Sunday, August 2, 2015

Appreciation of Silence

Robert Trabold
Stately pines reaching to sky
deep blue  that only
Adirondack Mountains can paint.
Sun is clear - strong
tree branches reach out for its
life giving nourishment.
Pines – sky – sun light
each a silence
broken only by gentle breeze
whistling through pine trees
breeze so peaceful – so soft – adds to
silence of the woods.
So many years I walked - sat
among these stately pines.
Why do I come back?
I tell my friends I meet Someone here.
Silence of Adirondack pines
echoes silence of God – Absolute
my Beloved.
Being there is a walk in mystery
mystery in the Adirondack blue sky
also a presence
within me – at my center – at my still point.
I rest in this mystery – letting gentle breeze
touch me
soft kiss of Someone who loves me.
Feel my breathing in and out – pointing to
presence at my center.
Continue to look at blue sky – soaring pines
let silence - beauty run over me
inundate me – embrace me.
Say no words because in silence of pines
my Beloved is wooing me.
Gentle call!
No words of mine fit the situation
I sit in quiet - let it wash over me.
Robert Trabold
            The summer time may be a chance when we can come to appreciate what silence is in our life. When we think and talk about silence, it appears to us as a mysterious thing. In one sense, it is out of step with our modern life.  Many of us live in these big cities and are busy and overwhelmed with activities. We have our life of work, family, studies and education, etc. This fast pace is now faster with the advent of the social media and the cell phones. We can be contacted wherever we are and are pressurized to respond with texts and messages. So silence is somewhat strange.  It is drowned out in the fast pace of living.
            In the summer time, however, we may have more opportunities to step out of this hectic pace of modern living. For many of us in the temperate zone, the weather gets warmer and nature that has been asleep in the winter comes alive and there are chances to be outside and enjoy the beauties of the natural world. There may be a slackening of the pace of our duties with vacation time and opportunities to be in our gardens or the seashore or the mountains. These days then can be the advent of silence and reflection on our life. For example, I am lucky to live near the Atlantic Ocean and look forward spend time walking along the beaches and seashore. I have a garden at home and enjoy in the summer the opportunity to sit outside in the evening. I admire the loveliness of the summer flowers and feel the quiet of the garden and nature. I cannot do this in the winter time because it is too cold to sit outside.
            So the summer can be a time of silence and quiet and give us opportunities to grow in the contemplative dimension of our life. It gives us a space to reflect on who we are, where we are going in life and what are the goals and ultimate end of our living. So in these moments of quiet and reflection, we become aware of silence and uncover new riches for our human living. These spaces can be ones where we pull things together in our life, see things in a new and deeper way. Silence then loses some of sense of difference from our ordinary life and we realize it as a necessary part of human living.
            As contemplatives who meditate twice a day in silence and repeat our mantra, it is an encounter with Someone who is very important for us. In the silence of our prayer, we encounter a presence who is mysterious and transcendent but who also wants to reveal Himself/Herself to us. There is darkness in this encounter because we are meeting the divine. Yet despite this darkness, we feel that the Lord is reaching out to us and wants to enter a relationship of mutual love. Contrary to our feeling that silence can be empty, it is rather full with an important meeting. John Main mentions that in our meditation and contemplation, we meet the ground of our being, the primordial Spirit around which we are to orientate our life. It is no longer empty but now is filled with the presence of Someone with whom we journey on earth. We are no longer torn between different ways of living which the modern world presents to us. Some can be good, others detrimental to us. We are meeting the Lord Jesus who takes us by the hand and leads us on earth and hopefully to eternal life.
            With the encounter with God in this quiet time, silence loses some of it mystery and we become aware of its beauty and depth. Quiet time may not be the most popular thing in modern living but in our contemplative prayer, we have found a pearl of great value. John Main mentions that we find the one who is the ground of our life, gives it meaning and deep value. We do not let the many activities of our daily modern life overwhelm us but now have an anchor to guide our living on earth. So it behooves us to take advantage of the possible slowdown in our daily activities which the summer and vacation time offer us and so enter more deeply into silence and quiet time. This will enrich our life and help us continue on our contemplative path.

