How do we quiet our minds in an increasingly noisy world?
This is a question Joe Oliveri sought to answer when he created the minicourse The Silent Journey, taught this past spring.
As a graduate assistant in Campus Ministry, Oliveri said he noticed students often telling him how busy their days were, and how the lack of time for silence in their daily lives was affecting their ability to be present in the moment and connect with God.
“Nine times out of 10 if you ask anyone how their day is going, they will answer, ‘Busy.’ This is the noise of the daily life of a college student,” Oliveri said.
In search of answers, he created The Silent Journey to fulfill a requirement in his graduate studies in pastoral ministry.
The group met once a week on Mondays for two hours during Lent. Over the course of their six weeks together, the group took part in contemplative prayer where they meditated on the five silences of Marianist spirituality: silences of words, signs, imagination, mind and passions. These silences, he explained, are about disciplining one’s whole being.
“In short, the five silences are not always to ‘be quiet’ but ways to discipline our words, actions, thoughts, feelings or passions, and imagination in order to live fully in Jesus Christ,” Oliveri said.
He explained that both he and his students struggled throughout the course, finding it difficult to make time for silence as a part of their daily routine. Ultimately, they learned that prayer was more than just silence or lack of words, but it was about becoming more aware of God’s presence.
For those who were not able to take his class or are just looking for ways to find silence in their own lives, Oliveri offered some advice.
“Without picturing me as an old monk on a hillside, I would say, ‘You don’t need to find silence. Let silence find you.’ Yes, it’s deep, but that’s what we are afraid of — going deep,” Oliveri said.