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On vacation with God

Quiet time provides a wondrous opportunity to be with God

I spent a few days in sunny Florida at the end of January. It was a welcome respite from some of the bitter cold and snow we had been experiencing in mid-Michigan earlier that month. My last night there, I happened to be at one of the outdoor fireworks shows produced by the folks at Disney. Waiting for the show, I struck up a conversation with the couple seated behind me. It turned out that they also happened to be from Michigan. After comparing notes on the weather, length of stay, and the joys of Florida, the conversation eventually worked its way to that inevitable question, “So what sort of work do you do?”  They were interested to discover that I am a priest and pastor. The wife then asked if I was traveling alone. I answered, “Yes,” and was greeted with her quizzical look. Her husband, a health-care professional, came to the rescue, noting that, because so much of my life as a priest is spent surrounded by people, it made sense to him that I should vacation alone.

Alone. No ringing phone. No appointments to keep. No phone messages to return. No meetings. What a gift from God. Not only does a little alone-time provide the opportunity to recharge one’s physical, mental and spiritual batteries, it also provides a wondrous opportunity to be still and quiet in God’s presence. I look forward to that quiet time each week on my day off and enjoy larger doses every now and again on vacation. Quiet time provides an opportunity to be with God, not so much to speak, but simply to listen, to be sensitive to God’s gentle proddings in my heart. My weekly experience of quiet is the start of my preparation to break open God’s word in a gestating homily for the coming weekend, and a fitting end to the week just concluded.

Fr. Richard Kropf, a priest of our diocese, has lived as a hermit in the woods of northern lower Michigan since 1981. He has both the courage and the inner disposition to live in solitude, alone with God. There, in prayer and study, he continues to learn from God in powerful ways, following a little-known and sometimes misunderstood way of life that has enriched Christianity since its very beginning. Being a hermit has provided him with a rich life and unanticipated ways to grow  closer to God.

The season of Lent, which seems so quickly concluded this year, is not unlike the solitude in which Fr. Kropf lives. We go to a place that is quiet, simple, less cluttered, less distracting. We spend less time speaking to God and more time listening. We grow, we change, we emerge as different people. It is Easter and our time of quiet has passed. We fill the air with exultant alleluias. Our appreciation for new life has deepened after a time of solitude with God. And so our journey in FAITH continues.