Monday, June 15, 2015



Altoetting, Germany

Robert Trabold

Dark chapel pierced by candle
light. Silver – gold glittering!
Stately candles on the alter
add solemnity. Many yellow
roses blend with gold – silver.

In the middle, small dark
statue – woman with a child
dressed in black  - gold
holding a golden rose.

Silence reigns in the chapel.
Many people – pilgrims
no talking – stand at attention
in presence of the Black Madonna.

Statues centuries old
1000 years – Who knows?
People travel - come from far
wide like me.

We carry our human load
ourselves - our world.
Many clouds of thunder
need more rays of sunshine.

Myself with all the
crowd stand here
in silence. No spoken
words – deeper ones inside of us.

Dark skin of the Virgin
child mysterious
gives us hope in the
road of life – our earthly voyage.

I know that the Virgin
with child are listening.
We all stand in silence
praying – hoping.
It will all work out.




            In the month of May this year, I had the privilege and opportunity to visit two Black Madonna shrines in Europe.  I went to Altoetting in Southern Germany and to Einsiedeln in Switzerland.  Both of these shrines are very old and go back into history more than a thousand years. Altoetting used to be a Roman trading post where the roads that came over the Alps met. The town became a center of commerce and trade and had perhaps some religious significance and temples. With time, it became a center of Christianity and a point for the further evangelization of that part of Europe. Einsiedeln in the 9th century was the place where a hermit Meinrad lived in silence. People came to see him for advice and healings. Upon his death, the hut and place where he lived became a place of pilgrimage and through the centuries grew into a modern pilgrimage center.

            Both of these pilgrimage shrines are devoted to and centered upon the statue of the Black Madonna with her child. These statues are very old and no one knows much about their real age or where they came from. That these statues are black is a subject of much discussion. They are very old and as such get dirty. In the past centuries, they were considered sacred objects as they still are and were not to be touched or restored. As a result, the candle soot made the statues black and these statues became the center of pilgrimages and had an ability to draw many people to the shrines. There is some conjecture that the people are drawn to these Black Madonna statues because in the ancient Greek and Roman religions, there were black goddesses. There are many ruins of temples dedicated to them in Southern Europe pointing to a possible pagan influence in our Christian practice. Be as it may, these black statues have the ability to draw people from all over Europe who come with their concerns and problems and who are looking for help from the Black Madonna.

            Over the years, theses statues also have an elaborate wardrobe. People have made special and richly ornate garments for the statues. It is a sign of their affection for the Madonna and child that the people want to make public. These robes are rotated on the statue for particular seasons and times and add to their attractive power.

            I made a contemplative pilgrimage to these two shrines. I went by myself and I had much time for silence and meditation. I participated also in the various religious activities of the place. As I sat in silence in the chapels of the Black Madonna, I experienced a tremendous sense of mystery surrounding the statues. The beauty of the chapel and the decorations around the statue were very attractive. I felt that the Virgin was drawing me there and all the other pilgrims. In one sense we are drawn to the human figure of the Virgin and child but the blackness has us feel that they are from another world, the spiritual one, and one that is a mystery to us. We are not just drawn to the human mother figure but also that she leads us into another world where we will meet the divine. The silence of the chapel and the stillness of the people give that aura. In the silence that reigns, we present out petitions to the Virgin and child and ask help with these.

            My meditation there was one of silence looking at the beautiful decorated statues of the Virgin and child and I repeated my mantra to try to touch the presence of the Divine at my center and still point. All of this added to sense of mystery which was the goal of my pilgrimage to these two shrines.  I believe that the other pilgrims around me had a similar experience. They made a long trip to be in the presence of the Black Madonna and child and to enter into the mystery of this divine presence. The Virgin certainly was human in her life but now in heaven, draws us into her presence so that she can ultimately help us enter this same spiritual life now and later after our death.

