Do you find silence uncomfortable? For many people, silence can be disturbing, and so we reach for our phones or turn on the TV just to avoid having periods of silence in our lives. But St. Teresa of Calcutta once said, “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.” Notice that according to Mother Teresa, the path to peace begins with silence. So why do we find silence so uncomfortable?
Recently Fr. John Gordon, Coordinator of the Office for Evangelization in the Archdiocese of Newark, stopped by Morning Air® to discuss silence. He offered some insights into why we avoid silence, and also the fruits of silence that he has experienced in his own life.
On why we find silence so difficult to find in our lives, Fr. Gordon said, “As social beings, we kind of build up a whole way of cooperating and working with people, with life that is about noise. … So we surround ourselves with noise, and one of the things that does is it prevents us from going to the deepest place within us.”
Too often we are afraid to be alone with our own thoughts, and we are afraid of letting the Lord in to the deepest places in our hearts. But Fr. Gordon pointed out that this fear is misguided, because the Lord is already within us, and it is in the quiet of our hearts that He is waiting to meet us.
“I just want to affirm that God is already there,” he said. “He’s already in the deepest place within us. In the first place by virtue of our being made in His image and likeness. But even most profoundly, by virtue of baptism God dwells within every aspect of us. He longs to welcome us into the quiet place within our heart so that we can learn that language of God, which is wrapped in silence, which is wrapped in the ability to listen, to be able to hear Him and to even hear ourselves in the midst of all the stuff that is going on around us.”
Another obstacle to seeking quiet and silence in prayer is that there are so many things that seem to be more important. Time is a valuable resource, and in an effort to be productive it’s easy to see sitting in silence as a waste of time.
Fr. Gordon pushed back against this mentality, saying, “Wasting time? How is spending time with the Lord, how is time listening to Him, how is time loving Him in His presence wasted?”
“The curse of man from Genesis chapter 3 is that we have to work,” he explained. “We have to do, do, do. And so we find our identity in that too often. As opposed to just being a part of who we are it becomes the centerpiece of who we are. Sometimes you take a little pride in what you are able to do. And I think we need to be able to say that part of what I need to do, therefore, is to do the listening, to do the quiet.”
While it may be difficult, if we don’t make time for silent prayer in our lives we are missing out on graces and growth in our relationship with the Lord. While there are many fruits that come from silence and prayer, Fr. Gordon drew from his own experience and shared how we has grown the most through silence.
“For me, a great fruit is patience,” he said. “Patience with myself and patience with others as well. You know, slow it down. Nothing has to be done today. And as important as what any of us are doing, for few of us is somebody’s life on the line.”
“The other thing that silence can do is it can help us grow in the virtue of humility,” he continued. “Because it’s not about me and what I have to say and my great insights. Lord, it’s just about loving you and thanking you. And when I meditate on His word, when I take a sentence or a passage from Scripture, and not just read it over and over but really meditate on it and chew on it in the silence of my heart there is a grace there much richer than I would have found if I just kind of raced through it and checked it off the list.”
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.” (John 10:27) One of the great fruits of silence is that it allows us to better know the voice of the Lord. You know the voice of your parents, your children, or your spouse because you have spent so much time listening to their voice. They could leave you a voice message saying, “Hi, it’s me” and you would know exactly who it is. Time spent in silence gives us the opportunity to know the voice of the Lord, so that even amidst the noise of your day He could say, “Hi, it’s me” and you would recognize it as Jesus speaking to you.
“There’s a lot of noise within me, but I need to recognize the voice of the shepherd, the voice of Jesus,” Fr. Gordon said. “And for me to do that I need to create and I need to allow that space of silence within me. To listen to Him and to turn Him, to recognize Him. … Protect that silence. Protect that time with the Lord. It’s very, very important.”
Listen to the full conversation below: