For the last several years one my New Year’s resolutions is always to increase the amount of silence in my life, and every year it is an incredible challenge!! But it looks like I’m not alone. I recently started reading The Challenge of Silence by Anselm Grun, O.S.B. And in honor of my resolution I’m going to be silent and let his words speak to you:
St. Benedict commits his monks to silence so that they may be less apt to sin. But if we take a closer look at monastic writings, we also discover positive functions of silence. Silence is a way in which we confront ourselves. We frequently discover that we try to flee from ourselves, that we do not like to be alone; or when we are alone, we need to be occupied in some way. Ernesto Cardenal, a student of Thomas Merton as a Trappist novice, describes this discovery:
“People nowadays are always trying to get away from themselves. They are unable to be silent or alone, because then they would be by themselves. So places of entertainment like cinemas are always full. And if they sometimes are alone and about to meet God, they turn on the radio or the television.”
Radio and television are means of escape from our selves. There are others, again, who cannot bear to be idle–to sit there quietly and silently. It makes them nervous. They need some kind of activity. So they tidy up their room, or plan one thing or another. Keeping silence does not mean merely that I do not speak, but that I let go of possible escapes. I forego not only speaking but also all occupations that could divert me from myself. In keeping silence, I compel myself simply to enter myself. In trying this one will come to know that it is not very pleasant. All kinds of thoughts and feelings, emotions and moods, anxieties and unpleasant feelings surge up. Suppressed desires and needs come to light, suppressed anger flares up; chances one has missed, words left unspoken or spoken inappropriately come to mind.
The first moments of silence often reveal to us our interior confusion, the chaos of our thoughts and desires. It is painful to endure this chaos. We confront our interior tensions that worry us. But in silence these tensions cannot drain away. In silence we discover what we really are like. Silence is like an analysis of our interior state; we no longer pretend, but we see what really goes on within us.
Whew! I don’t know about you, but that is convicting!! Grun’s original German translation was published in the 1970s. How much more difficult is it in the 20teens to be silent? Our world of instant communication, smart phones, and ieverything can seemingly make silence an impossibility!
So how do we find silence? Here are three thoughts:
(1) Put it on your To Do List! While many of us are adding “Go to the gym” to the daily routine, why not also add “Be silent!” Even if you start with 5 minutes a day. Sometimes writing it down is the best way to hold yourself accountable.
(2) Speaking of Accountability… find a partner! Just because you’re planning to be silent doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Ask a friend to be your silent partner. Make a plan to check in with each other now and then to ask how their quest for silence is going. This works really well with a friend you speak to often–agree to end your conversation 5 minutes early so that you can both get in some silent time.
(3) Find a silent place. May we suggest going to an ADORATION CHAPEL? Where better than in the presence of the Real Presence, the Source + Summit of the Christian Life, can we reflect on who we were created to be? Don’t know what parishes offer Eucharistic Adoration? Check out theRealPresence.org Can’t find a chapel near you? Make a visit online at Savior.org.
Wishing you blessed, peaceful silence in the New Year!