By Elizabeth Kelly
It was just one of those days. I found myself sitting at my desk, overwhelmed with work and deadlines and decisions to be made, deep concerns over loved ones seriously ill. I love my work and my life, but it was just piling so high. I needed to go walk in the desert with Jesus a while.
I got in my car and drove to a favorite adoration chapel not too far from my office. In the basement of a church, it’s always reminded me a touch of the catacombs and I thought it would be the perfect place to go hide with the Lord. I tried one door, and then another, but it was closed due to a special event. I got back in my car and made a Plan B: I would drive to a country church I knew with an adoration chapel. I hopped on the highway and prayed, “Lord, I just need to bury myself in your stillness. Let me find you in the desert!”
On the way, I had a vague recollection of another church nearby that I was sure had perpetual adoration, though I had not stepped foot in it in many years. At the last possible second, I turned off of the highway and wound through the quiet neighborhood streets looking for a steeple until I found it. I entered and realized it had been renovated and reoriented, and I couldn’t find the chapel. A church secretary told me I had to go back out around the building and enter from the street. She gave me the code to the door.
I’d barely finished punching it in before I opened the door and fell to my knees in relief. Finally, my Jesus. I felt myself beginning to disappear.
But then there was a man sitting toward the back of the chapel that kept looking at me, watching me as I settled in. I could tell, he had that “are you a sub?” question on his face. As he readied to leave, he quietly inquired.
“No, I’m not a sub,” I said, “but I will happily remain for the next hour.” He smiled and explained that the woman who usually held that hour wasn’t perfectly reliable and so he was relieved I had arrived. Once he was reassured that I knew what to do in adoration, he slipped quietly out the door and I sat there in the still and silent presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and truly wanted nothing else; no answers, no direction, not even consolation or rest. Just the desert-quiet of adoration in a tiny, hidden chapel on a Tuesday afternoon.
It was in Carlo Carretto’s lovely book, Letters from the Desert that I read, “Make some desert in your life.” And it has always stuck with me.
By this, he does not simply mean reducing activity, or even making more time for quiet, but rather he means something more. He writes:
“The men of Galilee would have gone on fishing in the lake and attending the synagogue of Capernaeum if [Jesus] hadn’t been there to say, ‘Come.’ That is the truth we must learn through faith: to wait on God. And this attitude of mind is not easy. This ‘waiting,’ this not making plans,” this ‘searching the heavens,’ this ‘being silent’ is one of the most important things we have to learn.”
All of Advent is an opportunity to practice: to sit and search the heavens and wait in silence. Lure me to your desert, O Lord, where you are waiting for me, and speak to my heart.