            This whole pilgrimage of our life on earth and the trip to the shrines are shrouded in mystery. Our life on earth has many ups and downs, moments of light and those of darkness. There are no easy answers to our living neither to our violent and tumultuous world. For this reason we make these pilgrimages to the Black Madonna and child. She knows all our problems but leads us into her presence and that of the child. Amidst the darkness of life and the mystery of the Divine of which her black skin is a symbol,
the Virgin extends a helping hand to all the pilgrims.  It gives us hope on our journey through the years on earth and a sense a purpose to this pilgrimage.




Sunday, May 3, 2015




Summer day – warm - humid
but not oppressive.
Clear sun brightens up
yellow blooming black eyed suzies in the garden.
I sit in quiet – notice my heart beat
my breathing in and out
pointing to a presence within me
my Beloved.

Total mystery – otherness
that my quiet heart beats point to.
My Beloved covers me
embraces me – my whole body feels the touch.
I sit in mystery – so deep within me.
I say nothing – I let
my breathing highlight the presence.

In the ebb and flow of my life
in years gone by – in moments now
in currents - undertows that almost
did me in
Someone was there – never let me go.
I bath myself in this love
because of it, I did not get lost
in crossroads - curves of the years gone by.
No dead end streets
always an exit!
How lucky I am, Someone loves me!




Robert Trabold

I sleep
but my heart is awake;
I am waiting for my Beloved
to knock at the door.
                                                                         Song of Songs: 5,2.

                Since the 1960’s, Western Christians are living in a renaissance of the contemplative path that had been forgotten for many centuries and rediscovered when leaders such as Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating and John Main (to name a few) met the holy men in the East. This contact with the East allowed them to encounter God at their center in contemplation and they started movements to enable Christians again to enter into the contemplative path of religion. In this rediscovery of mystical prayer, spiritual leaders stress that we are on a journey to know and accept ourselves. In order to be successful in this pilgrimage, we need to contact the Spirit (God) within us; in doing this, we discover that we are essentially ‘spiritual’ beings and are rooted in God. In this inward journey, we have to achieve a necessary stillness of body and mind because prayer is not thinking about God but being in the presence of the Divine.
                Jesus worshipped God in the Spirit at the center of his person giving us an example of how we also have to grow in the awareness that the same Spirit is praying within us. We do this by the repetition of a word or mantra in our meditation which over time puts our whole person in tune with the stillness at our center. There are three levels of growth in the repetition of the word. First, we simply say it for the full time of the meditation. Secondly, with time, we say the mantra continually and remain calm in face of distractions. Thirdly, we repeat it for the full time of the meditation and are free of distractions. The goal of the repetition of the word is to help us focus and rest in the presence of God within us. In meditation then, we orientate our whole selves – mind, heart and body - to the presence of the absolute at our center. Spiritual leaders alert us that praying is not thinking about God but being with Him/Her. In Western Christianity, we can be too rational in our approach to our Christian faith and this can cause us problems. Focusing on the reality of God within us – at our still point, helps us realize with time and perseverance that this presence of God is the REALITY of our life. With our growth in contemplation, our identity and definition of ourselves revolves around this intimate presence of the Divine – our Beloved.
                Like John of the Cross, spiritual leaders mention that in silence, we need to listen, concentrate and pay attention rather than think. They stress the importance of silence and challenge us to be quiet and persevere in this journey.  We are to be still and recite the word. When we are silent, we do not have to justify ourselves, apologize or impress the people around us. In stillness, we will encounter the reality in which we have our being, helping us define ourselves and find our place among other human beings. This being or ground of our being which we discover is a being of love and through the years in contemplation, God woos us to love Him/Her and asks us to reciprocate this love. We should sit in the eternal silence of God, the Divine will call our name and we will know who we are. In reading this description of our encounter with God in silence, we recall the opening words of the famous poem by John of the Cross:
                                         In a dark night, burning with fires of love!
                Today, we know that the Holy Spirit was with spiritual leaders in the 1960’s when they went to the East and rediscovered the Christian contemplative path. Movements of meditation and contemplation have spread throughout the world, for example, the Centering Prayer Movement, Zen-Christian Movement, John Main Meditation Movement, the eremitical movement to name a few. Christians now have an opportunity to again begin that inward journey leading them to the presence of God in the silence of their center. In the 1960’s and afterwards, many Christians went to the East looking for the contemplative path and joined the Eastern religions because they could not find this in their churches. With the growth of the Christian contemplative movements (monasteries without walls), people of faith have the opportunity to begin their pilgrimage to their still point and as such deepen their Christian faith and not have to leave it. Let us thank the Holy Spirit who inspired the rediscovery of the Christian mystical tradition and whose fruits we can appreciate and participate in today.


