The value of silence

Those of us who have been on the very beautiful but interesting journey of faith for a while eventually start to understand when God is trying to get our attention. For example, last Advent it took my husband falling off a ladder and smashing his wrist into what seemed like a million pieces in order to get both of us to slow down, but that we did and it turned out to be probably our best Advent yet. 

That was one tough lesson I am determined not to forget. That’s why when I started to notice an overabundance of articles, references, discussions among friends and colleagues, blogs, Scripture passages and more referring to the topic of silence, I actually, believe it or not, started to take a closer look at what was being said about silence and by whom.  

In addition to sacred Scripture, the reflections and other references came from a number of very impressive sources, such as Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis. 

The pope is actually incorporating the theme of silence into his statement for 2012 World Communications Day — “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization.” It sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? How can a statement about communicating start with getting us to think about being still and quiet? But it makes perfect sense. As the Pontifical Council for Social Communications explained, the idea behind the pope’s theme is not “simply an antidote to the constant and unstoppable flow of information that characterizes society today but rather as a factor that is necessary for its integration.”  

We need to be able to discern and reflect while we prepare to welcome the word of God. How appropriate is this message for this time of year, as we await, Jesus “the word made flesh”? 

In a Nov. 16 column, “Silence is essential to the evangelization of the young Church,” Archbishop Carlson provided an excellent outline for parents, parishes and schools regarding how to create quiet times and spaces with a special emphasis on helping Catholic youth get closer to God through silence. 

“Young women and men are the targets of advertisements and the entertainment media. They are the constant recipients of seductive and alluring images that are meant to persuade them to think, dress, consume, and behave in certain ways. They are told what to do and what to value. To counteract the barrage of secular or worldly communications direct at the young, we must preach the gospel in word and action. But we must also make room for silence to allow members of the young church to welcome the word and to discern what they are being called to be and do as followers of Christ,” Archbishop Carlson wrote. 

He suggested parents set good examples by being quiet themselves and helping children learn the importance of prayerful silence in their lives. He recommended schools and parishes promote silent prayer, retreats and Eucharistic adoration for everyone, especially for the young and to discourage what he so correctly referred to as the “tyranny of busyness.” We need to help members of the young Church discover how liberating it is to just silence ourselves and listen attentively for God, Archbishop Carlson stressed. 

I don’t need a house to fall on me or the husband, God forbid, to take another tumble while putting up the Christmas lights in order to realize that the Lord may have a point to make here. When incredible Catholic teachers such as the pope and Archbishop Carlson issue statements, to me it’s a lot like that old E.F Hutton commercial — When they talk, we need to listen. 

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.