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...
..and longing for a bit more of this?
# The sound of silence... #
Coming up - silence.
We meet the broadcaster who swapped the studio for a silent retreat,
the 21st-century hermit
and a school assembly like you've never seen it before.
Plus, some reflective hymns and a performance by Hayley Westenra.
What with Songs Of Praise, Good Morning Sunday
and the demands of having a family,
the idea of a bit of peace and quiet, I have to say,
is rather appealing.
I've travelled to many places with Songs Of Praise over the years
and one trip I particularly remember was to the Holy Land.
The sheer tranquillity of standing beside the sea of Galilee -
it was one of the most peaceful places I've ever been to.
Well, our first hymn speaks of resting by Galilee
and the calm hills above.
That first hymn, Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind,
was based on words taken from a poem from John Greenleaf Whittier
who was an American Quaker.
Quaker meetings for worship are traditionally held in silence.
Not something you'd imagine would appeal to your average teenager
who's more likely to be talking on a mobile phone,
or playing loud music in their bedroom,
but the students at Bootham's, a Quaker school in York,
are surprisingly quiet.
We all go into the hall and everyone goes silent.
It's quite interesting that we manage to get silent
so quickly when we're all so loud normally.
It's odd, it's not a silence that is enforced by teachers.
It's a silence that just sort of happens.
Everyone just stays completely silent
and there's no-one on their phones, or texting in the background,
and no-one talking to each other or anything like that.
We're all sitting facing each other.
I think that's the visual symbol of sorts of how we are equal,
how none of us is more valuable than the other.
Even the headmaster sits facing towards the centre.
When you're younger, you don't actually get a lot from it,
it's something you have to do.
You sit there and think, "OK, I can last for ten minutes,"
and then as you get older and you have more work
and you've more to do and life gets more stressful,
it's sort of calming and a good opportunity for reflection really.
You can be praying while in the silence but a lot of people
do choose to sit and think about what is to come in the day.
"Be aware of the spirit of God at work in ordinary activities..."
Anybody is free to speak.
Anybody at all from year seven to the oldest member of staff.
If I'm moved to speak and minister then I don't know what it is,
but it is like something that is kind of pushing you to minister.
"..In our sorrows as well as our joys.
"Are you open to new light from whatever source it may come?"
I think you're supposed to understand that there's
God in everyone and...
with the silence you can tap into that.
It's not about someone telling you what to do.
It's all about you and it's all about God and about connecting you two.
You don't really need anyone in the middle to help you,
you can just do it yourself through the silence.
It's taken seven years for it to become enjoyable.
Being young today means often things are very transient.
Clubbing and all these things and pop culture, and everything
sort of moves by very fast, so it's nice,
I think it balances it nicely.
It calms me quite a lot.
It's a bit like meditating, where you don't think about anything
but when you're in a room full of people who are doing the same thing,
it feels a lot more powerful.
Author Sara Maitland has spent the last ten years
trying to figure out more about silence
and what relevance it might have in the 21st-century.
She swapped her previously busy life for a remote cottage
in the wilds of Scotland.
I come from a very large family. I was a vicar's wife,
which is very noisy, I was a student in the late '60s,
which is very noisy. And then...
about the millennium year, oddly enough, partly because
I turned 50, partly because my youngest child had left home,
I was suddenly in a place where I could choose to do anything.
And what I chose to do - and have never regretted -
is pursue the whole question
of silence, which had come to interest me very much.
One thing I find in the early practice of silence is,
it's very, very hard to do in your own house.
I really do do a lot to keep the noise level
in my house down - I don't have a television,
I don't have a tumble-dryer,
I don't have a radio, I don't have any sound on my computer,
and also, I have a dog now, which is a big mistake!
Dogs are anti-silence! But they are also pro-health.
She gets me out when the weather is really bad. It's very good for me
to have to take her for a walk.
The silence is only for me - it's not an end in itself.
It's only to have the opportunity for concentration on prayer.
What Christianity has always taught
is that it's the Holy Spirit who prays in us.
If we are talking all the time, it is very hard
for the Holy Spirit to get His bit in -
that we have to somehow learn to silence ourselves enough
to share the Holy Spirit's prayer with the Holy Spirit,
and I think that lies behind all the methods of silent prayer.
It's God that is doing the praying - we're just the vehicle for it.
And if you shut up for a bit, you might enable God
and learn more about what God's up to.
# Silence in Heaven
# Silence on Earth
# Silence within
# Thy hush, O Lord
# O'er all the world
# Covers the din
# I do not fear to speak of thee
# In mortal kind
# And yet to all thy namelessness
# I am not blind
# Only I need
# And kneel again
# Touch to win
# Silence in Heaven
# Silence on Earth
# Within. #
Sara Maitland is living a life of silence and prayer,
but even hermits have to leave the house sometimes.
-How are you doing?
-Not so bad - you?
-Weather all right, isn't it?
'The idea is... that I only go out once a week.
'I can't say I always achieve this, but in theory,
'I go out on Sundays, I go to Mass
'I do a big shop, and if I've forgotten to buy anything,
-'I have to do without it.'
If you live in a very, very rural place,
you become extremely community dependent
in ways that do break silence, but are so good...
that it's worth it.
So, let's share with each other the sign of peace.
The Body of Christ...
I have a very, very lovely congregation,
who are very supportive of what I do, and I like them very much.