Friday, April 3, 2015




Quiet spring –Sunday morning
sleepy neighborhood rests in peace
northern air blew away night’s fog
leaving behind clean crisp air.
Sky is so blue – rare for New York City
not even Michelangelo could paint it
like it is.
Breeze wraps around me
freshness waking me up.
Silence pervades all – like a
cat walking on lush green grass.

I too feel silence – covers
me like sunlight.
Watch my breathing
touching me softly
soft as lush freshly cut grass.

Feel a pain of longing – divine
silence is kissing me
embracing me.
Silence of my Beloved – Silence of God!
I would like to cry – tears forming
such depth – longing – mystery.
World – my life swirl around me
endless problems – headaches.

Such is life – but someone loves me
touching me in spring garden.
Feel a hand – present – leading
me on to greater love!
A ballast! -  boat won’t tip!



Robert Trabold

            As we come to the close of Holy Week and experience Easter Sunday, it is time to pause and reflect on what Jesus is offering us with His life, death and resurrection. Jesus’ life came to a dramatic close with His death on the cross but entered into a new dimension with the resurrection. He overcame the powers of evil and then His Father gave Him a new life and He continues to announce His good news and message as the Risen Lord through the centuries. As we now close Holy Week, it is good for us to reflect on what Jesus is offering us in this Easter season. He is victorious and the powers of evil can no longer touch Him. Through Christians, He wants to continue His work and give to the world the good news of salvation.

            Jesus came to tell us that we are spiritual beings and as such we are to live in a certain way and have an eternal destiny. Our very person and spirit is rooted in God and it is important for us to discover this each day in a deep way.  We grow in a true understanding that we are spiritual beings grounded in God by being faithful to our daily meditation.  In this, we make a journey to our center and still point. There we find out that we are rooted in God and that through our faithfulness to our daily contemplation, we slowly align ourselves and our many experiences with God.

            In contemplation, we sit in silence.  We try to let go of thoughts and ideas and rest at the center of our person where experience a presence, the presence of the Lord. We are faithful to the use of the mantra which echoes through our whole being and acutely feel the Divine within us. We sit in this presence, which is one of love and who invites us to love in return. As time goes on, we realize that God is at our center so that He/She can direct and orientate our life.  No longer are we torn between various ways of living but align ourselves with the way that Jesus wanted and preached in His life. The world gives to us different ways to live many of which are detrimental to ourselves and to the people around us. To avoid this, we are called to be always faithful to our daily contemplation so that our friendship with the Lord continually grows and our life revolves around this unity.

            This is the gift that the Risen Lord wants to give us this Easter season. Through our contemplation, He gives us the opportunity to be truly ourselves, spiritual beings. He is offering us the freedom and space to be ourselves with this dignity. In meditation, we put aside our thoughts and ideas and sit in the presence of the One who loves us. He asks us to love in return. We sit in the presence of the Divine because we are spiritual beings and this is our calling. We are called to align ourselves with God who gives us that peace which comes from this harmony.  It is a deep peace which the world cannot give. This is the joy that the Risen Lord brings to us during this Easter time. By being spiritual beings, we can sit in the presence of the Divine at our center.  This is a great gift which should orientate our life on earth and bring us to our final Easter Sunday in eternal life.

