in favour of others, is the teaching I consciously chose to walk away from as a teenager, as countless others have done and continue to do, when they leave the established Church. The ‘learning’ that brought me back was the realisation that, when I began to value my own need for happiness and sense of meaning, and to follow what my heart was urging me to do, God brought people into my life who I was naturally able to help, just by using the skills I already had and by having the confidence to be myself.

This is the God that I am in daily relationship with . This is the God that I talk to others about, whenever I have the opportunity or the encouragement to do so. This is the God who I sometimes hear being preached from pulpits, but would love to hear talked about and understood, so much more. This is the God who says:

Your happiness matters as much to me as everyone else’s. I love you all equally. I have given you skills and abilities and, when you begin to have faith in them and to use them, you will find that people who need your help will appear on your Way. Just by doing what your heart and soul move you to do, you will naturally be of service to others. By helping them, in sharing your gifts, you will find happiness in the work itself. There will be no need to sacrifice yourself and, if sacrifice is called for, you will do it willingly, not because it’s what I, or any of my teachings, expect or instruct you to do but, rather, because you love what you are doing so much, even when there is a personal cost involved, that you feel happy and willing to do it without complaint.”

If we choose to defer happiness in this life in the hope or expectation of eternal happiness in the next, or worse, to avoid the risk of eternal damnation, I don’t see that as selflessness, I see it more as a spiritual insurance policy founded on fear and not motivated by Love. To do things for others out of a pure sense of Love – for the thing being done (because it brings us happiness) and/or for the person for whom we do it – with no real thought or guarantee that we will receive anything in the Life hereafter…or even with any firm belief that there IS a Life hereafter…that is truly doing God’s will. I believe. Because that is action motivated purely in the here and now, by Love.

It’s a way of using our own will that rises up, inspired, from the natural well-spring of authenthic Love that lives within us, and it’s a balanced, healthy and life-enhancing Love: for ourselves, for what we do, and for others. And I, for one, can see God’s beautiful, symmetrical, grand design in the dove-tailing of our happiness with that of others and of the co-creation that takes place when we honour the gift of Free Will we have been given, and use it in God’s service, the service of wholehearted Love.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it in abundance.” – John 10:10

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:15

 To me, the 'business of God' has only one purpose: 
Living lives that reflect a truly balanced,
Universal Love.

A Prayer for the Possible…

Yesterday morning a dear friend sent me a link to a televised Mass from a Catholic church in Ireland, which she’d tuned into by chance, because she wanted me to see how the Mass had started. She knows me well, and she knows that the way in which Catholic Masses traditionally begin (verbally acknowledging that we are sinners, symbolically beating our breasts as a sign of penance and admission of sinfulness, and then asking for God’s forgiveness: “I have greatly sinned…through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault…“) is something that I would like to see changed.

It’s not a matter of fanciful personal preference or whim, rebellion against doctrine, condemnation of tradition or of the Church as a whole. It’s much simpler than that. It’s that it’s not the truth of what I hear God saying to me in my heart and soul. And, no matter how many times I’m told differently, or who is doing the telling, God’s message to me never changes. What I hear is: “I want you to see yourselves as I see you. I want you to understand that you are created in my image…and that I am pure Love“.

The driving force behind my passionate wish to see the wording of the Mass changed is that words have power and, as the central celebration of the Catholic Faith, the regular repetition of these words at the start of each Mass reinforces an internal image that we are sinners and not that we are living, human containers of God’s Love.

Of all the beautiful places I’ve visited on the Camino de Santiago (and I’ve walked it several times), the site of the oldest church on the entire route, in the tiny mountainous village of O Cebreiro, has long been a place of special signnificance for me…and for many others, I’ve discovered. I’ve had a number of truly memorable visits, including sleeping on the stone bench outside the church in August 2021 – on the night of the Perseides meteor shower – because the village was full of pilgrims and there was no room at any of the hostels. But it’s the experiences I’ve had in the church that are most memorable and that stay with me.

