Is there enough silence for the Word to be heard?
July/August 2017 (Vol. XXX, No. 7)
Dear Friends ~ Far too many people in today's world seem intent on defining what they believe everyone must have faith in as if they alone had captured The Truth. One's faith must pass their litmus test in order to be real or valid or redeemed. Looking back through history at the inquisition, the crusades, the Pharisees and Romans, the suppression of the Sufis and countless other persecutions reminds me that it has often been this way. Yet if God is truly holy, then taking off our shoes and bending in awe might be a better response than looking from side to side to take inventory of who's there and who's not. I find it hard enough to have faith without people co-opting and abusing it in the name of their own fundamental righteousness. What is faith if not hope in the unseen? And if unseen, then how can we lock down The Truth as if we know it? It is human nature to fear uncertainty, confine paradox, and hammer away at ambiguity with our doctrines and creeds. Faith asks at least a thimbleful of humility, a cherishing of mystery, and a willingness to live with unknowing.

Linda DeGraf © 2017

There is no progress in prayer without progress in faith, a purification of faith. And this entails the removal of all the props which depend on human endeavor, human reasoning, signs and the rest. It is the naked faith which is a terrifying experience and yet is the meeting point ultimately between God and ourselves in the depth of our being. This experience of the purification of faith is not normally one which comes early in the spiritual life. We must learn to wait.

~ Basil Hume. Read more: To be a Pilgrim - A Spiritual Notebook by Basil Hume

...don't worry about what is reality,
or what is plain, or what is mysterious.
If you were there, it was all those things.
If you can imagine it, it is all those things.
Eat, drink, be happy.
Accept the miracle.
Accept, too, each spoken word
spoken with love.


~ from "Logos" by Mary Oliver, in Why I Wake Early

Sometimes I wondered if
I had any faith.
I sat down and thought about it.
And when I had had enough
of that I got up
and went on my way.
And that--the getting up
and going--was faith.


~ from Yes, World by Mary Jean Irion, as reprinted in AN ALMANAC FOR THE SOUL by Marv and Nancy Hiles

There are mountaintop experiences for some, and thin places for very many. But underlying them-and making them possible--are the faithful moments, the faithful hours, and the faithful days which make up a lifetime of actively seeking to allow God's love to live in us and through us.

~ in "Thin Places" - newsletter of the Westminster Presbyterian Church

Linda DeGraf © 2017

Though it may seem as though faith is absent more often than it is present, it is possible to strengthen this quality through silence and meditation. Like the sun and the stars, faith is a natural part of our soul life--we have only to learn to put our trust in this intuitive sense to begin to feel its healing effects. Faith is the fountain of spiritual inner sense that allows us to bear with patience our doubts and despair, as well as the dry, depressing passages of life, knowing that somehow, some way, we are being led forward in the right direction.

~ from Soul Sisters: The Five Sacred Qualities of a Woman's Soul by Pythia Peay

Faith is not about how we feel; it's about how we live.

~ Anne Lamott. Read more: Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott

One becomes an active participant in the world when he or she believes in something. Faith, optimism, and hope--we have to have those things as human beings; otherwise, life is unbearable because there is nothing that we can see beyond ourselves.

~ Gabriel Byrne

I have over the years dismissed simple faith, viewing it as either ignorant or stagnant. Only lately have I begun to recognize a profound quality of simple faith and the dynamism and struggle involved. It is easy to complicate one's faith. The real challenge is to maintain faith in all its simplicity! Simple faith clearly is a leap across the chasm of unanswered questions. That is the beauty of it.

~ from "The Gift of Simple Faith" by Richard B. Patterson in Spiritual Life, Spring '98. Read more: Becoming a Modern Contemplative: A Psychospiritual Model for Personal Growth by Richard B. Patterson

Real faith is rooted in a basic unknowing about ultimate things, and religion helps us to be in relation to that mystery. This kind of unknowing can offer calm or create anxiety, depending on a person's faith. Often people fill in this emptiness by insisting that they possess the truth. The fragility of their faith is betrayed by their strident insistence on being right and by their efforts to force their views on others. They seem afraid of the very things that define religion: mystery and trust.

~ from The Soul's Religion: Cultivating a Profoundly Spiritual Way of Life by Thomas Moore

Faith is only found when needed,
only real when used.
Until then it is a seed
waiting to burst forth into
living hope.


~ Judith A. Hartley

...Consider this then: That there is a level of truth, vitally important to human beings, which lies beyond the explainable, demonstrable natural world. In fact, this truth is often more important and sustaining to human beings because it is an eternal truth, not changeable, never at the mercy of different historical theories, or the whims of the scientist, or the observer of heavenly bodies. This truth, in a sense, is our spiritual food.

~ from The Messiah Stones by Irving Benig

Linda Degraf © 2017
Take the first step in faith, you don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

~ Martin Luther King Jr. Read more: A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King Jr.

The small truth has words that are clear; the great truth has great silence.

~ Rabindranath Tagore. Read more: Rabindranath Tagore: An Anthology

The function of faith is not to reduce mystery to rational clarity, but to integrate the unknown and the known together in a living whole, in which we are more and more able to transcend the limitations of our external self.

~ from New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

Listening at the Gate

A retreat in the 30th year of Friends of Silence

"Wend your way through the corridors of time,
not as passengers on a free ride
watching the seasons pass;
Rather, steady mindfulness quickens
the spirit, awakens the soul,
and opens the Inner Gate that leads
to the great Work so needed in these times."
Nan Merrill

"I've learned to love and to trust the Mystery....My essential course of action is simply to be in the Eternal Now, ready to follow the small, still voice heard in the Silence." - Nan Merrill

This retreat is an opportunity for those who cherish Friends of Silence to come together and discern, personally and collectively, our contribution to the "great Work so needed in these times." We will be carried by the gentle rhythms of ceremony, shared meals, silence, and walks in the woods. Inspired by the past story of Friends of Silence and the loving wisdom of Nan Merrill, we will listen at the Inner Gate for our way into the future as the FOS community and as individuals.

The heart of the retreat takes place on Saturday, October 21, from 9 am until 4 pm. We will be guided by Judy Walsh-Mellett and Katie Zimmerman in an intentional time of listening in the Silence and of council together. You are welcome to arrive onFriday and stay until Sunday. This will offer spaciousness for deeper connection with one another and with the autumn woods, in this season known for Mystery and transformation.

On Saturday, October 21, at 12 noon, we will have a special ceremony and Labyrinth Walk in gratitude for the life and loving wisdom of Nan Merrill and 30 years of Friends of Silence.

Adjoining the Rolling Ridge Foundation Wilderness Preserve, the four bedroom Still Point cabin overlooks the Shenandoah River. Known as the retreat home of Friends of Silence, Still Point Mountain Retreat offers simple yet comfortable accommodations in the breathtaking beauty of wilderness. We are located six miles south east of Charles Town, WV, in the tip of the Eastern Panhandle. Access is by car only. The last portion is over gravel, mountain road.

Please RSVP and register by August 20.

More Information
More Retreats at Friends of Silence

Sound & Silence 2017: Embodying prayer through the sacred rhythms of drumming, chant, nature and silence with Katy Gaughan and Tracy Seffers. August 18-20, 2017

Ancient Wisdom for Troubled Times: In the Presence of the Old Ones with Jim Hall and Cheryl Hellner.  September 15-17, 2017

Or schedule your own Personal Retreat. Friends of Silence is devoted to nurturing those who reverence silence, prayer, contemplation, the Divine Guest, and the Oneness of all creation. Personal retreat can be a wonderful discipline for those seeking the life-giving empowerment that derives from the Silence. We have partnered with Still Point Mountain Retreat to be able to offer space for personal retreat for our members, whether you come as an individual, couple, family, or small group. We also manage and offer River House. The wilderness setting of both these retreat spaces provides the quiet and solitude necessary for the ideal personal retreat experience.

More Retreats