                                    “I know that you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth….He is not
                                    here – He has been raised….He is going to Galilee ahead of you;
                                    there you will see Him, just as He told you.”  Mark 16; 6-7.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Healing and Meditation


Robert Trabold
In the distance, I hear noise
waves crashing onto the surf
washing over sand.
They are constant - unending
sand is washed - washed.
So white - clean!
I pray!
I want waves to wash over me.
I too need washing – healing
past memories of the hard times in my life
suffering – abandonment – treason.
I sit at shore - let waves
wash over me.
Let them wash away - heal memories
images – faces – voices.
As the water recedes, sand is at peace
I need same peace – rebirth – cleanliness!
Sea is grace of God
divine water will wash me – wipe away
heal biting memories.
Hurt will lessen – peace
will come to me
washed sand is always new
my hope also!

Robert Trabold
            The relationship between meditation and healing ultimately goes back to the New Testament where one aspect of Jesus’ work was to travel through Galilee doing wonders and healing people of their sicknesses. There are numerous stories in the gospels describing Jesus reacting to sick people, such as, healing the lepers, laying his hands on individuals and his touch healing people with all kinds of illnesses, curing the paralytic at the pool who waited many years for a miracle and ultimately also raising people from the dead, such as, the son of the widow of Naim. Jesus was manifesting the mercy of God who lifts us up and heals us of our illnesses. This ministry of Jesus was not particular to Him because we know of the work of numerous wandering preachers in Galilee around this time who had a similar ministry of healing people.
            When we get close to the Lord and experience His presence in contemplative prayer, it is a time for us to ask His help in healing our own infirmities. Since we are in intimate contact with Jesus in meditation, we pray also for other sick people asking Him to extend his mercy and heal them. In this way, we are continuing the ministry of Jesus which expressed itself in the years of his work in Galilee. A startling example of the healing ministry of Jesus is a visit to the large pilgrimage shrines in the world, such as, Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal, St. Anne of BeauprĂ© in QuĂ©bec, Canada, etc. People leave behind visible signs of their healings, such as, crutches and other medical equipment now not needed.  Individuals make a pilgrimage in prayer and ask for such healings and many are answered. Here we note the connection between healing, prayer and meditation expressed in the act of pilgrimage.
            A more direct and particular connection between healing and mediation is manifested in contemplative prayer. As we grow in our contemplative path and enter into the silence and peace of God’s presence, our defense mechanisms go down and feelings and emotions of our past life emerge into our consciousness.  They have been buried possibly many years and now come into our awareness. We are bombarded with these past emotions and find it hard to rest in God’s presence. We must now ask God to heal us of these feelings and help us let go of them so that we can have the peace in our conscious and unconscious self to enter into a union with the divine which is the goal of contemplative prayer. These feelings and emotions can be very old and go back into our childhood and they are the baggage we carry in our unconsciousness due to our being human.
            For example, we may have within our unconsciousness feelings of hurt and anger from the various injustices and hard and difficult things people have done to us in our life. With such pains, we all experience it hard to forgive and we hold grudges. Secondly, we may be haunted with our own mistakes in life, missed opportunities to love, our constant pride and selfishness – all things that we find it hard to face. Thirdly, as humans, we like to dominate and control the things that come into our life. We get angry when things do not go our way; we cannot let go. In face of such emotions and others which are part of our life, we ask Jesus to heal us of these and discard them. He is the one who can cure us of these deep emotions and give us the strength to let them go. We will then have a new freedom to grow in a peace within ourselves so that we can enter the divine union which is the goal of contemplative prayer. This healing can take a long time because these feelings and experiences may be deeply embedded in our unconsciousness. It can also be that we have to consult a counselor who can help us come to grips with these emotions. We may need to talk them out with someone so that eventually we can let go of them and be healed of their disturbing presence. It depends on how serious they are and what damage and upheaval they caused in our past.
            As a result, the healing that takes place in contemplative prayer is a particular one dealing with our emotions and feelings that we carry with us in our unconscious. This is part of the human condition and we can look forward to Jesus to help us unload these and to get rid of this unwanted psychological baggage in our life. In contemplative prayer, we are participating in a very definite divine therapy. Jesus is working to make us free people so that we can have the peace and tranquility to enter into union with Him. It is just another dimension and aspect of His healing ministry that we see in the New Testament.


