To the worldly mind, silence seems empty, intimidating, a waste of time. But silence is indispensable for living the Faith. The essence of silence is self-emptiness, docility, receptivity, detachment, desire, stillness, listening, communion, attention. “Silence is not merely keeping quiet, but it is the attitude of one who lives standing before a ‘You’ who is present, entreating a ‘You’ who is present” (L. Giussani).
Servant of God Catherine de Hueck Doherty defined silence this way:
“True, silence is sometimes the absence of speech—but it is always the act of listening. The mere absence of noise (which is empty of our listening to the voice of God) is not silence. A day filled with noise and voices can be a day of silence, if the noises become for us the echo of the presence of God. When we speak of ourselves and are filled with ourselves, we leave silence behind. When we repeat intimate words of God that he has left within us, our silence remains intact.”
We require silence in order to hear God since the noise of our own thoughts and distractions drowns out his voice within us. We cannot be silent if we are endlessly seeking our peace, our happiness, and our satisfaction in things outside of God. Through interior silence, God speaks with us, communicating his love in a way that draws our whole being to his heart. It has been said that it is our silence in the Heart of Christ that teaches us to despise the force of our own attraction to evil.
To Poor Clare Sister Mary of the Holy Trinity (+1942), the Lord revealed this: “I speak to each soul; if there are some who do not hear me, it is because they do not listen to me. There must be a profound silence, because my voice is soft. The soul must be freed from all engrossing thoughts.” As St. Thomas Aquinas expressed it, “God is honored by silence because we know that we are unable to comprehend him.”
Silence is a surrendering of self that centers us and that puts preoccupation on mute. And silence is therapeutic, as St. Gregory of Nazianzen observes: “Silence is mightier than words. It clothes the wreckage that befalls us in the deep fold of forgetfulness.” And who doesn’t need that!
Follow Fr. Cameron’s series on prayer here.
See some of the earlier pieces: