The Sound of Silence Songs of Praise


The Sound of Silence

Aled Jones learns the value of silence, meets a modern-day hermit and introduces some reflective hymns.


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So, are you a bit fed up of this...

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..and longing for a bit more of this?

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# The sound of silence... #

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Coming up - silence.

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We meet the broadcaster who swapped the studio for a silent retreat,

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the 21st-century hermit

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and a school assembly like you've never seen it before.

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Plus, some reflective hymns and a performance by Hayley Westenra.

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What with Songs Of Praise, Good Morning Sunday

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and the demands of having a family,

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the idea of a bit of peace and quiet, I have to say,

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is rather appealing.

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I've travelled to many places with Songs Of Praise over the years

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and one trip I particularly remember was to the Holy Land.

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The sheer tranquillity of standing beside the sea of Galilee -

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it was one of the most peaceful places I've ever been to.

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Well, our first hymn speaks of resting by Galilee

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and the calm hills above.

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That first hymn, Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind,

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was based on words taken from a poem from John Greenleaf Whittier

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who was an American Quaker.

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Quaker meetings for worship are traditionally held in silence.

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Not something you'd imagine would appeal to your average teenager

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who's more likely to be talking on a mobile phone,

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or playing loud music in their bedroom,

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but the students at Bootham's, a Quaker school in York,

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are surprisingly quiet.

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We all go into the hall and everyone goes silent.

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It's quite interesting that we manage to get silent

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so quickly when we're all so loud normally.

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It's odd, it's not a silence that is enforced by teachers.

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It's a silence that just sort of happens.

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Everyone just stays completely silent

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and there's no-one on their phones, or texting in the background,

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and no-one talking to each other or anything like that.

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We're all sitting facing each other.

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I think that's the visual symbol of sorts of how we are equal,

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how none of us is more valuable than the other.

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Even the headmaster sits facing towards the centre.

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When you're younger, you don't actually get a lot from it,

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it's something you have to do.

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You sit there and think, "OK, I can last for ten minutes,"

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and then as you get older and you have more work

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and you've more to do and life gets more stressful,

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it's sort of calming and a good opportunity for reflection really.

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You can be praying while in the silence but a lot of people

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do choose to sit and think about what is to come in the day.

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"Be aware of the spirit of God at work in ordinary activities..."

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Anybody is free to speak.

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Anybody at all from year seven to the oldest member of staff.

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If I'm moved to speak and minister then I don't know what it is,

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it's indescribable,

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but it is like something that is kind of pushing you to minister.

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"..In our sorrows as well as our joys.

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"Are you open to new light from whatever source it may come?"

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I think you're supposed to understand that there's

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God in everyone and...

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with the silence you can tap into that.

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It's not about someone telling you what to do.

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It's all about you and it's all about God and about connecting you two.

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You don't really need anyone in the middle to help you,

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you can just do it yourself through the silence.

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It's taken seven years for it to become enjoyable.

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Being young today means often things are very transient.

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Clubbing and all these things and pop culture, and everything

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sort of moves by very fast, so it's nice,

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I think it balances it nicely.

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It calms me quite a lot.

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It's a bit like meditating, where you don't think about anything

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but when you're in a room full of people who are doing the same thing,

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it feels a lot more powerful.

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Author Sara Maitland has spent the last ten years

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trying to figure out more about silence

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and what relevance it might have in the 21st-century.

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She swapped her previously busy life for a remote cottage

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in the wilds of Scotland.

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I come from a very large family. I was a vicar's wife,

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which is very noisy, I was a student in the late '60s,

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which is very noisy. And then...

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about the millennium year, oddly enough, partly because

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I turned 50, partly because my youngest child had left home,

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I was suddenly in a place where I could choose to do anything.

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And what I chose to do - and have never regretted -

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is pursue the whole question

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of silence, which had come to interest me very much.

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One thing I find in the early practice of silence is,

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it's very, very hard to do in your own house.

