Embracing Silence

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

The Well-Read Mom book for March 2015 was Robert Waldron’s The Hound of Heaven at My Heels: The Secret Diary of Francis Thompson. At the Third Annual Conference for Women which took place in January at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, we shared a portion of Teresa Vargo’s recorded talk on Francis Thompson’s great poem, The Hound of Heaven. Beth Nelson had the chance to sit down with Teresa and ask her some questions. In this article we bring you some highlights from that interview.

The Angelus, Jean-Francois Millet

Beth Nelson: Teresa, in your talk you spoke about a journey you have been on. Could you explain it to us briefly?

Teresa Vargo: On November 21, 2014, I’ll be in training at a Monastery of cloistered Dominican nuns. Their whole life is one of contemplation, but also of prayer and sacrifice for the salvation of all souls. It’s scary, but also really exciting.

BN: You have given talks at two Well-Read Mom conferences. Does Well-Read Mom have something to do with this journey you are making? 

TV: Definitely! Several of the readings from Well-Read Mom over the past two to three years have paralleled my own spiritual life. The first year I was asked to talk about St. Therese of Lisieux. It was ‘Year of the Daughter’ and I had already begun to feel the stirrings of a call to live more deeply in my own identity as a daughter.

The next year I was asked to give a talk on Dorothy Day. Even before I was asked to give these talks, it was almost as if my souls was anticipating this journey. God was already preparing me through life’s everyday circumstances. This became obvious to me when I was asked to give a talk on “The Hound of Heaven” during the ‘Year of the Spouse’. I thought, “Yeah, that is taking a bite out of me.” Spouse of Christ. Bride of Christ. In “The Hound of Heaven” God is the bridegroom of the soul.

Overall, it has been marvelous to be a part of the Well-Read Mom for the past three years and walk with you all in a very real way.

BN: Can you tell us something to help us understand the life you will be entering? Is there something particularly beautiful that you see in the vocation?

TV: Ever since I was a little girl, I had this desire for truth. There is a quote by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, “My longing for truth was a single prayer.”

In a certain sense, my whole life, my longing for truth has been my prayer. I have been searching and searching, and much to my surprise, have found this longing met within the silence. It is in the silence where we can receive the word of God, Who is truth.

Sometimes we think of silence as something sterile, an absence of communication, but really silence can give way to the ultimate communication because it opens us up to God, allowing Him to speak into the depths of the soul. There is something misunderstood about life in the convent. The silence nourishes the soul. Life in the convent is deeply rooted in scripture and in absorbing the Word of God.

In the monastery there is a huge emphasis on the intellectual life. Someone once told me that the contemplation of truth bears life for the entire Church. I though, “How does this work? Me? Just praying?” But I think about the Blessed Mother and about how “she pondered all these things with her heart.” Mary bore fruit for the Church while she stood at the foot of the Cross, contemplating the Word, even as her soul was pierced by the reality of her Son dying in such a cruel way. I really take the Blessed Mother as a role model for my life.

I am so grateful to go and offer my life to God, but also for all of you. When I go the cloister, I hope to bring the whole world with me and offer everyone’s intentions to the Father continually day and night.

We gather for prayer seven times a day, do two hours of silent prayer and there is also studying and adoration. It is such a joy to realize I can become a spiritual mother to bring courage to all those standing at the foot of the Cross.

BN: This idea of silence,not just as the absence of sound, but as the place of real communication in one’s soul, is beautiful. With small dis at home, I experience a great deal of noise throughout the day, but I long for this experience of silence.

TV: St. Catherine of Siena wasn’t even a nun; however many people think of her as a nun because they always picture her in the Dominican habit. She always spoke about the “interior cell.” Being in a monastery isn’t the only way to be in the presence of God. Even outside of the monastery, a person can achieve a deep, interior silence, despite the everyday distractions of little squealing kids and busy schedules.

This piece was originally published in the ‘Year of the Spouse’ Journal.