In 2016 I worked as a volunteer for a month at a pilgrim hostel near to O Cebreiro and would regularly climb up to the village via its beautiful mountain path, and then sit in the church silently, because of its incredible sense of peace. I’ve had several interesting moments of clarity there when, using the silence to listen, answers to things that had been troubling me suddenly came.

But it was only really this year that the priest at the church made any impression on me, and he made it by the way in which he started the pilgrim Mass. He began, not by asking us to acknowledge that we are sinners, but, rather, by reminding us that God is Love. He told us that we are each individual, miraculous creations and containers of that divine Love, and that our purpose in life is to recognise and share that Love, as brothers and sisters of the same human family, in the way we live our lives. It was a Mass that filled me with hope and inspiration…the very things that Jesus did his best to fill us with in the message that he brought…and it made me believe, if just for a moment, that a change in focus is not only necessary but also possible within the Catholic Church as a whole.

I thought, at the time, it was an isolated example; an inspired priest with enough courage to do what his heart called him to do, to touch the hearts of a specialised, visiting congregation. And then, my friend sent me the video of the Irish Mass this morning…and this is how the priest began:

Normally we begin Mass by remembering our unworthiness or our sinfulness, but I think today the first line from the reading of the Hebrews gives us a different perspective, it says ‘God would not be so unjust as to forget all you have done and the love that you have for his name.’ So I think today we should remind ourselves of the love that we have for our Lord, and of the good we have done, because God also acknowledges our goodness“.

And the small but thoughtful gesture of my friend, in sending me the link to this Mass, reminded me once again that anything and everything is possible, when the Spirit of God’s Love is on the move and at work…

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. …”

1 Corinthians 13:13

That blessed ‘something more…’

I don’t believe it matters how we start, when we start, or even where we think we’re heading, the only thing that seems to matter is listening to the part of us that longs for and just knows there’s something more.

We tell ourselves, or are told by others, many things about why we should ignore it (that it’s silly, that it’s selfish, that we’re tired, or bored or mad, or bad) but we don’t often consider, even the slightest possibility, that it could be something infinitely more positive; the Spirit moving within us and calling us on to the next growth stage of our lives.

The nay-sayer inside us will tell us that we’re too young, or old, or weak, or stupid, or afraid to do anything about it. The nay-sayers around us will tell us that we’re too selfish, or headstrong, or stubborn, or naive if we follow its call. But the voice of Life doesn’t call us for no reason, it calls us because it loves us and it knows that, deep inside, we were created to respond to, and to begin searching for, that Love-inspired ‘something more’.

I call it the Holy Spirit, the sacred Spirit of Life, the divine Spirit of God’s Love, trying to capture our attention in a gentle, kind, but unsettling and deeply intimate way.  I believe that it moves itself within us, around us, and between us; prodding us out of our comfort zones and calling on us to notice it, to listen to it carefully and then to follow where it leads us, to a more abundant, fuller, richer and more fulfilling experience of Life.

From listening to countless people’s personal experiences of responding to that call, I believe that the place it leads to is as unique and different for each one of us as we are from each other. But, at the same time, I believe that the call is universal and that each time it calls it’s inviting us to move closer to a fuller experience of divine love.

For me, the place it led to was recognising the reality of God’s felt and active presence in my life and, more importantly, the life-changing sense of God’s ever-present, unconditional Love. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, imagined, or been told it could be at any time before…but I had to find it in my own way; and following that ‘something more’ call was the way that led me to it.

It’s what gave me, and continues to give me, the confidence to keep listening to that quiet voice within as well as, and often in preference to, the multitude of differing voices around me.

“Start here, start now, start from any place inside or outside, but start…and keep starting…until there is no more will to start” is what the voice inside was really saying.  “Start out on your true search for me, and leave aside anyone else’s opinion of how and where you’ll find me. Just bring a truly open heart and mind and I will do the rest.”

If, like me, you abandoned your belief in God long ago when you rejected what others, in their certainty, told you God was, I invite you to suspend that disbelief. If you believe that your way of relating to God – following a specific religious doctrine or a particular secular theory – is right and other ways of relating to God are wrong, I invite you to suspend that sense of certainty…and to start out on your own, deeply personal pilgrimage. A pilgrimage of the heart, a pilgrimage towards true Love, a pilgrimage that will continue for the rest of your life.

