We have the studio at the Global Learning Center, and we’ve been starting to shoot some videos and some production. One of the late nights after we were done shooting, I came to the stairwell, which is on the side of the building. That stairwell is called the “area of refuge.” There’s a marking there that says: “Area of Refuge.”
From the time I got here, I thought that was really neat; but, when you walk into the stairwell, there’s nothing there. It’s a white stairwell, totally clean and empty. I had my ukulele with me from the show. As I was walking down, I heard the sound of the strings. It started resonating through the stairway. I thought, “Wow, the acoustics in here are amazing!” I started playing and singing, and the sound was just reverberating.
All of a sudden, I heard the door open at the top of the stairs. I quit playing and was a little embarrassed. Fred came walking down, and he said, “What were you playing? Play that again.” So, I started playing, and Fred started singing and harmonizing with me. Then I heard the bottom stairway doors open and, Gabriel, his younger brother, came running up the stairs, and he joined in. Before you knew it, there were three voices radiating in that stairwell. It was a really awesome experience.
Gabe said, “Man, that was the highlight of my day.” I thought, “For me, too. That was an awesome experience.” It was such a providential moment. It happened because I went to an area of refuge. I went to a place that was quiet and lonely.
We hear in the responsorial psalm today, “The Lord is my light and my salvation. The Lord is my refuge.” He’s the place that we go to. Sometimes we think that when we go to the Lord we feel alone because to hear his voice we need to go to solitude.
Our first experience of solitude is often aloneness. I think that’s why we’re afraid of quiet and silence – because we feel alone. But if we stay there, if we stay in the place of refuge, if we stay with Christ, we’re going to be joined not only by Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the Father but the entire communion of saints.
Just as Fred and his brother helped join in the singing, and we heard the voices together, when we pray in solitude, when we go to Christ as our refuge, we’re never alone. He actually has us experience the presence of the whole communion of saints and angels.
We hear that in the first reading. God takes Abram to himself to a quiet place. It’s dark outside, and he says, “Look up at the sky.” He sees all the stars, and he says, “Just so will your ancestors be.” We’re going to have all these people with us – the communion of saints. We hear this in the gospel, too. Peter takes the disciples up to the mountain.
They’re at first alone, and they are bored, so they fall asleep. They’re tired, so they fall asleep. Meanwhile, Jesus is having this amazing experience of union with Elijah and Moses. The disciples wake up, and they are surrounded by this cloud. Then they hear the voice of God, “This is my beloved son. Listen to him.”
Lent is a time for us to go to places of refuge. Places of refuge sometimes seem lonely and sometimes seem isolating, but we need to go to those places so that we can hear his voice. When you do spend time in silence and solitude, he will speak to you. But often it takes us taking that step into the place of refuge – into the silence.
So, I invite you to do that this Lent. Lent is supposed to be a time of retreat for us. We’re supposed to make three resolutions: to increase our prayer, to fast, and to almsgive. I know we’re all doing Pray40 Days here, right? We’re all increasing our prayer, giving things up and almsgiving as well.
I invite you to really allow this to be a time of retreat and to take refuge in the Lord. Life is difficult sometimes, and the waves crash against us. Life can seem to fall apart. But if we go to him, and take refuge in him, we’ll be astounded. Not only will we experience his presence, but we’ll be surrounded by the communion of saints, all those that have gone before us.
Today is the feast of St. Patrick. I think the prayer to St. Patrick is so beautiful because it talks about this experience. I want to end with a brief meditation on the prayer of St. Patrick keeping in mind that the Lord is your refuge. He’s your place to go to where you will discover his presence.
The first verse says, “Christ be with me.” No matter what you’re going through, you’re inviting Christ to be with you. “Christ before me.” So anything that you do, anything that’s ahead of you, he’s before you. “Christ be behind me.” He’s got your back. He’s right behind you. “Christ within me.” He’s inside you. “Christ beneath me. Christ above me. Christ on my right. Christ on my left. Christ where I lie. Christ where I sit. Christ where I arise.”
So he’s everywhere. He’s constantly with you. Even in the busyness of life, we can find our refuge in him. This is the beautiful part, though. He’s not only within us, he’s within every other heart and every other person that we encounter. “Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me. Christ in the eye of everyone who sees me. Christ in the ear that hears me.”
Any time anybody sees you, or hears you, or listens to you, or is let into a place in your heart, that’s an experience of Christ. That is an experience of the communion of saints in the midst of our world. Finally, “Salvation is of the Lord, salvation is of the Christ. May your salvation, oh Lord, be ever with us.”
I invite you this Lent to take the time to enter into his refuge, to go and experience solitude, to experience the desert, to experience just being alone so you can experience this profound reality of Christ within you and around you.