-May Almighty God bless you -
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
I think a lot of people think I'm not a hermit at all, actually!
I don't do hermit things - I brush my hair
and I have people to stay occasionally.
I go away sometimes.
I'm a jobbing writer, and I keep at it,
because I have to pay the mortgage,
like everybody else - I just happen to be able to do it in my own house.
If you live a life that is more and more silent,
the prayer just becomes easier to, I don't know, slip in and out of.
The edges of prayer become more blurred - so, although
I have these formal prayer times, I like to think at least
that I pray more and more of the time.
Anything that is an attempt to let God communicate with us
Personally, I practically never hear the voice of God,
if by that one means words, either internally or externally,
that I hear. What I DO feel in silence is the presence of God,
the presence of that love and sustenance and power.
But first, let's start as we mean to go on - Shania Twain kicking us off
as we head towards a very packed show.
In 2006, broadcaster Trish Adudu's world was shattered
when her father died.
Faith was always a part of my life growing up.
My dad was a big figure - huge African,
head of the family, really strong Catholic.
Your father passing away, erm,
-rocked your faith massively.
When he died suddenly - you know,
within seven days, he was dead, of cancer -
part of me was praying, thinking, "He's going to come through this,
"God's always been there for us."
And so when he went,
something died completely within me, spiritually.
In 2009, Trish swapped the studio for silence,
as part of a BBC documentary series The Big Silence.
the idea was to see, you know, what impact would silence have
on very, very busy people.
And so we went into this monastery, where we were sort of mentored
by, er, monks, which was very interesting!
And then we went into a Jesuit retreat
for round about two weeks, and, erm,
there was no way, going into that silence,
did I ever think it would have an impact on me.
Were you not desperate just to get back to your room
-and get on the mobile phone?
When I first got there, I begged Father Christopher,
who was in charge of this experience - wonderful man -
to take my mobile phone, because I knew the temptation
of ringing home and saying, "Get me out of here!"
And to be honest, it was really difficult.
I remember one time, I was finding it so difficult
to be silent that I went and made a little placard.
being alone, I wasn't alone -
I was with God. But for me,
being alone was not talking to people, and it was scary.
So, what did you do, sit in your room or...look out the window?
I tended to go for a lot of walks.
But as you continued in the silence,
you had to just be still.
I think what's sort of sad, I suppose,
is that had my father not died,
I probably wouldn't have had this fulfilling relationship with God,
because grief is the one thing that forces you to stop
in a very busy life.
# Be still my soul...
MUSIC PLAYS ON RADIO
After Trish's eight-day silent retreat, she returned home
to her normal life in the Midlands, her broadcasting career
-and her children.
-When I came out of the monastery,
I was brilliant - I was doing silence very day.
And then, you know, the kids' school report, and children's pantomime...
-..and Christmas and Easter, and real life...
WIND CHIMES TINKLE
How do you incorporate silence into your life, then?
Well, I go to my friend's house once a week.
There is a lot of stillness, there is a wonderful, still environment
and a lovely garden. And so I come here and I sit with the chickens!
And it allows me to move away from the children
and my lovely partner Ezzy, just to be able to sit down
and connect again, and because I'm close to nature, I feel here.
Erm, it allows me to have that...
WIND CHIMES TINKLE
With the chimes and with the wonderful smells around -
because it's a bit of a herbal garden as well -
I feel as if I'm closer to God.
Harking back to the hymn we've just heard,
it also talks about eventually being together with the Lord.
Do you feel, in a way, that that will come full circle
-and it'll be you, your dad and God as well?
When my dad died, for me the relationship with God died
because my dad introduced me to faith.
Stillness brought me back into faith, back into God. Back into...
..the little girl that was led down the church with my father.
-So silence has changed your life for the better.
I've still got my flaws, I'm still mad Trish,
I'm still running around as a mad mum,
but I know God is with me
and God has never actually left me,
and that's a really, really comforting thought for me.
# Let all mortal flesh
# Keep silence
# And with fear
# And trembling stand
# Ponder nothing
# For with blessing
# In his hand
# Christ our God
# To earth descendeth
# Our full homage
# To demand
# King of kings
# Yet born of Mary
# As of old
# On earth he stood
# Lord of lords
# In human vesture
# In the body
# And the blood
# He will give
# To all the faithful
# His own self
# For heavenly food
# At his feet
# The six-winged seraph
# With sleepless eye
# Veil their faces
# To the presence
# As with ceaseless voice they cry
# Lord Most High. #
Help us, Lord, to wait in silence.
To hear that still, small voice above the busyness of our lives.
Help us, Lord, to find the time for reflection and contemplation,
to be still and know that you are God.
Silence isn't something I've thought much about before.
You know, in everyday life it's something you only encounter
in libraries, courtrooms and maybe memorial services,
but taking time to be silent seems to be about much more
than just having a bit of a breather in an otherwise busy world.
It allows a deeper connection to the divine,
to that mysterious God whose splendour we can only imagine.
Next week it's full steam ahead for Diane as she heads to Portsmouth,
the UK's only island city.
She meets the novice sailors on board the tall ship Fit For A Queen,
gets to grips with some interesting sea creatures
and there's magnificent hymn-singing from St Mary's Church.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Aled Jones discovers the value of silence, meets a modern-day hermit and introduces some reflective hymns.