The Hospitality of Silence – by Kevin Driedger

Silence is a core practice, a core value, a core gift of The Hermitage. Silence welcomes us no matter our rank or status, no matter our theological or political preferences. Silence enfolds and embraces us no matter our desires or fears. But silence does not force itself upon us. Silence is there to be received, or not. It is ready to engage us in deep attentiveness, or just passing exploration. 

The experience of silence draws many people to our retreat center, although not without trepidation for some. Our desire is that the silence of this place will be received as a welcoming space that receives each guest 

When we introduce new retreatants to the Hermitage there are two things I try to mention: “We offer each other the gift of silence” and “We practice a gentle silence.” 

We recognize that each retreatant is here to do their own work and be attentive to their relationship with God. We honor this by not intruding on their space with noise or conversation.

When I greet guests who seem particularly anxious about the silence I offer the statement about the gentle silence. The silence at the Hermitage is not strident and absolute; it is not to be a source of fear. If you have a question, please ask it. If you have an insight needing to be shared, please share it. 

One of our characteristic practices at is eating meals in silence. For people new to silence this particular experience of silence in community causes some people anxiety. Silence alone in your room is one thing, silence at a meal table, with a group of people is shockingly counter-cultural. And yet, once that initial unsettling settles down, the silence of communal meals can also be received as an expression of deep hospitality. In it, we all receive the other guests as they are without social expectations or demands.

Silence welcomes us into a relationship with God free from noisy distractions. And in this silence we are open to turn the ear of our heart to listen to our welcoming God.