News Detail
Fathers Larry Gillick, SJ, (left) and Greg Carlson, SJ, (second from left) with students.
“People find silence, and I think prayer, frightening because it’s going to bring them face to face with the big questions: What do I really want? Am I being the person
I want to be?"
~Fr. Greg Carlson, SJ
Don’t Be Afraid to Listen to Your Life: Jesuit Fathers Larry Gillick and Greg Carlson on Silent Retreats

June 7, 2018 — Silence can be golden, but it also can be scary.

Just ask Fathers Larry Gillick, SJ, and Greg Carlson, SJ, two longtime Creighton University priests who regularly direct silent retreats.

“When people hear of a silent retreat, they’ll say, ‘Oh, three days! How could I be silent for three days?’” Fr. Carlson says. “We Jesuits, twice in our formation, make 30-day silent retreats. And people can’t conceive of that.

“I think they’re afraid of it. I think that’s probably in our culture, to be afraid of that much silence.”

With a culture that embraces the constant connection offered by the latest technology, it can be difficult to unplug and enter into undistracted silence. But Frs. Gillick and Carlson believe a deeper fear quietly lurks beneath the surface.

“We’ve had people say, ‘I don’t want to make a silent retreat because I’m afraid of what I have to see — what I have to face in myself,’” Fr. Gillick says.

Fr. Carlson agrees, adding: “People find silence, and I think prayer, frightening because it’s going to bring them face to face with the big questions: What do I really want? Am I being the person I want to be? It can be painful to stop and look at that.”

Fr. Greg Carlson, SJ

Frs. Gillick and Carlson explain that silent prayer — in fact, all prayer — is really about moving from “doing” to “receiving” or simply “being,” which can be especially difficult in a culture so focused on productivity.

Fr. Gillick compares prayer to a relationship — which, as it deepens, can move from going out on dates to simply enjoying being in each other’s company.

“The standard question in our culture of productivity is: What did you get out of it?” Fr. Carlson says. “That’s not always the appropriate question. For instance, after a conversation with a friend, you wouldn’t say, ‘OK, what did we get out of this?’”

The two priests often find that people are concerned that they are not praying “correctly” — which, again, they say, focuses too much on the doing.

“If you ask anybody about their praying, they will probably say, ‘I’m not doing it as well as I should,’” Fr. Carlson says. “And ‘should’ is the operative word. It’s a measurement. You are called to give up that question.”

Fr. Larry Gillick, SJ

More fruitful questions, Fr. Carlson says, could be along the lines of: Is there something here I can be grateful for? What fascinates and leads me? Where do I find delight and joy?

Frs. Gillick and Carlson add that silent prayer is not about self-improvement — nor is it necessarily about coming to some great insight about Scripture.

“It’s about letting God improve you, if that’s what God wants to do,” Fr. Gillick says.

And it doesn’t have to be scary. Start softly and slowly, advises Fr. Carlson. “Try praying once a day quietly. It really is an exercise in listening to your life.”

How to enter into silent prayer

Frs. Gillick and Carlson suggest imagining yourself in a Bible scene, and examining your thoughts and feelings. While not exactly silent, soft music may help.

Or you could reflect on a poem; Fr. Gillick suggests Sometimes by David Whyte and William Wordsworth’s Solitude. Or you can find support and camaraderie through a silent retreat. [Sources: Midwest JesuitsCreighton University]





Recent News

October 18, 2018 — The Jesuits issued a statement of continued solidarity with the people of Nicaragua on the six-month anniversary of nonviolent protests.

October 17, 2018 — On Oct. 20, the Catholic Church will beatify Jesuit Father Tiburcio Arnaiz Muñoz in Málaga, Spain, where he is recognized as “apostle of the city.”

October 17, 2018 — On October 14, Pope Francis canonized a pope and a martyr: Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, El Salvador.

October 15, 2018 — Prevain Devendran was selected to be a collaborator at the 2018 Synod of Bishops.

October 12, 2018 — On this day in 1963, U.S. Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek arrived in New York after 23 years in Russia in Siberian labor camps and Soviet prisons.

October 5, 2018 — Known as "The Magis," the guesthouse provides a place where Jesuits and other religious can recharge.

October 4, 2018 — Pope Francis asked bishops to be bold, honest, open-minded, charitable and, especially, prayerful as they begin the three-week meeting.

view all news

Search news

Publications
Since St. Ignatius bought a printing press in 1556, the Jesuits have been involved in communications. Today the Society of Jesus publishes a number of award-winning journals and publications. Click below to access our latest issues.

America 10/15/18

America 10/1/18

America 9/17/18



Loyola Institute for Spirituality
Loyola Institute for Spirituality (LIS), founded in 1997, is located in Orange, CA. LIS provides many programs and services for individuals, parishes, and dioceses throughout Southern California and beyond.