From the Director

Shem Center For Interfaith Spirituality

Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality
Joseph Kilikevice, Founding Director
Steven G. Miller, Assistant Director



From Shem Center’s Director,

Silence is a spiritual practice embraced by Shem Center that is included in our events. At times it is a period of meditation of some length, other times it is a pause after someone speaks in a small group sharing session before another takes a turn. It may be the stillness after a Dance of Universal Peace that invites the assembled group to allow the energy created by the dance to arrive — a blessing to notice and appreciate. I have brought this practice into our annual concerts of classical music, inviting the audience to pause after a performance to savor the beauty of the music before applauding to show appreciation.

There is a time to speak and a time to remain silent, just as there is a time to work and a time to rest. There is a time to be still and a time to plan needed action to help transform the world. There is a time to reflect and a time to engage in justice making. This is counter to a world saturated with the noise of our mechanized world… loud music, shouting and the fast paced life that accompanies it. Listening — careful listening is required to hear the wisdom of the wise ones among us, including the elderly and the children, to be able to tell the difference between truth and lies. It takes silence to hear the cry of the poor, the plight of refugees throughout the world, and the struggle of the natural world for survival.

At times there are no words to express our support and love for those who are suffering. Instead we can only be silently present rather than offer advice that may intrude. Uncomfortable with feeling helpless, we may find ourselves searching for ways to fix things that cannot be fixed. Blessed are our friends who choose to remain, helpless with us when we are helpless.

Discerning when to act is a spiritual practice that responds to injustice and to what is clearly wrong. Naming as “political” what we may choose to say or do is a way to silence us when we speak out about what is wrong. Disrespect and abuse, lies and cruelty have become common behavior that calls for the words that express basic human values that speak for the vulnerable and the hurting. Today, words are needed to speak about the need for environmental justice, and the alarming natural disasters that so threaten us today. The floods and intense heat that threatens life on our planet call for words of protest against policies and choices that cause them. News of Putin’s war in Ukraine is filled with accounts of the torture, sexual abuse, the deaths of women and children as well as the destruction of buildings, historic sites and infrastructure. Yet The news media remains all too preoccupied with the crimes of Trump and his supporters, often replacing other important news that calls for our words of protest against a multitude of crimes that call for our response.

Our words are of value to the extent that they contain the wisdom that comes through a silence that invites reflection on matters of the common good. Seeking out responsible, trustworthy voices belongs within a silence that ultimately summons us to listen, to speak, and to act.

Br. Joseph Kilikevice, OP
Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality

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Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality
708 North Harvey Avenue
Oak Park, IL 60302

(708) 848-1095

Photo Credits: Emory Mead, Stephen B. Starr, Joseph Kilikevice

The Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality website is awarded a 2022 American Digital Design Award for excellence in design and user experience.

2022 American Digital Design Awards