By Matthew Sawczyn
For all of us, these have been trying times. Our world is on standstill. Many are sick, or dying. Many are suffering financially. Many work tirelessly to ease the suffering of others.
And most of us, thankfully, simpy wait; relatively unscathed, we nevertheless do our small part by staying at home: watching the news, counting the hours, anxiously hoping for when this will pass. The media we consume can be frightening, encouraging, distracting. We feel, in an intimate way, the words of playwright Thorton Wilder: “to spend and waste time as though you had a million years”. We do our best. We pass the time.
What can we do with this time? How can we fill these new found hours, and ourselves? How do we react when our busy world is halted? This time brings to mind two great movies about this way of life: the documentary Into Great Silence, and the dramatic feature Of Gods and Men.
Both examine, in their own fashion, the lives of Catholic monks, Carthusian and Cistercian respectively, as they go about their vocation of prayer and silence. Life passes at a calm pace. Prayer, work, exercise, reading… days meld into days; but all with meaning, all with purpose and fulfillment. The silence can be daunting. It forces the soul to turn inward; to take an honest, introspective look at oneself. To find God in the quiet. The monks live out what the Psalmist said: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10).
Of course, silence does not mean sloth. Each of the monks in the movies works tirelessly in the way that they can. We watch as they study, minister to the sick, repair the house, craft and create… they place themselves before the Lord, seeking Him. Their days are most full! Their time is well spent, well lived.
I would suggest watching one or both of these movies, letting the stories affect you, taking to heart the life they present, both poignant and profound. And then, put the remote down. Read a book, say some prayers, play an instrument. Write a letter, call a friend, rekindle an old hobby. Have a dance party in your living room. Break out the board games. Brush the dust from your Bible. Sit in the sun. Eat a family meal. Allow yourself to rest.
Times will change, and eventually we will return to ‘normal life’. May we return renewed, refreshed, and rejoicing. It will be a great blessing to be busy again. But may we not pass through a Lent like this unchanged! Remember those other words Thorton Wilder wrote about our earth: “Straining away, straining away all the time to make something of itself.” May we all—in work and rest, in good times and in bad—make something of ourselves.
About the Author
Matthew Sawczyn is a screenwriter in Los Angeles, and an alumnus of JPCatholic (MBA in Film Producing – Class of 2017). He loves hiking, HBO, and cuddly cats.
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