Mother Teresa once laid out a simple path for everyone, leading from silence to peace.
The first feast of Our Lady of Silence will be celebrated on Sunday, August 1, in Avezzano, in the province of L’Aquila, central Italy, at the shrine dedicated to this advocation of Mary. The announcement was made by Fr. Emiliano Antenucci, who strongly desired the creation of this shrine, and has the support of Pope Francis.
When he first saw the image of this Madonna with her finger over her mouth, the Capuchin friar was impressed and decided to organize spiritual retreats centered on silence.
Eventually, he managed to meet with the Pope and show him the image; Pope Francis liked it so much that he had a copy placed next to the elevator he takes every morning to reach the third loggia of the Apostolic Palace.
Subsequently, the Pope gave his support to the establishment of a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Silence, which is now located in the church of St. Francis in Avezzano.
Our Lady of Silence: contemplation and compassion
Taking advantage of this occasion, we interviewed Fr. Antenucci about the benefits of cultivating silence, prayer, and contemplation during rest. Pope Francis invites us to grasp precisely these important aspects of life (Angelus, July 18, 2021).
“Let us beware, brothers and sisters, of efficiency, let us put a halt to the frantic running around dictated by our agendas.” We need an “ecology of the heart,” says the Pope, which consists of “rest, contemplation and compassion… Let us take advantage of the summer time for this!”
Aleteia: How can the image of Our Lady of Silence, so dear to Pope Francis, help us learn “to take a break, to turn off the mobile phone, to contemplate nature, to regenerate ourselves in dialogue with God?”
Fr. Antenucci: It’s essential to pause, as Our Lady’s gesture shows us. If we stop for a moment, we discover better—we rediscover—what surrounds us and what’s essential in our lives.
From time to time we need to “go offline” in relation to the world and “go online with God” to listen to the silence within us and let God speak.
We’re bombarded by noise inside and outside of us. We need to rediscover the sounds of nature and the sound of Silence to increase the quality of our human and spiritual life.
The fruits of silence
Aleteia:What are the benefits of cultivating silence, prayer, and contemplation during periods of rest?
Fr. Antenucci: There are psychophysical and spiritual benefits. Silence relieves stress, but it also opens us, as the Pope has reminded us, to “an ecology of the heart” and, I would add, of the mind. Cleansing our inner house of all that distances us from ourselves, from God, and from others is fundamental. Silence is hygiene of the mind and cleansing of the heart.
Aleteia:Pope Francis points out that “compassion is born of contemplation.” What advice can you give to readers, people immersed in the world of work, family and society in general—also taking as a starting point your own Franciscan monastic and vocational experience—to lead a more contemplative life in their everyday life?
Fr. Antenucci: The calling card that Mother Teresa of Calcutta gave to the leaders of the earth is a program of life for everyone. These are the words of Mother Teresa: “The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, and the fruit of service is peace.”
It’s a simple path for everyone, leading from silence to peace. So I believe that during the day everyone should find a quarter of an hour—or even better, half an hour—of silence, to take stock of his or her life, and dialogue intensely with God.
“Without that rapacious attitude of those who want to possess and consume everything…”
Aleteia: Why is it important that we learn to truly rest, making us capable of true compassion, without carrying out our activities with an attitude that the Pope calls “that rapacious attitude of those who want to possess and consume everything?”
Fr. Antenucci: Rest opens us to the dimension of reflection, creativity, and sleep. The pauses in our life are fundamental; as in music, we begin to play better and with more determination.
Aleteia: How do you prepare for the first feast of Our Lady of Silence?
Fr. Antenucci: Through prayer and the little things that have to be done in preparation. In life we have to do many small things, and it’s precisely from the small things that the big things are born. We are small, but Our Lady is great.
Our Lady of Silence: The Mass and the Liturgy
The first Mass of the Feast of Our Lady of Silence will be celebrated this Sunday, August 1, and will be presided over by Bishop Pietro Santoro, the bishop of Avezzano.
Even Pope Francis’ master of ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini, participated on Sunday, July 24, in events related to the first feast, for a catechesis.
The Vatican has also approved the norms for votive Masses at the Shrine of Silence.
It’s a liturgy that at various times evokes the gift of silence and the image of this Virgin, who keeps us away from gossip and chatter.
Approval of the liturgical propers was granted by Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in a letter dated November 1, 2020.