The Need for Silence in our busy life

In the hectic business of His public ministry we are told that Jesus “got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed”. He did so to be in communion with His heavenly Father and also to teach us that it is by silence and prayer that we enter into communion with God.

Today we live busy lives in the midst of a very noisy world. We are busy with work and with managing the responsibilities of family life (so that at times, like Jesus, it can seem like ‹‹Everyone is searching for us›› while at the same time we are bombarded with noise and information. How can we hear God and how does He speak to us today? This is the topic of a book written in 2016 by Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, aptly entitled, The Strength of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. In an interview on the subject of his book he had this to say:

God’s first language is silence.” In commenting on this beautiful, rich insight of Saint John of the Cross, Thomas Keating, in his work Invitation to Love, writes: “Everything else is a poor translation. In order to understand this language, we must learn to be silent and to rest in God.

I think that we are the victims of the superficiality, selfishness and worldly spirit that are spread by our media driven society. We get lost in struggles for influence, in conflicts between persons, in a narcissistic, vain activism. We swell with pride and pretention, prisoners of a will to power… But all that passes away like smoke… without {silence}, we are in illusion. The only reality that deserves our attention is God Himself, and God is silent. He waits for our silence to reveal Himself. Regaining the sense of silence is therefore a priority, an urgent necessity.

If God’s first language is silence and if ‹‹this divine silence dwells within a human being›› then it follows that we must follow Jesus example to remove ourselves from the business, distraction, and noise so as to enter the silence that leads us into peaceful communion with God.

God in His great humility is not one who shouts at us but rather who speaks to us softly and, the Cardinal explains that the Devil does not want us to hear Him in order to keep us restless, confused, and distracted from His presence in our lives. He explains:

God is silence, and the devil is noisy. From the beginning, Satan has sought to mask his lies beneath a deceptive, resonant agitation. The Christian owes it to himself not to be of the world. It is up to him to turn away from the noises of the world, from its rumours that run headlong in order to turn better toward what is essential: God. Our busy, ultra technological age has made us even sicker. Noise has become like a drug on which our contemporaries are dependent. With its festive appearance, noise is a whirlwind that avoids looking oneself in the face and confronting the interior emptiness. It is a diabolical lie. The awakening can only be brutal. I am not afraid to call on all people of good will to enlist in a form of resistance. What will become of our world if it cannot find oases of silence? Silence then is a form of resistance to the confusion that surrounds us which grounds us in the reality of God and who we truly are.

Sometimes we may struggle with praying in the midst of this noise. We often tend to fall into two potholes. First, we want to start praying before we have settled ourselves down and cleared our minds – in other words we want to pray before we are silent when in fact the process of settling down into the quietness of mind and body is often the most fruitful part of prayer. The other is that we spend way too much time talking and not enough listening for God. In this regard Mother Teresa had this to say:

We cannot put ourselves directly in the presence of God if we do not practice internal and external silence. In silence we will find new energy and true unity. Silence gives us a new outlook on everything. The essential thing is not what we say but what God says to us and through us. In that silence, He will listen to us; there He will speak to our soul, and there we will hear His voice.

Listen in silence because if your heart is full of other things you cannot hear the voice of God. But when you have listened to the voice of God in the stillness of your heart, then your heart is filled with God. In nature we find silence — the trees, flowers, and grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence. Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere — in the closing of a door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals.

God sees that inwardly we are tired, anxious, confused, and lost and He invites us to stop and to meet Him in silence where He desires to give us rest and peace. It all begins with silence, the silence which leads to true prayer. What results from silence is described by Mother Teresa in this way: ‹‹The fruit of Silence is prayer. The fruit of Prayer is faith. The fruit of Faith is love. The fruit of Love is service. The fruit of Service is peace”.

Fr. Alessandro Lovato, Vice-Rector of Holy Rosary Cathedral

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