Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Spirituality of Silence

As a child growing up a farm, far away from other people and activity, I often longed for noise.  Now, I often find myself longing for silence.

My longing for silence has made this passage from 1st Kings one of my favorites:

(The Lord said): “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13).

Many people in our society do not know how to handle silence, and the prospect of sheer silence can be overwhelming.  Contemplative silence, however, can "truly effect a foretaste of heaven" (The Call of Silent Love, p. 10).

Martin Luther did not think much of the monastic practice of silence: "Away, therefore, with the silly and silent monks who suppose that worship and saintliness consist in silence!" (Luther's Works Vol. 3, p. 200).  Contrary to Luther, I think that worship can be done beautifully in silence.  There is a scene from the movie "Into Great Silence" which illustrates the beauty of silence, as the silence of the cloister is so intense that you can hear the snow fall, and is only interruped by the occasional ringing of the bell:

In "The Call of Silent Love" it is written that Carthusian "piety was fed by the common resources of the Church: the liturgy, the sacraments, the Word of God, Christ.  Their silence was not mute but resounded with celebration and the praise of God." (pp. 7-8). 


  1. I watched "Into Great Silence" on EWTN.

    Martin Luther was very right to say that monks and nuns and priests have no more of a call to holiness than the average lay person. I believe this is the center piece of his reformation. He himself left a monastery, and his wife left a convent. Luther eliminated monasticism in most of Northern Europe.

    To be blunt, and to save words: This was the Bull-in-the-China-Shop approach.

    St Josemaria Escriva takes a different approach. He says that we are called to holiness in the midst of the world. A lay person can find holiness in his vocation and state of life. St Josemaria give us lay persons a rule of life in "Camino."

    St Josemaria did not like "And now a moment of silence." He said a Catholic is never silent -- he is always conversing with God. People don't like silence because they do not have God in their hearts, and they can't stand the emptiness.

    I wrote a post called "Arroz con Mango" -- mixing things that don't go together. You and I are lay people. We have the Mass and the Teachings of the Church. That is enough.

    St Josemaria would say: You are a housewife. If you want silence, turn off the radio in the car and listen to the voice of God. Sanctify yourself within your vocation. Don't fantasize about being a nun.

    Martin Luther destroyed the concept of Obedience to Superiors. You cannot be a good monk or nun unless you are willing to submit your will to your Superior. That is not easy. If you want to talk about monasticism, you must not romanticize it. Merton, I think, was a rebel at heart. This is not the Spirit of Christ.

    My views! I don't mean to sound harsh. I'm just being brief. And I want the Church to be put back together. K.S.

  2. "Bull in the China Shop" - I love it!

    I started to write a response, but then decided to make it a separate post, so see my forthcoming post on "The Two Luthers."