Monday, February 2, 2015




“just now goldsandaled Dawn”


Has someone called me? I believe so.
My breathing gives me a clue.
I feel at my center, a presence there
silent – dark – unknowable
its mystery touches me.
I am immersed in darkness, light
they mingle, weave the quilt of my life’s journey.

I listen to the mystery, feel that
someone has called my name.
In the many currents, undertows of my life
I was remembered.
I was not forgotten, someone called me
walked with me.

I feel, remember how I stumbled in my years
hard streets with dangerous curves.
I was forced to walk - drive in the night.
But I hear my name, voice calls me
from afar, not from this world
but from my center coming from the mysterious presence
giving my name a deep sound, different
from the ordinary.
It now has an echo of depth
meaning, cutting through all the confusion of life.

Someone calls my name – call of love
special because it is from the Divine, Absolute.
I have a Beloved who is totally different.
When He acts, He breaks all barriers
I enter into a new world.
Darkness, mystery of my life still lay on me
but I know, I have a Beloved who calls - remembers me.



Robert Trabold

            As we end an old year and begin another new one, this can be a time of reflection on our life and that of the world with all its pluses and minuses. On one level, our life in the world is a mired of many cycles and events which swirl around us and keep on changing.  We have our private life of family and friends and our own personal development which can keep on changing with new people and events. Our children grow up and move away, friends and family members that we love die and are no longer in our presence. There is the level of our work in the world where we attempt to live out our vocation and profession in life and to earn our daily bread. The profession that we have been trained in may change and we may lose our position there. How then do we retool ourselves so that we can continue to work and support ourselves? There is the greater world which can be very complicated and bring many injustices and violence. We have a political process in which we participate but which does not always work to our benefit and that of the world.  We are disturbed by the never ending violence and wars which plague our existence. At times, we feel hopeless in trying to stop and change this. Our life on earth is a cauldron of never ending changes in which we try to keep our heads above water. This can be a discouraging process and we have to rely on friends and Jesus to help us on the way.

            There is another level of living in one sense does not change like that of the world but continues on in one direction.  This level is manifest in our daily fidelity to meditate twice for twenty minutes each time. This meditation and prayer time puts us in the path to grow in our relationship with God who becomes the anchor of our existence. Jesus does not come and go as the things in the world. This orientation of our life to the Lord is not an easy task because He is mystery and transcendent and there can be much darkness in this relation. But deep down we feel attracted to the Lord who is present to us at our center and still point. No one is so close to us as He is. In addition, we discover in our prayer and faith life that God loves us and offers to us unconditional love which we cannot find in others on earth. We are born and thrown into the universe and can be lost in this process. In our faithfulness to contemplative prayer, we discover that the Jesus is there for us and loves us and ask us to reciprocate in this friendship.

            So as the world swirls around us with it changes, our prayer life puts us in one straight path which cuts through all the confusion of life. We are no longer torn between different ways of living and wondering where it will all end up. We are walking now in a path of loving God who becomes the center of our life and gives us confidence that it will all turn out for the best in the long run. This does not mean that there will be no more suffering and setbacks in our human living. These things will always be with us as long as we live on earth. But deep down we know that our heavenly Father loves us and this is what matters in life. This is then the basis to our fidelity to the contemplative path and daily meditation because each day it nourishes our attachment to the Divine and the swirls and disappointments of our human life and those of the world cannot really hurt us.

            As we begin the New Year now, let us renew our fidelity to our meditation schedule. This is our anchor and so not to be torn by all the different cycles and swirls of our human life and of the world. These things will be always with us. But our life is on a different straight path that breaks through all these earthly cycles and puts us in a deep relationship with the Lord who ultimately leads us to a new world, eternal life. Someone loves us and will be faithful to us and our good. We put our faith here; this is our anchor during the years.