Sounds of silence

You would think that someone who makes a living addressing media influence and stressing the importance of silencing the noise in our lives wouldn’t have to be reminded about applying such things to her own Christian walk. But all of us, especially those in ministry, need a little nudge now and then to help us really practice what we preach. 

This was made abundantly clear to me as I made my way through Italy and Israel a few weeks ago leading pilgrimages to the Shroud of Turin exhibit and the Holy Land. I left home May 11 and did not return to the United States until about a month later. 

Although I was also on assignment for EWTN and Ave Maria Radio, and responsible for filing live reports several times a week for my daily radio program, for the most part I was disconnected from the world. While I had to check my email occasionally, I generally steered clear of television, the radio and the Internet. 

It was so refreshing not to hear all the bad news being reported about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, or the health care developments, or the ongoing and various debates that continue to rage in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. 

Again, even though media influence is my area of expertise, I discovered that I was in dire need of a refresher course. 

Blessed Mother of Teresa of Calcutta said God is found in the silence. For me, I became acutely aware of God in the sounds that made up my environment. The silence in my case was the elimination of the daily deluge of media messages that stream into my world. 

As I traveled through Italy, the absence of the constant media static allowed me to hear the melodious voices of families that streamed out of quaint villages or cafés as they went about their day. There were also the voices of choirs and other pilgrim groups that filled the churches along our route. I would close my eyes and just allow myself to listen to the prayers and the singing, and wondered if this is what heaven must be like. 

From my little apartment in the very old Roman neighborhood of Trastevere along the Tiber River, I looked forward to hearing the sea gulls as they gathered on top of the terra-cotta rooftops scoping out the buildings and balconies for scraps of food. 

In the Holy Land I had a few glorious days alone along the Sea of Galilee before leading my next pilgrimage. Again, no television, no radio and only an occasional phone call and email check home and to the radio network. In Israel, it was the sounds of the waves along Lake Gennesaret and the wind moving through the palm trees that garnered most of my attention.  

In addition to reading Scripture, and praying at the Mount of Beatitudes or Church of the Primacy of Peter, I spent many an hour just doing nothing, just being and allowing myself to imagine Jesus walking along the seashore or gazing up at the stars as I did. 

Not having the daily distractions of a busy, media-saturated life allowed for my own mini-sabbatical and made quite a difference in my attitude and sense of well-being. 

It wasn’t really silence in the sense of complete absence of any sound, but it is really amazing what you do hear when you don’t have all the clatter of the media rattling on in the background. 

I can’t say that I had what some might consider a major mystical experience, but, then again, maybe I did. Maybe the Lord just wanted me to be refreshed and renewed and re-visit that old saying that silence is not only much needed from time to time but really is golden after all. 

Teresa Tomeo is the host of Catholic Connection, produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 160.