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I really do do a lot to keep the noise level

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in my house down - I don't have a television,

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I don't have a tumble-dryer,

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I don't have a radio, I don't have any sound on my computer,

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and also, I have a dog now, which is a big mistake!

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Dogs are anti-silence! But they are also pro-health.

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She gets me out when the weather is really bad. It's very good for me

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to have to take her for a walk.

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The silence is only for me - it's not an end in itself.

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It's only to have the opportunity for concentration on prayer.

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What Christianity has always taught

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is that it's the Holy Spirit who prays in us.

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If we are talking all the time, it is very hard

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for the Holy Spirit to get His bit in -

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that we have to somehow learn to silence ourselves enough

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to share the Holy Spirit's prayer with the Holy Spirit,

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and I think that lies behind all the methods of silent prayer.

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It's God that is doing the praying - we're just the vehicle for it.

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And if you shut up for a bit, you might enable God

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and learn more about what God's up to.

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# Silence in Heaven

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# Silence on Earth

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# Silence within

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# Thy hush, O Lord

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# O'er all the world

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# Covers the din

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# I do not fear to speak of thee

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# In mortal kind

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# And yet to all thy namelessness

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# I am not blind

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# Only I need

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# And kneel again

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# Thy

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# Touch to win

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# Silence in Heaven

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# Silence on Earth

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# Silence

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# Within. #

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Sara Maitland is living a life of silence and prayer,

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but even hermits have to leave the house sometimes.

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-Morning!

-How are you doing?

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-Not so bad - you?

-Weather all right, isn't it?

-Oh, glorious!

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'The idea is... that I only go out once a week.

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'I can't say I always achieve this, but in theory,

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'I go out on Sundays, I go to Mass

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'I do a big shop, and if I've forgotten to buy anything,

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-'I have to do without it.'

-Thank you.

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If you live in a very, very rural place,

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you become extremely community dependent

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in ways that do break silence, but are so good...

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that it's worth it.

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So, let's share with each other the sign of peace.

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The Body of Christ...

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I have a very, very lovely congregation,

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who are very supportive of what I do, and I like them very much.

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-Amen.

-May Almighty God bless you -

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the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

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-CONGREGATION:

-Amen.

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I think a lot of people think I'm not a hermit at all, actually!

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I don't do hermit things - I brush my hair

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and I have people to stay occasionally.

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I go away sometimes.

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I'm a jobbing writer, and I keep at it,

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because I have to pay the mortgage,

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like everybody else - I just happen to be able to do it in my own house.

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If you live a life that is more and more silent,

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the prayer just becomes easier to, I don't know, slip in and out of.

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The edges of prayer become more blurred - so, although

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I have these formal prayer times, I like to think at least

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that I pray more and more of the time.

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Anything that is an attempt to let God communicate with us

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is prayer.

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Personally, I practically never hear the voice of God,

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if by that one means words, either internally or externally,

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that I hear. What I DO feel in silence is the presence of God,

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the presence of that love and sustenance and power.

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But first, let's start as we mean to go on - Shania Twain kicking us off

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as we head towards a very packed show.

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In 2006, broadcaster Trish Adudu's world was shattered

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when her father died.

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Faith was always a part of my life growing up.

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My dad was a big figure - huge African,

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head of the family, really strong Catholic.

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Your father passing away, erm,

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-rocked your faith massively.

-Mmm. Yes.

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When he died suddenly - you know,

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within seven days, he was dead, of cancer -

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part of me was praying, thinking, "He's going to come through this,

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"God's always been there for us."

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And so when he went,

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something died completely within me, spiritually.

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In 2009, Trish swapped the studio for silence,

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as part of a BBC documentary series The Big Silence.

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the idea was to see, you know, what impact would silence have

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on very, very busy people.

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And so we went into this monastery, where we were sort of mentored

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by, er, monks, which was very interesting!

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And then we went into a Jesuit retreat

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for round about two weeks, and, erm,

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there was no way, going into that silence,

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did I ever think it would have an impact on me.

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Were you not desperate just to get back to your room

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-and get on the mobile phone?

-Yes.

