Silence. SILENCE! shouts the teacher at the excited throng, Silence I say!…OK, hands on heads…If this chatter doesn’t stop, you’ll all be kept in after school.

That was the dreaded class discipline in my first school. Being quiet was a punishment for talking, laughing, chatting. A punishment for being a full of energy child with not enough to do. Of course we found every opportunity to defy teacher, crawling under the desks after imaginary dropped pencils and the like.

We have an introductory retreat going on this week-end which I’m helping with. We make announcements: Please maintain a contemplative atmosphere? Please keep talking to a minimum? Please maintain silence from now until after morning service? Since strictly enforced silence only leads to furtive chats in corridors and whispering in corners we ask for peoples cooperation and generally that works, but not completely. After all it’s not easy, at first, to be around others and not talk to them, for a whole week-end.

I sat down beside a chap this morning, he appeared a bit stressed. How’s it going? Uwrrr, this not talking is getting to me, can’t handle it. Sitting eating breakfast and not talking, I feel like I am the last person on earth! By the last meal of the day he had turned a major corner on eating in silence. Good for him for persevering*.

Persevere: Quietly and steadily persevering especially in detail or exactness.

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