Last Wednesday I was in Edinburgh to visit the Scottish Parliament. I had been invited by the Presiding Officer (prompted, I am sure, by our own MSP, Pauline McNeill) to give the Time for Reflection at the Parliament. Time for Reflection is the Scottish Parliament’s weekly spiritual moment which, according to the guidelines, should consist of either a short narrative relating to personal experience or current affairs and/or prayers/readings from appropriate texts and which should normally reflect the practice of the faith community to which the time for reflection leader belongs (if any). Among those who have led the Time for Reflection are Sister Roseanne Reddy, Sister Andrea Fraile, Father John Keenan (Glasgow University chaplain) and the Papal Nuncio – so I felt I was in quite exalted company. The text of my reflection is now available on the Scottish Parliament website but, to avoid linking to it (since I don’t know if I can do that or not), here it is:
Recently, I went with a group of students for a weekend retreat at a monastery. We went there for silence and prayer, but the young people got more silence than they had bargained for, because the first thing they were asked to do on arrival was hand over their MP3 players or iPods, and their mobile phones.
Can you imagine the shock and the withdrawal symptoms this caused? –If you can’t, then just picture yourself having to give up your mobile phone or BlackBerry. While many of us say that we would be delighted to be without these things, we might also find it difficult.
We complain about the pace of life and the pressures we are forced to live under, but the truth is that some of us actually like it that way. But when the noise and the activity and the rush and the pressure stop, what is left? In the silence, what do I hear?
Once a week, this Parliament very wisely sets aside some of its valuable time as “Time for Reflection”. This is both a symbol and a challenge for you. Symbolically, it is your way of saying that you want to be a reflective body, open to the wisdom of the great religious and human traditions of the people you represent. The challenge is to live the rest of your life in the spirit of these few minutes, to make a space in your life every day for silence, listening and reflection….
I leave the last word to a philosopher, politician and extremely busy person who lived almost a thousand years ago. Saint Anselm was born in Italy, and became a monk in Normandy. Later, as Archbishop of Canterbury, he rejected the Crusades and opposed Kings who tried to limit his religious freedom. He wrote:
Come on now, little human being, step back from your activities for a while, escape from the noise of your thoughts. Lay aside your heavy responsibilities and postpone taking up the burden of your work. Give yourself over to God for a little while, and rest for a moment in God. Enter into the inner room of your mind, shut out everything except God and whatever helps you to seek Him once the door is closed. Speak now, my heart, and say to God, “I seek your face; it is your face, Lord, that I seek.” (Psalm 26)
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