As I’m coming to the conclusion of a much needed silent retreat, I can certainly attest that one can learn a great deal in the stillness of silence.
The primary reflections I would like to share are twofold.
First, there are many different types of silence. Second, silence permits us to listen more and pray better.
On the first point, what do I mean when I say ‘different types of silence?’ Let’s take a look at three types of silence we should incorporate into our lives.
1) Silence in the face of adversity.
Our Lord gives a beautiful example of this as he stood before Pilate in Matt. 27:12: “And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer.”
It’s so easy to immediately want to react when we are wronged unjustly. If we’re honest, that’s our pride, isn’t it? But, what can we learn from Jesus’ example?
Jesus didn’t react, He responded. There’s a difference. Reactions are almost always emotional, whereas responding takes thought.
Jesus didn’t show weakness when He remained silent. Instead, He showed great self-control and restraint. He chose to respond with silence because the Truth needn’t be argued. It simply is what it is.
Perhaps the next time we are wronged unjustly, we will have the grace and strength to follow His example. Let God fight for you.
Jesus, help us be more like You, especially in this regard.
2) Silence in suffering.
In the biblical story of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple from St. Luke’s Gospel, Simeon says to our Lady, “…you yourself a sword will pierce.”
Our Lady’s response? Silence.
In that same Gospel, Jesus goes missing for three days and Joseph and Our Lady find Him in the temple.
Mary says to Him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
Jesus responds, “did you not know that I must be in my fathers house?”
Again, what is our Lady’s response to all of this? Silence. In fact, scripture says “his mother kept all these things in her heart.”
Mary holds the mystery of her own suffering and her Son’s future suffering within the silence of her Immaculate Heart! Later at the foot of her Son’s cross, again, she remains silent.
There is a great power in bearing our crosses silently–in holding things within our hearts. Keeping them between us and God. There is a greater power upon doing it cheerfully! That is not weakness. Rather, that is great strength.
Remember, we are people of the Cross. With Mary’s help, we too can bear crosses silently and cheerfully.
3) Silence as an absence of noise.
This type of silence greatly benefits the soul. In a world with so much noise and distraction, how can we listen for God’s voice?
Constant stimulation can leave the spirit dull.
Our Blessed Lord walked the earth during a time with far less distractions. Yet, He still retreated into the desert–into silence.
Jesus, although tempted, defeated the power of the enemy, and upon His return from silence, prayer, and fasting, was bolder than before. We should be wise and take note.
If we remain in a state of constant distraction, we will be just that–distracted.
I learned early in my formation that if the devil can’t keep you bad, he’ll keep you busy. You may not be ready for a silent retreat, but you can turn off the radio, phone, or TV from time to time.
You will find these small sacrifices as a means to great strides in the spiritual life. By eliminating such distractions you can dare to say, “speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)
All of this is possible from the privacy of your own home or car. But, don’t take my word for it, try it yourself. You’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain.
Prayer in Silence
“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.” – St. Teresa of Calcutta
You got that? The path to peace starts with silence!
The greatest fruit of this silence, in my opinion, is prayer. The truth is, we cannot exist (spiritually speaking) without a fruitful, solid, consistent prayer life. We simply must be a people of prayer!
We are called to holiness– to be saints! Yet, without prayer, holiness is impossible. But how do we pray?
Let’s look at what the Church say about prayer.
In Her tremendous wisdom, the Church teaches, “only when we humbly acknowledge that ‘we do not know how to pray as we ought,’ are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer.” (CCC 2559).
Prayer is a gift from God, and it takes humility to receive such a sublime gift. It also begins in our desire to pray.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux says prayer is “a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
How analogy is beautiful. Prayer is a gaze from one heart in love to another heart in love.
If we acknowledge in humility that we don’t know how to pray as we ought, let us again look to the Church in her wisdom. There she offers ways by which we can pray.
Namely, the following:
Liturgy (Holy Mass-the highest form of prayer-and Liturgical Hours), the sacraments, devotions (Rosary, Chaplet, Novenas, etc.), mental prayer, Lectio Divina (Prayer with Scripture), and much more. Deo Gratis (Thanks be to God)!
This leads to Thanksgiving, Praise, Adoration, Confession, Supplication, Purgation, and if we persevere (and if God so Wills it) even Contemplation, Peace, and Union with Him. But it all starts in silence.
It’s interesting that the words, ‘silent’ and ‘listen’ share the same letters. Therefore, silently listen and be still and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:11)
I conclude with this prayer:
Thus, be quiet O soul of mine. So that I may rest in He whom I was made for. In the desert where He dwells most intimately. And I shall hope to say in the silence of my own heart “for I am sick with love. His left hand were under my head, and that his right hand embraces me.” (Song of Songs 2:5-6)
That I may live and I may die for that love, for that intimacy, for that silence.