Listening for God’s voice in the noise of daily life

In his book “The Screwtape Letters,” C.S. Lewis imagines a demon, Screwtape, writing letters to a young demon, Wormwood, and advising him on how to corrupt an English soul, “The Patient.”

In his missives to Wormwood, Screwtape writes about the world being “occupied by Noise…the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile…We will make the whole universe a noise in the end…The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end.”

In daily life, it seems there is no shortage of this “noise,” negative, depressing media coming from the radio, television, internet, highway billboards, and bus signs. Every day we are subjected to it, and we can make a choice to either focus on it, or direct our gaze on more positive stimuli.

One day a few weeks ago, for this piece, I documented everything I heard on the radio, saw on the television, read on the internet, or heard from family, friends and co-workers.

Every day I wake up to a popular sports radio station, set as my alarm. Being a passionate Phillies fan, I always try to keep up with the boys of summer. However, that morning, the focus wasn’t on the Phillies but retired star pitcher Roger Clemens, who is scheduled to go before a federal grand jury on charges that, among others, he lied under oath when asked about his steroid use. Throughout the years, the pitcher, although one of the best to ever play the game, has gained a reputation for his surly, unapologetic behavior.

Later that day, I browsed a few of my favorite Catholic websites. Father James Martin had a new article on the church reaching people in the digital age; attendance has been up at a recently approved Marian shrine in Wisconsin; a new book on St. John of the Cross recently came out. All positive stimuli to lift my spirits and keep me optimistic about the state of society.

And then, turning on the television news when I got home, I watched as media pundits’ expressed outrage over the not guilty verdict on Casey Anthony, who had been accused of murdering her 2-year-old daughter. Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show, called out the pro-choice culture in America, stating that if Casey Anthony had aborted the child two years earlier in the womb, there wouldn’t be such an uproar.

Flipping the channel: the economy is down in the dumps. Thanks, MSNBC.

I turned to my family and friends for more positive news and was not disappointed; my cousin’s wife had another baby girl; my older sister expecting her first child in September, and the baby shower coming up; my aunt and cousin’s impending visit. All good things to help me, as my mother once said, “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.”

Of course, among all the voices I hear or read every day, good or bad, the ultimate voice, one of truth, is God. Proverbs 4: 20-22 says, “My son, to my words be attentive, to my sayings incline your ear…keep them within your heart; For they are life to those who find them, to man’s whole being they are health.”

The search, for this voice of truth, has taken me to many places, to the adoration chapel at St. Peter’s Church in Merchantville; to local pubs where I sit among fellow Catholic young adults and discuss the saints; or to the pages of Thomas Merton’s “Seven Storey Mountain” or Matthew Kelly’s “A Call To Joy,” which I am currently reading.

We are all “called to joy,” in our lives, to experience the love God has for us, and the daily miracles he brings us, and be a witness to others of these things we’ve experienced. The modern world gets in the way sometimes, with depressing news on the radio or television, or with advertisements telling us to do whatever we want, regardless of any consequences or ethical boundaries.

The everyday challenge is to not let the noise drown out God’s voice, to not give into despair when we hear uncomfortable news. There are positive and negative media stimuli competing for our attention on a daily basis, and every one of these must be looked at through the lens of our Catholic faith, so we keep perspective and maybe even begin to work to change the negative news, and spread more of the positive news.

The past few days, I have been praying the rosary; attending daily Mass; studying the Bible; and spending time with loved ones and sharing the joy of being Catholic. The radio station is turned to Christian music; the television to EWTN. I have become more attuned to his voice, the only one that truly matters.

Peter G. Sánchez is a staff writer for the Catholic Star Herald.

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