Because Love is a deeply personal, continually evolving and intimate experience. It’s the most intimate, subtle, beautiful, life-enhancing and spirit-and-soul regenerating experience known to man. And I’m only talking about genuine, shared, human love when I say those words.

The Love of God, and the experience of that Love, is far deeper, greater and more powerful in its intimacy. It stripped me naked of my preconceptions and ripped down my defences in an instant. It flooded me with a tidal wave of forgiveness and unconditional acceptance that was so unsought, and unexpected, that it left me stunned, tearful and overwhelmed with a profoundly physical sense of gratitude and relief. I’ve only felt it once, with that level of intensity, but once felt, it can never be forgotten.

It’s a Love that’s taught me, if I choose to live with daily conscious awareness of it, that I must release my need for certainty and control. I must be prepared to ‘lose my life to find it’ and I am. Because I understand that God‘s Love is mystery, divine mystery, and to live in intimate relationship with it is to trust in its divine purpose. It’s a level of trust that, on occasion, will call me to follow paths not knowing where they’ll lead or not understanding why. But experience has only increased my faith and trust, because the ‘why’, and the loving intention behind it, always becomes clear in time.

It’s a level of trust that often asks me to confront certain fears or to let go of certain situations and to allow the Spirit to lead me to a deeper, truer, richer, more love-filled and love-aware experience of Life.

It can feel deeply challenging and uncomfortable at times, particularly if I’m being called away from a secure, conventional, socially-acceptable way of being or living. But responding to it has always lead to a greater sense of gratitude and reverence for the gift of life that I’ve been given and to greater compassion and understanding for those who struggle to feel the same.

Because, at it’s heart, true pilgrimage is not really a journey to the physical site of any religious temple or relic. Rather, it’s a way of travelling to the internal place within us where we find a growing understanding of who and what God is, and what meaning this understanding creates within our lives.

It’s where we gradually and ultimately come to see and accept how the Love that is God moves within our lives. It’s where the first steps of our deeply personal relationship with that Love are formed and it’s where we slowly learn the healing power of speaking and acting with increasing respect, congruence and honesty. Because when we do this, both privately with ourselves and in our dealings with others, we discover that it’s the very core and essence of that Love.

It becomes a way of being that helps us find the spark of inspiration, the root of our belonging and the way of seeing what really matters. And, in the seeing and understanding, our personal pathway begins to take shape, leading us to the sense of purpose, meaning and inner peace we all seek and desire within our lives.

And in these moments, when we speak, listen and live from a place of internal respect and truth, we discover how inseparable truth is from true Love, and how inseparable true Love is from divine Love. The Love that is God.

It takes courage to start out on a personal pilgrimage, one that trusts more what the Spirit moving inside us is trying to tell us, than the voices around us who want us to ‘stay safely as we are’. But every act of true faith involves confronting the fears within us and the fears of those around us.

So let me be the voice that encourages you. Start walking your own personal pilgrimage, whatever and however that may be, and I guarantee that you will meet with the divine Love that is God in a unique, personal, totally-disarming and life-enhancing way…as sure as the sun rises on the distant horizon, each and every day.

I’ve experienced it myself and I’ve seen it happening, time and time again; God responding, in seemingly miraculous ways, to people’s sincere and heart-felt desire to find the truth that is Love and to know and understand the meaning and purpose if their lives.

Because, for all our beautiful difference and individual uniqueness, at heart we long for the same simple but deeply profound three things: non-judgmental acceptance, compassionate understanding and unconditional Love.

And these three things, I’ve come to see after many miles of personal pilgrimage, are simply other names for God.


