Friends of Silence: December 2011

Vol. XXIV, No. 11

Is there enough silence for the Word to be heard?

Warm greetings, dear friends, in this blessed season! As we journey through our lives, may we walk with awareness of our accompanying angels, knowing we may experience them in many ways. Angels may bring comfort when we are suffering, peace that calms raging inner wars, hope in times of despair. And during normal, everyday times, when nothing significant seems to be happening and we seem to be just plodding along, our angels, with their gentle humor, joy, laughter, and warm presence, can add a wonderful lightness to our lives. IF, that is, we remember to ask them for what we need! Be sure to include your angels in all your days; be open to their surprises, talk to them, ask them for any help you need, from the most mundane to the very important. You may be amazed at what happens -- and don't forget to thank them for always being there!

Angels are forms, images and expressions through which the essences and energy forces of God can be transmitted; and, since there are an infinite number of these forms, the greatest service anyone can pay the angelic host is never consciously to limit the ways angels might appear to us.

~ from ANGELS, ANGELS, EVERYWHERE by Don Gilmore

O sovereign angel,
Wide-winged stranger
above a forgetful earth,
Care for me, care for me,
Keep me unaware of danger
And not regretful
And not forgetful
of my innocent birth.

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

Angels add immensely to the opulence of existence.

~ from THE ANGELS by Robert Sardello

Living with an awareness of the companioning presence of angels . . . we come to realize angelic joy is working with us, surprising us, and reminding us that we are loved beyond measure. Limit not the myriad ways your angelic companions may knock on the door of your heart. Spending time in the Silence draws them nigh.

~ Nan Merrill, in Friends of Silence, December 2007

I stood in the back corner watching them. They resembled three veterans who had met once more on a cold day after years of separation, and had lit a fire to warm themselves. I had pricked up my ears to overhear what they said, but none of them opened his mouth. You felt the air between them was vibrating and that a string of unspoken words was being unwound from mouth to mouth. Without the slightest doubt, this was how the angels spoke in heaven. How long did their silence last—how many hours? It seemed to me time had come to a standstill, that one hour and one century were of the same length.

~ from ST. FRANCIS by Nikos Kazantzakis

Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit, for without being seen, they are present with you.

~ St. Francis de Sales

There is a medieval belief that angels want to sing to us. It makes them happy to do so. All we have to do is listen.


No one on earth could feel like this,
I'm thrown and overblown with bliss
There must be an angel
Playing with my heart.

~ from THERE MUST BE AN ANGEL by Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

~ New Testament, Hebrews 13:2

Know there are those who harken when we pray,
And succour from the realms of Light will send.
Ever at hand to guide us, or defend,
Till breaks at last the dawning of our Day.

~ Reginald Winder

If human beings knew that good and powerful beings were watching us, maybe we would stand up more erect and be more beautiful ourselves. We would be inspired to live up to our dignity.

~ Matthew Fox

It takes practice to spot angelic presences. But practice alone is not enough, unless one can practice being taken by surprise.

~ from SOUL MAKING by Alan Jones

As James Maxton cemented and grouted the seven angels, he underwent a spiritual transformation. A diabetic, coming off drugs, James suffered pain and swelling in his feet. He could only work three hours a day. Once every hour, he would limp back to his house and bathe his feet in ice. It wasn't until he completed the icons that James saw the beauty of what he had created. "I got all choked up," he says. "For me it was a spiritual awakening, just looking at them, seeing the people all around looking at the angels, too. I like to say I was reborn in that garden. It was my personal resurrection."

~ Sharon Abercrombie in "EarthLight" #49

Life is a tapestry: We are the warp; angels, the weft; God, the weaver. Only the Weaver sees the whole design.


by Eileen Elias Freeman


On Thee the Angels look and are at peace; that is why they have perfect bliss. They never can lose their blessedness, for they never can lose Thee. They have no anxiety, no misgivings—because they love the Creator.

~ from MEDITATIONS AND DEVOTIONS by John Henry Newman

We all have angels watching us . . .
What will bring their help?
Asking . . Giving thanks.

~ Sophy Burnham

To evoke angels . . . we need only to live in quiet expectation of their presence and attune ourselves to their heedings. . . . From time to time, angels conceive and bring about serendipitous experiences and events in our lives to remind us that we are continually in God's care and that we are part of a divinely ordered universe.

