Judith Valente: Silence, St. Benedict, and Writing (Episode 39)

Judith Valente is a poet, a journalist, a Benedictine oblate, and the author of books including Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home, and a Living Faith and How to Live: What the Rule of Saint Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community. Her books of poetry include Discovering Moons and The Art of Pausing: Meditations for the Overworked and Overwhelmed which she co-authored with Br. Paul Quenon OCSO and Michael Bever.

Silence has two sides to it… silence could be very burdensome… so silence also has to be balanced with community. Too much silence can be deafening, it can be stifling to a soul. — Judith Valente

Judith shares how a poetry workshop at a monastery led her to a meaningful encounter with silence at midlife — how a room “saturated with silence” introduced her to a maxim from St. Benedict: “At all times, cultivate silence” — thus inviting her to seek rest in solitude and stillness as a response to her busy (and exhausting) life.

All poems begin in silence, and the poems themselves are a part of the overall silence that we experience. — Judith Valente

She talks about her ancestral ties to Monte Cassino (where St. Benedict founded his last monastery), and how Benedictine spirituality helped to inspire her and her husband to become involved in organic farming. She goes on to reflect how nature, beauty, and poetry are all linked to her spiritual life. She tells some chaarming stories about her fellow poet, the Trappist monk Br. Paul Quenon (who Cassidy Hall interviewed for our episode 32), and about the bullfrogs and cicadas who “sing” to her in the silence of a cabin on her farm, where she often goes to write.

Our conversation meanders over the problems associated with social media, poets that Judith loves and a special reading of her poems, “Discovering Moons” and “Lunar Eclipse.”

Contemplation is a big fat word for gratitude. — Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO

Some of the authors and resources mentioned in this episode:

Poetry is for everyone… Poetry is truly a ‘soul friend.’ Poems will come back to us when we need to hear their message. They will come back to us at different points in our lives, poems that we’ve read, poems that we’ve heard; they are our soul friends.  — Judith Valente

Episode 39: Silence, St. Benedict and Writing: A Conversation with Judith Valente
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Cassidy Hall, Carl McColman
Guest: Judith Valente
Date Recorded: October 15, 2018

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Carl McColman
Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for the silence. I do have my silent place here on the farm but I needed the community of silence today. It was good to be among you truth tellers, you journalists, you who treasure the importance of words but can give them up for a little while to become refreshed, recharged, re- beautified.
    I was NOT going to listen to the president this morning. I knew my heart would break listening to the rape of our humanity once again. i do not use that word “rape” lightly. I understand it’s full meaning. That is why I came here to hear the silence and to get pointed in the right direction when it was time to leave.
    Before I go – thank you from the bottom of my heart for being journalists and writers, for crafting words in the labor of rebirth.

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