Sometimes words don’t work.
Sometimes a candle-lit room, accompanied by the sound of rain, says more than the greatest philosopher.
Sometimes pain is our greatest teacher.
Sometimes those that give us life try to destroy us.
Sometimes time doesn’t heal our wounds.
Sometimes choosing life is harder than giving in to death.
Sometimes friends become our family.
Sometimes healing hurts more than the injury.
Sometimes we must let go in order to receive.
Sometimes we don’t live happily ever after.
Sometimes we must create distance, in order to find ourselves.
Sometimes we must embrace our fear and sit with our grief.
Sometimes tears come without reason.
Sometimes it is better to receive than to give.
Sometimes it is “and” and not “or”.
Sometimes there is no explanation.
Sometimes stillness is the best medicine.
Sometimes breathing is all we can do.
Sometimes we are shattered.
And sometimes…
we are held.

(Poem by Carli Youndt, from the anthology Held: Blessings for the depths’)


I believe in God,

Creator of Heaven and Earth.

I believe in the living presence of Christ,

around us,

among us,

within us.  

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the Giver of Life.

I believe in forgiveness of sins.

Hacer un fin es hacer un comienzo

I believe in resurrection

and in Life everlasting.

I believe in Love.



This is how it is for me…

It´s the thing that makes sense of the nonsensical and shifts the darkest cloud on the dullest day. It blows aside confusion with the whisper of a breeze; so gentle that it´s almost imperceptible; and yet so powerful that it moves a mountain of anxiety in a moment saying, usually without words, “Just trust that I am here”.

I see it everywhere…in everything and everyone…when I breathe, take a step back, relax and trust. And the more I trust, the more it makes itself visible, heard and present in my life.

Earlier this week, not for the first time and for no particular reason, the Shema prayer came into my mind. It´s the prayer that people of Jewish faith say in the mornings and at night, on rising and before going to sleep. I first heard it when, as a teenager, I worked as an Au Pair for a Jewish family in London during two consecutive Summers. Part of the daily routine was helping their two young sons get ready for bed and, when they were bathed and in their pyjamas, they would put on their skullcaps/kippahs, kneel beside their beds and recite the Shema prayer.

Searching on YouTube to find a recitation of the prayer I came across this video and within it a beautiful description, by female Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann, of what God is. It´s a description that so closely reflects how I personally experience God that I felt the gentle breeze flow through me and lift my heart as it moved on its way…

With the kind of synergy that now feels normal to me but is still always welcome when it happens, the weekly Newsletter of my local church (which I typeset when I receive it from the parish priest each Saturday morning) talked about the Shema prayer today.

That felt like a good enough reason to write this post and to share one person´s attempt to convey – through their personal, creative, colourful and joyful video – the Love, the Light and the wholly-interconnected Life that God is. And which is always calling to us: “Shema Israel…”

“Keep these words…today in your heart…”

The value of silence…

Last week a pilgrim, who had worked as a volunteer at the Taizé Community in France, stayed with us in the parroquial albergue in Logroño. As he helped wash and dry the dishes after dinner we spoke about his time at Taize and he explained a little about the community´s Mission; to help unite the Christians of the world in one true message of Love.

Curious to know more (because I believe wholeheartedly in any movement to unite people who understand that God is Love) I visited the Taize website today and found this article on ´the value of silence in our relationship with God´.

Silence forms a massive part of the time I spend in prayer and it´s in this silence that I most deeply and profoundly feel the overwhelming and unconditional Love that God is. I hope you find something in this article that speaks directly to your heart, as it did to mine…

Silence and prayer

Three times a day, everything on the hill of Taizé stops: the work, the Bible studies, the discussions. The bells call everyone to church for prayer. Hundreds or even thousands of mainly young people from all over the world pray and sing together with the brothers of the community. Scripture is read in several languages. In the middle of each common prayer, there is a long period of silence, a unique moment for meeting with God.

If we take as our guide the oldest prayer book, the biblical Psalms, we note two main forms of prayer. One is a lament and cry for help. The other is thanksgiving and praise to God. On a more hidden level, there is a third kind of prayer, without demands or explicit expression of praise. In Psalm 131 for instance, there is nothing but quietness and confidence: “I have calmed and quieted my soul … hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore.”

At times prayer becomes silent. Peaceful communion with God can do without words. “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.” Like the satisfied child who has stopped crying and is in its mother’s arms, so can “my soul be with me” in the presence of God. Prayer then needs no words, maybe not even thoughts.

