How can we silence ourselves and hear God’s voice?

By Sarah Grosse, Guest Column, Archbishop Chapelle High

Stillness. What is it about this concept that is so alluring yet, in a way, frightening?

In a world as busy and fast-paced as ours, is it possible for us to have valid moments of stillness in our daily lives in which we rest in the Lord? This is what my “family” and I set out to discover in the creation and development of our retreat.

At Archbishop Chapelle High School, the Catholic faith and its teachings are an integral part of our everyday learning curriculum. This is especially true for one of our most recently completed religion projects in which each “family” (a group of four or five students) collaborated on a retreat for the  class, complete with Lectio Divina, theme-centered talks, worship music and decorations. Each group decided on a theme of its choice, varying from establishing trust with the Lord to creating more Christ-centered relationships.

I believe my group chose the theme “Be Still” because it resonated deeply with each of us and the issue most teens have when trying to develop their faith. As high schoolers, we are called to be active, involved members of the community while still keeping up with our academic and domestic responsibilities.

This can be a challenge for teens whose days are filled with rigorous classes and numerous extracurriculars, as they may find they have limited time to spend with God in silent prayer and reflection.

The goal of our retreat was to call our classmates out of the hectic nature of their daily lives to remind them that God is with them, from the craziest moments to the quietest ones.

Various paths to stillness

Each of my family members and I concentrated on a different aspect of finding stillness in our lives, so that our retreat attendees would be equipped with numerous methods of how to find rest with the Lord.

Group member Colleen Crowley referenced the life of St. Therese of Lisieux, whose illness enabled her to experience God’s peace in a deeper, more intimate way. Caroline Neumeyer shared how she harnessed the power of prayer to grow closer to God, while balancing the stress of schoolwork, cheerleading, and other activities. Sydni Harrell discussed how, after the passing of her grandfather, she learned to offer her intentions and sufferings up to God, instead of turning away from him in times of trouble.

I wanted to be vulnerable with my classmates in my talk, so I decided to share part of my personal testimony, in which I was going through a period of unrest in my heart. I discussed my experience with anxiety since entering high school, and how the chaos in the minds of those who suffer with it can be seemingly impossible to control. At this moment, I turned to the cross with tears in my eyes, reminding my classmates that right in front of them was the face of love and life itself, the source of all the joy and peace we could ever experience.

I called on them to remember that in times of distress, Jesus is waiting for us in the stillness so that we can give him the burdens on our hearts, and he can instead fill us with his everlasting peace.

Along with my testimony, I served in the retreat by providing worship music during times of reflection. The Lord blessed me with the gift of musical ability, so I wanted to offer it back up to him in this moment, as well as provide my friends with an environment in which they could encounter the Lord in a real way. We chose selections such as Lauren Daigle’s “You Say,” Hillsong Young and Free’s “Highs and Lows” and Housefires’ “Build My Life.” These songs have a special place in the hearts of our classmates, and praising the Lord through song has bonded us all in an extraordinary way.

Through our hard work, my family and I were able to put on a memorable experience for our friends that hopefully refreshed both their hearts and minds.

I am forever grateful to my teacher, Katie Boyle, for assigning this project. The process of developing this retreat helped me realize how essential it is to set aside time for our Lord in stillness.

His voice does not come to us in the booming of thunder, but rather in the smallest whisper of our souls. We must humble ourselves to hear his voice even in the chaos around us, and, when we do, we can rest in the message of Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Sarah Grosse is a senior at Archbishop Chapelle High School in Metairie.

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