~ from THE MANY FACES OF ANGELS by Harvey Humann


Dear Friends of Silence:

As I sit to draft our Annual Appeal letter, I am trying to remember my first conversation with Nan. In the year 2000 I was looking for a special gift for my wife Jackie. A longtime friend of mine, who later developed the computer program for maintaining the Friends of Silence mailing list, told me about Bella Erakko, a gifted weaver and dear friend of Nan’s. Bella created a beautiful prayer shawl and also put me in touch with Nan. I called her that year, and our first conversation lasted over two hours! She rapidly became like a second mom to me, my own having died in 1971.

In our monthly phone conversations we would talk about Nan’s dreams, and mine, and we loved to share books that were deeply influencing our lives. I remember that the first book she sent my way was Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism; and if I recall correctly, the first book I sent her was the second volume of Maurice Nicoll’s Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. As you might guess, we both were seekers of inner transformation and, while rooted in the Jesus story, we both read broadly from the sacred literature of all the wisdom traditions.

As our conversations continued, Nan shared her vision for a contemplative retreat center for the FOS, a place of hospitality and welcome for those journeying on this silent path. My wife and I had moved to Rolling Ridge in 2002, a 1400 acre tract of sacred wilderness land near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where we now live with five other families in a volunteer retreat community. Nan came for a visit with Anne and Bella to explore establishing her House of Silence at Rolling Ridge. The idea did not come to fruition at that time, and a few years later Nan, Anne, and Bella, through a combination of circumstances, found the ideal house and established The Friends of Silence Center for Peace and Prayer in Hannibal, Missouri.

In the last months of Nan’s life, she became concerned about how her vision would continue. Several months before she died, Jackie and I visited Nan and a few members of the Friends of Silence board in Jericho, Vermont to discuss the possibility of moving FOS to Rolling Ridge.

Before our first meeting began in her small apartment, she handed me a colorful bundle of all the past issues of the Friends of Silence. “Here’s my baby,” she said. As my hands touched the “baby,” a jolt of energy flashed through my body, my eyes filled with tears, and in embarrassment I turned my head, not sure that I wanted any of the others to see this unexpected display of emotion that had overtaken me. Nan spoke no further words, but as I turned back to her, her gaze burned into me. It was as if I could see her life and her dream all at once, in one big bundle.

I regained my composure and we all sat down to continue our discernment about the future of the Friends of Silence. The next day, before resuming our talks, I privately went up to Nan and said, “You know what happened yesterday morning, don’t you?” “Of course I do,” she simply stated. And then, in almost a whisper, “I sent it.” Nan did not want her baby to die. She wanted to know whether I could hold her dream with reverence and tenderness, and help what she had birthed to grow up without her.

And so now Nan’s energy and her dream have taken up residence in Still Point at Rolling Ridge with me and three energetic and gifted women – Trish Stefanik, Lindsay McLaughlin, and Mary Ann Welter. To be honest, we don’t really know where Nan’s dream is taking us, but it is living and growing in us and we are trying to hold it with listening and receptive hearts. As we listen for possible new directions, we also continue to hold fast to the heart of FOS, our monthly letter, which Anne Strader continues to produce in the simple, familiar format Nan began more than 20 years ago.

We all may want to be a friend of Silence, but sometimes I am not entirely sure that Silence wants to be our “friend.” Befriending Silence should at least come with a big warning sign, because if we stretch out to take her hand, she will inevitably lead us where we do not want to go. Those who follow the path of Silence learn to embrace all that life brings them – the wanted and the unwanted, the mess and the magic – with open, abandoned, and surrendered hearts.

Nan was a friend of Silence. She knew this terrible truth about its wily ways. And so do we. Will you join with us in this journey into the unknown? We need your partnership, your prayers, and your support. I am asking for the help of each of you. We cannot care for this baby alone.

Some facts and figures are printed below for your prayerful consideration.

Your friend in Silence,

Bob Sabath
Phone: 202.531.7572

Facts and Figures

FOS letter circulation: more than 6,000
Number of Donors: less than 2,000
Cost of the letter: $28,000 per yer (printing and mailing) 

FOS Additional Needs:
$15,000 per year to keep the online FOS active and alive (see note below)
$50,000 to purchase 2 partnership shares in Still Point Mountain Retreat to establish a retreat home.

Note: We are continuing to build a web site ( where you can search through all issues of the Friends of Silence letters, get daily quotes, and have the monthly letter delivered to your email box. We hope you soon will be able to take an online class on silence. Check the website often for news of our developing retreat ministry at Still Point.

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