How is it possible to reach inner silence? Sometimes we are apparently silent, and yet we have great discussions within, struggling with imaginary partners or with ourselves. Calming our souls requires a kind of simplicity: “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me.” Silence means recognising that my worries can’t do much. Silence means leaving to God what is beyond my reach and capacity. A moment of silence, even very short, is like a holy stop, a sabbatical rest, a truce of worries.

The turmoil of our thoughts can be compared to the storm that struck the disciples’ boat on the Sea of Galilee while Jesus was sleeping. Like them, we may be helpless, full of anxiety, and incapable of calming ourselves. But Christ is able to come to our help as well. As he rebuked the wind and the sea and “there was a great calm”, he can also quiet our heart when it is agitated by fears and worries (Mark 4).

Remaining silent, we trust and hope in God. One psalm suggests that silence is even a form of praise. We are used to reading at the beginning of Psalm 65: “Praise is due to you, O God”. This translation follows the Greek text, but actually the Hebrew text printed in most Bibles reads: “Silence is praise to you, O God”. When words and thoughts come to an end, God is praised in silent wonder and admiration.

The Word of God: thunder and silence

At Sinai, God spoke to Moses and the Israelites. Thunder and lightning and an ever-louder sound of a trumpet preceded and accompanied the Word of God (Exodus 19). Centuries later, the prophet Elijah returned to the same mountain of God. There he experienced storm and earthquake and fire as his ancestors did, and he was ready to listen to God speaking in the thunder. But the Lord was not in any of the familiar mighty phenomena. When all the noise was over, Elijah heard “a sound of sheer silence”, and God spoke to him (1 Kings 19).

Does God speak with a loud voice or in a breath of silence? Should we take as example the people gathered at Sinai or the prophet Elijah? This might be a wrong alternative. The terrifying phenomena related to the gift of the Ten Commandments emphasise how serious these are. Keeping or rejecting them is a question of life or death. Seeing a child running straight under a car, one is right to shout as loud as possible. In analogous situations prophets speak the word of God so that it makes our ears ring.

Loud words certainly make themselves heard; they are impressive. But we also know that they hardly touch the hearts. They are resisted rather than welcomed. Elijah’s experience shows that God does not want to impress, but to be understood and accepted. God chose “a sound of sheer silence” in order to speak. This is a paradox:

God is silent and yet speaking

When God’s word becomes “a sound of sheer silence”, it is more efficient then ever to change our hearts. The heavy storm on Mount Sinai was splitting rocks, but God’s silent word is able to break open human hearts of stone. For Elijah himself the sudden silence was probably more fearsome than the storm and thunder. The loud and mighty manifestations of God were somehow familiar to him. God’s silence is disconcerting, so very different from all Elijah knew before.

Silence makes us ready for a new meeting with God. In silence, God’s word can reach the hidden corners of our hearts. In silence, it proves to be “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit” (Hebrews 4:12). In silence, we stop hiding before God, and the light of Christ can reach and heal and transform even what we are ashamed of.

Silence and love

Christ says: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). We need silence in order to welcome these words and put them into practice. When we are agitated and restless, we have so many arguments and reasons not to forgive and not to love too easily. But when we “have calmed and quieted our soul”, these reasons turn out to be quite insignificant. Maybe we sometimes avoid silence, preferring whatever noise, words or distraction, because inner peace is a risky thing: it makes us empty and poor, disintegrates bitterness and leads us to the gift of ourselves. Silent and poor, our hearts are overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit, filled with an unconditional love. Silence is a humble yet secure path to loving.


The time will come
when that which troubled you
pounds at the door of your heart
no more.
When the endless clouds of confusion
and competing choice
and only clear,
When that which seemed so complex,
and weighed-down with worry..
as day-light breaks.
Miraculous metamorphosis
And the earth-bound, shadowed, heavy, static shape
that held you down
unfurls its folded wings...
reaches Heavenwards...
breathes deeply...
and then, with silent ease,
takes flight.