The Challenge, Gift and Need of Silence
On Sunday, 20 May 2012, Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI delivered a message in commemoration of the 46th “World Communications Day.” The letter was: “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization.”
Guess what the main theme was?
To quote some ideas of the Holy Father:
Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. Silence allows us to better listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth. In silence we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others. Silence allows us to carefully choose how to express ourselves. Silence is a form of charity. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak.
Tom Shakely is a Philadelphia Catholic who is quite active in the church as well as the social media sphere. His blog from Saturday, June 2nd, 2012 added a new twist on Pope Benedict’s thoughts on the necessity of quiet in a noisy world. Tom quotes from “Our Culture of Distraction,” an article about noise and quiet from Joseph Kraus.
Tom and Joe are both spot on. Tom speaks of the fact that multi-tasking is NOT necessarily a virtue. Sometimes there is also the necessity of turning off (i.e., “fasting from) the electronics that surround our life. This, then, provides a quiet space in which we, as human beings, can then look inside and become more intentional in our internal life. In addition, I have heard advice from priests who have advocated turning away from electronic stimulation at some point in the evening. This can be a particular time (No computers, no video games, no Wii, … after 8:00 (for children) or 9:00 pm (for the adults)). We can also incorporate this into a more intentional prayer life by saying , “I will shut off all electronic devices at a certain time, at which point I shall begin “Night Prayer.”
I once taught in an inner-city, all-girls high school. I remember taking a group of them on a field trip. It gave new meaning to the phrase, “Being driven to distraction.” They talked non-stop for 3 hours, the content of which was (my opinion) mostly meaningless. Three hours of noise. I could not WAIT to get back to the rectory, shut the door and “listen” to the quiet. I was exhausted at the end of the day just having to listen to the incessant prater. In reflecting about this later, I also felt that, at some level, this barrage on the ears was unhealthy (And when they were not talking, they were looking at their cell phones). To try and counter this, every now and then (usually once each quarter) I would bring the girls into the chapel, allow them to get comfortable (sit, lie on the pews or on the floor, whatever), then bring them through a guided meditation for about 30-40 minutes. They loved it. “Father, when are we going to do that ‘thing’ again?” It showed not only that they needed, and probably craved, moments of quiet, they could even enjoy them. “Hey Father, when are we going to do that ‘quiet thing’ again?”