The Monks Who Take Long Pauses

The Monks Who Take Long Pauses

August 23, 2012
Written by Daniel Hazard

Psalm 69:7

"Because of you, I look like an idiot."  (The Message)

Reflection by Lillian Daniel

I had the chance to join some Benedictine monks for evening worship with a group of pastor writers at the Collegeville Institute. The Benedictines, well known for their hospitality to the stranger, asked our mostly Protestant group to meet with Brother John outside the chapel fifteen minutes before worship for an orientation. He spoke to us a bit about the striking modern abbey church, and then took us inside to our seats in the section next to the monks. There he explained which book we were to open and when. It was complicated and we needed all the help we could get. There were going to be all kinds of responsive readings where the leader would speak, and then the monks on one side of the church would respond as "choir one" and then the other side would respond as "choir two." "You're choir two," he told us, and then added this as an afterthought:

"The pace here at the abbey is slower than what you are used to," he explained. "The monks take pauses in the responsive readings, pauses that will seem long to you. So you might want to hold back at first and really listen to them, to get their pace before you join in."

I had no idea what he meant until the service began. Then, when it was choir two's turn to read several lines of a psalm, I heard my own voice and a few others from the visitor's section bleating out alone, as the monks took a long silent breath after each line. I am so used to finding my place and quickly saying my lines in a rush. But the monks said a line or a phrase and then all stopped to pause, as if to really listen to it, to take it in.

I was struck by how often I just barrel through readings in worship and how often I barrel through conversations in life. What a difference a few quiet pauses might make.


Listening Lord, help me to listen too. Amen.

About the Author
Lillian Daniel is the senior minister of the First Congregational Church, UCC, Glen Ellyn, Illinois. She is the author, with Martin Copenhaver, of This Odd and Wondrous Calling: the Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers.

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