The Power of Silence

In our noisy world, silence can be a novelty. Do you struggle with silence, or do you seek it? Does quiet make you uncomfortable or does it refresh your soul?

Chuck Neff and Fr. David Hogan, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, discussed Cardinal Robert Sarah’s book, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, on a recent episode of The Inner Life®.

“[Cardinal Sarah] approaches silence not so much from a negative side, a lack of speaking or lack of noise—but more so it’s an interior and a very intense experience that we can have, not just with God, but with ourselves. It’s very personal and in many cases, it’s very inviting as well, once we start to understand that once we get through that difficult portion that God is found in that moment, because God speaks in silence,” explained Fr. Hogan.

Why is it important to embrace silence?

“Through silence, we return to our heavenly origin, where there is nothing but calm, peace, repose, silent contemplation and adoration of the radiant face of God. If we truly possess the pedagogy of silence that comes from God, we will have a little of heaven’s patience,” says Cardinal Sarah in The Power of Silence.

Reflecting on that quote, Fr. Hogan said, “In the world today, we sometimes lose track of our destination—where are we headed? So life’s purpose, life’s values and things sometimes get jumbled up and it’s through that silent contemplation that we’re reminded, thankfully, that our time on this earth isn’t the end but it’s really that eternal destination of heaven and really that union with God is what he calls us to through this life.”

Learning to find God in silence can take time and practice, but can open you up to things you didn’t expect. Fr. Hogan recalled one of his first experiences with silence as a NET missionary. “In training my first year … they told us to go sit by ourselves for thirty minutes and to pray. I was kind of ashamed that I’d grown up in Catholic school my whole life and when they told me that, it kind of made me really nervous. To the point where I’m like, ‘Do I just say Hail Marys for thirty minutes?’ Because I didn’t, to some degree, internalize what prayer looked like outside of the rote prayers you say in church and so forth.

“That moment right there—of just sitting with your thoughts not in maybe fear or worry, but just kind of wrestling with that experience with God—that’s what truly allowed me to be more actively present, ironically, in people’s lives and allowing God to be more present in my own life. Because I realized that putting aside time every single day of interior contemplation … is really necessary so that we can internalize how God is speaking to us and then try and apply that in real life situations.”

Next time you have the opportunity for silent contemplation and prayer, don’t run from it; try to embrace it. It’s a process, but one that may bear much fruit for your spiritual life.

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