St. Bruno believed that silence was the key to unlocking an interior peace that could not be disturbed.
In the book of Ecclesiastes it is written, there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Unfortunately, we often skip the first part of that passage and heavily indulge in the second.
In a world filled with noise, silence is rare. We put on our earbuds, turn on the radio or endlessly search on YouTube for something that will make us laugh. In many ways noise is a coping mechanism, designed so that we don’t have to deal with our interior problems.
Yet, noise will not solve anything, and we will increasingly feel anxiety and never find lasting peace.
St. Bruno, a solitary monk of the 11th century, believed that silence was the key, and founded the Carthusian religious order where silence was the rule, not the exception. He wrote in a letter, “Only those who have experienced the solitude and silence of the wilderness can know what benefit and divine joy they bring to those who love them.”
A Carthusian spends his day in silence, only speaking when necessary, which is rare. Much of a Carthusian’s daily activities can be done in silence, with little interaction with his fellow monks.
While most of us are not called to such a radical life, we can learn from St. Bruno and value silence, giving it an important place in our daily life.
In the statutes of the Carthusian order, it reads, “Keeping silent is not a spontaneous or natural attitude. It demands a decision and a purpose. To enter into silence, we must want it, and we must know why we want it. If we intend to become men of silence, we must assume responsibility for our quest.”
This is especially relevant in our world today. We must want silence and seek it out. It requires a deliberate choice to turn everything off, our computer, TV, and smartphone, in order to be truly silent.
God is most present in silence, as can be seen in the life of the prophet Elijah.
And [God] said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11-13)
Carthusians similarly believe that silence is the key to listening to God and hearing his voice.
In reality silence is “a tranquil listening of the heart that allows God to enter through all its doors and passages.” Silence is a kind of listening: not a feverish waiting for some word that would come and knock on our ear or fill our heart, but a peaceful waiting, in a state of availability for the One who is present and who works in our most intimate selves.
If you want God to enter into your life, spend time every day in silence.
Try it now. Stop everything and pause for 60 seconds in silence, not looking at your phone, but simply listening to God. The peace a person can receive from silence is only the beginning.