Reflection: Finding God in the Silence of the City

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Photo by Michael Scanlan

Newark Abbey Abbot Melvin Valvano, O.S.B., blesses Br. Asiel Rodriguez, O.S.B, in the Diaconate Ordination ceremony.

Mr. Stephen Adubato, Faculty Contributor

A warm summer breeze wafts through the tilted bottom half of the 19th century German stained glass windows. The saints of yesteryear depicted on the upper half look over the congregation.

The air intermingles with the faint echo of a Lil Uzi Vert song blasting outside the monastery walls. The church bells are chiming, adding a nuance of texture to this sensory celebration. 

A bishop kneels before an abbot, kissing his stole, requesting his fatherly blessing to perform a marriage not quite like others. God is calling Br. Asiel Rodriguez, O.S.B., to be united to Him fully—to become a deacon, and soon, to carry out His priestly ministry on earth. 

“The prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict tells us to listen to God with the ears of our heart,” Bishop Cruz reminded us, “and to enter into deeper intimacy with His heart. But this call can only be heard in the silence. God speaks to us in the silence.”

“A warm summer breeze wafts through the tilted bottom half of the 19th century German stained glass windows.” (Photo by Michael Scanlan)

Isn’t that hard to do in an urban monastery, where the noise of music and sirens, students laughing and yelling, infiltrate those moments of prayer interspersed throughout the monks’ day?

Alas, the adherents of Christianity are faced with a God of paradoxes, a God who enters the messiness of the flesh and of human affairs, who speaks in the silence but also in the noise of the daily happenings of the city and the school. 

We serve a God who throughout the years has espoused men—”beggars,” as Bishop Cruz said, to Himself as monks.  From St. Benedict, St. John of the Cross, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, to men of today like Br. Asiel. A fellow refugee from Cuba, the bishop pointed out that Br. Asiel’s story reminds us that “we are all refugees, we are all seeking refuge in the heart of the Father, whose love for us never falters or runs out.” 

So whether in the silence of the hills on the outskirts of Rome, or in the symphony of noises on a hill in an urban city, our paradoxical God is full of surprises. He surprised our community with a new spring of monastic vocations, and continues to surprise us everyday through the continued fidelity of the elder monks to their supernatural calling. 

In the words of St. John of the Cross, may Br. Asiel’s “thirsty soul find the Bridegroom, in whose hands he will find drink to quench his thirst.” May this “wedding feast”—sedated as it may be by the circumstances brought on by the pandemic—bring forth a lifetime of surprises for him and the rest of the community. 

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