Even at 20, I was drawn to the idea of taking only a loaf of bread, a jug of water, and the Bible and spending twenty-four hours in silence with God in a tiny hut...
"A Little Desert - A Resting Place in God". That's the title of the first chapter of Jeanne Lound Schaller's book: Desert in my Backyard. Isn't that a wonderful welcome to a full-body deep breath moment of silence and peace?
Schaller was a student at Aquinas College in 1967 when she accompanied Fr. Sharkey, Aquinas College's chaplain, and several students to northern Ontario, Canada to visit Madonna House, a training center for lay apostolate. It was here that she first encountered the word "poustinia", a Russian word for "little desert" and the concept of sitting entirely alone with God in solitude in a secluded space."
"Jeanne's experience was very Dominican, actually aligning with our vows as contemplative Catholic women of the Church and the Dominican Pillars of prayer, study, community, and service upon which Aquinas College and Dominican Center at Marywood were founded by the Dominican Sisters~Grand Rapids," says Sister Diane Zerfas, OP, coordinator of the Spirituality Program Coordinator at Dominican Center at Marywood.
Silence and Contemplation
Silence and contemplation are intrinsic to the spiritual formation, contemplative learning, and retreat programming offered at Dominican Center at Marywood. Which is why we are excited to welcome Jeanne to share how returning to a "little desert' has influenced her life and the lives of many others.
"I have a little desert in my backyard," says Schaller. "Catherine House, a `little desert', was built by the author and her husband and the help of friends, in 1981 on the back of ten acres where the author lives near Midland, Michigan. A labyrinth and a Glade of Forgiveness also rest in this sanctuary, surrounded by the lush beauty of Mother Nature."
Shaller's book reads like an open invitation -- at once both a literal and metaphoric invitation to others to come and seek their deepest selves. "I approach the poustinia on a path that meanders through scenery that is lovely in all seasons. As I round the last gentle curve there it is, like an old friend, waiting to gather me in," she writes.
"When I can hand my life world and the entire world over to God, who is my Light, I come away not with my life magically back into right order, but with more strength, tolerance, patience or whatever is needed to continue to live day to day in a more loving mode. ... "If I can absorb and embrace it, I make better choices."
“I will follow those whose hearing is attuned to the still, small whisper of love, whose prayer deepens their faith and their relationship with God. I will carve out a space for solitude. I will return to my inner room and breathe in the peace that silence of the heart can bring,” wrote Sister Diane for a 2019 Lenten Reflection journey to the desert of the soul. "It is in the returning again and again to this space -- the quiet -- that we can truly hear God's voice and dream for humanity on Earth; and each person can hear what is right and true for themselves."
Don't Miss Jeanne Lound Schaller's Visit to West Michigan and her program Soothing Silence: A Gift to Our World
Find your own moment of silence and peace at Dominican Center. Register now for Soothing Silence: A Gift to Our World at Dominican Center at Marywood on Tuesday, July 16, 2019, 9"30 - 11:00 am. Dominican Center is located at 2025 Fulton Street East, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503. Parking is free and located off Lakeside Drive.
A Poem by Jeanne Lound Schaller
Lord, slow me down.
Let me respond to your call,
To come aside for a while and rest.
Teach me to be still and quiet within.
Slow me down, Lord.
Remind me to sit at your feet often
So I can listen to your voice,
Hearing again and again the truths of old,
Lest I forget to remember.
Dominican Center Marywood at Aquinas College is a ministry of Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids.