In the midst of your busy day, could you sit in silence for 10 minutes? Five? Could you sit there and never check your phone or watch and simply listen to God? I’ll be honest — it’s hard, and the desire to check my e-mail is probably the loudest voice I hear. While technology and the fast-paced world we live in have given us many blessings, I find it has also hindered us from experiencing the “stillness” where God likes to speak.
A few years ago Pope Benedict XVI noticed this unfortunate trend and commented how, “one sometimes gets the impression that people are frightened of being cut off, even for an instant, from the torrent of words and images that mark and fill the day.”
The problem with this “torrent of words and images” is that it can impede our ability to listen to God. Pope Benedict explained, “Inward and outward silence are necessary if we are to be able to hear [the word of God].”
This idea of cultivating silence in our lives to listen to God is not something new, “The great patristic tradition teaches us that the mysteries of Christ all involve silence. Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence.”
So how can we make room for silence in our busy lives in order to listen to God’s word?
Here are three Lenten ideas to help you shut off the noise outside and sit in silence to hear God’s voice:
1. Watch “Into Great Silence.” This artistic documentary immerses you into the Grande Chartreuse Carthusian monastery that is a nestled deep in the French Alps. The filmmakers were granted permission to follow the monks living there and capture their lives. What is unique about the film and the monks is that they live in total silence. This makes for a documentary that is both stunning in its beauty and unsettling in its silence. It is almost three hours long, and besides moments of chanting the divine office, it takes silence to a new level. The filmmakers sometimes spend several minutes watching a monk praying silently in his private cell.
My suggestion is to start out Lent watching this movie. It will really set the tone for the remainder of the 40 days and allow you to experience a world without noise. You will see how monks can live in a culture of silence where they are constantly open to God’s hidden movements. It also challenges us to evaluate our own lives and how much noise dominates it.
It can be acquired through Netflix on a DVD, but not on instant streaming. Otherwise I suggest contacting your local library or purchasing a copy on Amazon. It is a worthy film to have that you can watch every Lent.
Interestingly enough, it was a hit at the box office in Europe.
2. Incorporate silence into your daily schedule and prayer. From my own experience, I know that if I don’t schedule something, it doesn’t happen. That is why I try to deliberately schedule times throughout the day where I shut off my phone or computer and pray (or simply be) in silence.
From a human point of view it is not healthy to be surrounded by artificial noise all the time. We should think twice about turning on the radio in the car or turning on the TV. Neither of these things are bad, but should their noise be heard throughout the entire day?
I practice a similar discipline within my time of prayer. While it is important to read the Gospels or a spiritual book, we must always balance that with a decent amount of silent prayer. We must reflect on the word of God and listen to what he wants to tell us.
3. Find a silent room/church/chapel for daily prayer. This may seem obvious but should not go unnoticed. It is difficult to listen to God’s voice when there are numerous distractions around us. These could be kids running around the house, a TV blaring in the next room or sitting on a bench in Times Square.
Find the closest adoration chapel, an open and empty church, a secluded room in the basement or maybe a park. Wherever it is, try to find a place where exterior distractions are at a minimum. Being in a place of silence can help us quiet our minds and hearts so that we can simply listen.
Challenge yourself this Lent to incorporate silence into your lives. You will be amazed at the results.
Philip Kosloski is a writer and blogger. His blog can be found at philipkosloski.com.