Monday, November 2, 2015


Mary, Queen of the Heavens
Robert Trabold
Simple chapel,
simple church
silence of the chapel
touches me.
Mary does not say
anything. Lets
us know she is
there – silent – listening.
I came a long way to
make this trip – pilgrimage.
Ride – long – tiring
 I made it.
I want to thank Mary
for being here.  She knows
all my problems
problems of the world.
Silence is here
language of God.
Mary learned it
 covers me with it.
I sit in the chapel
a pilgrim who travelled
long distance to touch
the Divine – the Beloved.
Mary assures me
trip was not in vain.
Jesus – Mary are
listening – touch me with silence.




Robert Trabold



            During the last month of September, I had the opportunity to make a two week pilgrimage to Québec, Canada and I visited beautiful shrines on the shores of the St. Lawrence River.  I made this pilgrimage by myself and considered it a trip of silence and meditation.  I did not go in a group so that I would have much time to make such a contemplative trip. I first went to Québec City where I visited the shrine of St. Mary of the Incarnation. She lived there in the early years of the French colony and was a great mystic.  She had a deep experience of the presence of God at her center and still point and wrote beautifully about this in her letters. She is called the Theresa of Avila of North America. I then went to the beautiful basilica of St. Ann of Beaupré on the outskirts of the city and situated on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. It is a famous pilgrimage church in Québec and many pilgrims go there especially for physical healings. I then drove to Trois Rivières and visited the shrine of Our Lady of the Cape. It is also a beautiful church situated on the banks of the St. Lawrence River and commemorates the apparition of the Virgin to the people there in the 19th century. I continued on to the city of Montréal and visited three places. I went to the shrine of St. Brother André who lived in the 20th century and had a profound influence on the people of that city due to his sanctity and healings.The latter continue to this day. I also visited the shrine of Saint Padre Pio and the church of Our Lady, Queen of the Heavens.


            During these two weeks of visiting these churches, I was in silence and meditating. I knew few people in Canada so I could focus on the visit to these holy places. The beauty of the shrines and they being dedicated to very holy people reinforced the sense of silence in my prayer. I was in a special place and made great efforts to drive long distances to visit there. This added to the experience of meditation and silence.  There was an encounter with Jesus and the saints which I felt very intensely. This immersion in silence and meditation for two weeks can make us feel a bit uncomfortable. In our modern life in the big cities, we are not accustomed to much quiet since noise is all around us with many people, television, our activities, cell phones, etc. Silence seems to be out of place and a mysterious thing. But being immersed in silence and meditation for two weeks highlighted the meaning of contemplative prayer.  This quiet is not really empty but is the place of a deep encounter with the divine, the Lord, Our Beloved. We meet someone and out of the nothingness of silence, we have an encounter of love with the ground of our being and around whom we rotate our whole life. Our life has a meaning and depth that no one else can give to us. We no longer have a feeling of the emptiness of life but have it filled with a personal reality who wants us to love in return.


            Coming home then to New York City where I live, I feel that I had a deep contemplative experience enriched by the visit to beautiful shrines and basilicas in a lovely part of the world, Québec and on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. Hopefully this rich experience of prayer and silence will help me be faithful to the practice of contemplation twice a day, each time for 20 minutes. It will help me be preserving in the contemplative path when there are times of dryness and distraction. I can look a back to the deep experience of prayer in this pilgrimage encouraging me to continue on and not give up.






Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Contemplative Life Style


Robert Trabold

Life can be a rollercoaster.
so many things to do
decisions to be made
some successful, other not.

Recent weeks have been a
rollercoaster. Work outside
work inside – upstairs – downstairs
list gets longer – not shorter.

I feel the pressure lays
on my body. Feel my nerves
frayed – high pitch.
I cannot turn off the radio.

Came to the seashore
looked for calm – beauty
fresh air- breeze – dunes
sand – quiet.

I talk to Jesus – put the
load on Him.  He will he[p
me carry all of this – help me
make the right decisions.

I cannot ask for too much
clarity in life. There are
 burdens.  I have to be calm
try my best – hope in Jesus.

Like the ocean in front of me
vast – incomprehensible
so is life.  Comes in waves – some
knock me down –others no.

Let me be calm
take Jesus’ hand. Walk
with Him.  He will get me
through the storms.



Robert Trabold

            Since I am in now a stage of semi-retirement, space has opened up for me to build a more contemplative dimension into my life. I have had this element for many years becoming pronounced in my college years. Now however, with my schedule opening up and my time not so constricted by a work routine, I have attempted to build time and activities to allow me to enter more deeply into contemplative prayer. This new freedom has allowed me to meditate twice a day for twenty minutes each time. I have created a small corner of the house with a statue and pictures which give me a sense of peace to enter into a spirit of prayer. I play soft mystical music in the background helping me calm down. I have a large garden connected with my house and in the warm season, I meditate there. The quiet and beauty of the flowers help me focus on the presence of God within me. Luckily, I live not far away from the seashore at Jones Beach and I go there once or twice a week immersing myself in the silence and beauty of the ocean side allowing me to experience the presence of God. Important also is spiritual reading.  I try to keep my eyes open for good books on spirituality and contemplative prayer helping me understand better the dynamics of prayer and the intimacy to which God calls me and motivating me to be faithful with the spiritual routine despite the periods of dryness that inevitably come.

            I am active in the John Main Meditation Movement giving me opportunities to pray with others in group sessions and share with them. This is very encouraging because prayer has times of dryness and we wonder where we are going – back or forward. Being with these movement people allows me to discuss contemplative spirituality and this sharing is an enriching experience. It deepens my understanding of the spiritual journey we are on. I write contemplative poetry and articles on spirituality. I have done extensive reading in mystical prayer and the writing of articles on this topic allows me to share this knowledge with the people who read the spiritual magazines and newsletters that print my material. The writing of contemplative poetry helps me deepen my grasp of the prayer experience. Since much of my poetry is deals with the experience of the presence of the divine within me and in my encounter with it in nature, such as the garden and the seashore, the process of writing the poems helps me grasp better the encounter that I have with the Lord. I try to put into words, images, symbols, etc, the closeness and intimacy I feel in prayer.

            Our contemplative prayer life should also encourage us to express itself in service to the people around us. For a good deal of my life, I have been a social activist participating in various social movements. I live in New York City and am the head of a local neighborhood organization which I founded to control overdevelopment and so keep the quality of life we would like to have. For many years, I have been active in various peace movements working to resolve and end wars around the globe and particularly right now in the Middle East. These activities are supportive because our contemporary world has many social and economic problems and at times, one feels like giving up. The whole world looks hopeless. At this point, I feel my contemplative prayer is very helpful; I get the strength and commitment to continue to be of service to the world and people in these social movements. God gives us the strength not to give up and to work for the greater justice and peace that Jesus promises to give us.

            Another dimension of my contemplative apostolate is the reading of my poetry at various events where poets are invited to present their writings. At times, I feel self conscious because not many people write for and read contemplative poetry to a secular audience. I have found to my surprise the audience does respond positively to my writing perhaps encouraging them to grow in their quest for God. One good sign is that the literary journals of these local groups publish my poetry. Hopefully then, the people who read these journals will be touched by my writings.

            In conclusion, we contemplatives are on an inward journey to encounter God at our center and still point. I try to develop a discipline of silence in my life so as to find space for and grow in contemplative prayer. I am hopeful that it will give me the strength and perseverance to continue to be active in various social movements giving our world more justice and peace.




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.