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When I first got there, I begged Father Christopher,

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who was in charge of this experience - wonderful man -

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to take my mobile phone, because I knew the temptation

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of ringing home and saying, "Get me out of here!"

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And to be honest, it was really difficult.

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I remember one time, I was finding it so difficult

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to be silent that I went and made a little placard.

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Actually,

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being alone, I wasn't alone -

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I was with God. But for me,

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being alone was not talking to people, and it was scary.

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So, what did you do, sit in your room or...look out the window?

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I tended to go for a lot of walks.

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But as you continued in the silence,

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you had to just be still.

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I think what's sort of sad, I suppose,

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is that had my father not died,

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I probably wouldn't have had this fulfilling relationship with God,

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because grief is the one thing that forces you to stop

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in a very busy life.

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# Be still my soul...

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MUSIC PLAYS ON RADIO

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After Trish's eight-day silent retreat, she returned home

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to her normal life in the Midlands, her broadcasting career

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-and her children.

-When I came out of the monastery,

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I was brilliant - I was doing silence very day.

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And then, you know, the kids' school report, and children's pantomime...

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-Real life.

-..and Christmas and Easter, and real life...

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WIND CHIMES TINKLE

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How do you incorporate silence into your life, then?

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Well, I go to my friend's house once a week.

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There is a lot of stillness, there is a wonderful, still environment

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and a lovely garden. And so I come here and I sit with the chickens!

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And it allows me to move away from the children

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and my lovely partner Ezzy, just to be able to sit down

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and connect again, and because I'm close to nature, I feel here.

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Erm, it allows me to have that...

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SHE EXHALES

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WIND CHIMES TINKLE

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With the chimes and with the wonderful smells around -

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because it's a bit of a herbal garden as well -

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I feel as if I'm closer to God.

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Harking back to the hymn we've just heard,

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it also talks about eventually being together with the Lord.

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Do you feel, in a way, that that will come full circle

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-and it'll be you, your dad and God as well?

-Definitely.

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When my dad died, for me the relationship with God died

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because my dad introduced me to faith.

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Stillness brought me back into faith, back into God. Back into...

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..the little girl that was led down the church with my father.

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-So silence has changed your life for the better.

-Yeah, definitely.

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I've still got my flaws, I'm still mad Trish,

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I'm still running around as a mad mum,

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but I know God is with me

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and God has never actually left me,

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and that's a really, really comforting thought for me.

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# Let all mortal flesh

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# Keep silence

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# And with fear

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# And trembling stand

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# Ponder nothing

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# Earthly-minded

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# For with blessing

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# In his hand

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# Christ our God

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# To earth descendeth

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# Our full homage

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# To demand

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# King of kings

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# Yet born of Mary

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# As of old

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# On earth he stood

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# Lord of lords

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# In human vesture

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# In the body

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# And the blood

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# He will give

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# To all the faithful

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# His own self

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# For heavenly food

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# At his feet

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# The six-winged seraph

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# Cherubim

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# With sleepless eye

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# Veil their faces

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# To the presence

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# As with ceaseless voice they cry

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# Alleluia

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# Alleluia

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# Alleluia

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# Lord Most High. #

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Help us, Lord, to wait in silence.

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To hear that still, small voice above the busyness of our lives.

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Help us, Lord, to find the time for reflection and contemplation,

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to be still and know that you are God.

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Amen.

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Silence isn't something I've thought much about before.

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You know, in everyday life it's something you only encounter

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in libraries, courtrooms and maybe memorial services,

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but taking time to be silent seems to be about much more

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than just having a bit of a breather in an otherwise busy world.

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It allows a deeper connection to the divine,

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to that mysterious God whose splendour we can only imagine.

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Next week it's full steam ahead for Diane as she heads to Portsmouth,

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the UK's only island city.

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She meets the novice sailors on board the tall ship Fit For A Queen,

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gets to grips with some interesting sea creatures

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and there's magnificent hymn-singing from St Mary's Church.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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Aled Jones discovers the value of silence, meets a modern-day hermit and introduces some reflective hymns.


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