The need for silence in a noisy world

The need for silence in a noisy world

The perpetual adoration chapel at Saint Peter Parish, Merchantville.
Photo by Peter G. Sánchez

Perpetual Adoration. Fresh out of college, I was first introduced to this devotion as a “newbie” at a local young adult ministry gathering.

At 7 p.m. on Friday nights, we gathered together in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I found comfort in the rosary we would pray, and the “Tantum Ergo” we would close the time in the chapel with.

What wasn’t comforting, though, was the time in between the Sorrowful Mysteries and the ending hymn: the silence.

Still today, as I frequent the perpetual adoration chapel at Saint Peter’s Parish in Merchantville, I’ve been wary of this silence.

Indeed, I appreciate the fact that at any time, morning or night, I can visit Jesus in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. When I open the doors of this solemn space, I step out of a noisy world — beset with its attention-seeking technologies, bright lights and egocentric philosophies — and enter a grace-filled realm that washes over my soul.

I couldn’t agree more with the words of Blessed Fulton J. Sheen: “The greatest love story of all time is contained in a tiny white Host.”

However, lately I’ve found myself avoiding this “tiny white Host,” the Lord, when I sit in the chapel. Let me explain.

When I make my weekly holy hour, I always carry with me a rosary and some sort of spiritual book. And thus, the countdown begins — 20 minutes to reflect on the mysteries of the rosary; 30 minutes of Saint Augustine’s “Confessions,” Saint Francis de Sales’ “Introduction to the Devout Life,” or some other spiritual tome; and then only 10 minutes left to spend in silent contemplation before the hour is up, and I can go back to my regular schedule, proud of myself, and feeling holy, for spending time with the Lord.

But am I really “spending time” with Jesus for 60 minutes a week? Or am I using the rosary and reading as a crutch, to avert my eyes from the beauty before me, fully present and willing to listen? Am I avoiding the silence that might bring to the surface things I’d rather not deal with — that conflict with a friend, my worries about a sick family member, that evil look I gave the woman who cut me off on the White Horse Pike, those answers from God I don’t want to hear?

I was recently introduced to a profound book, Cardinal Robert Sarah’s “The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise.” In this striking work, the current Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments makes the case for silence and stillness, the most important thing for a noisy world (or writer) that doesn’t want anything to do with it.

However, this might be the perfect place to start.

“Nothing will make us discover God better than his silence inscribed in the center of our being,” the cardinal writes.

In another beautiful passage, he notes that “It is in the silence of humiliation and self-mortification, by quieting the turmoil of the flesh, by successfully taming the noisy images, by keeping at a distance the dreams, imaginations, and roaring of a world that is always in a whirl, in order to purify himself of all that ruins the soul and separates it from contemplation, that man makes himself capable of looking at God and loving him.”

Cardinal Sarah is not only asking us to quiet our speech and sound, but our interior noise: our worries, our fears, our annoyances, our pride.

In placing ourselves “at the disposal of the silent God who awaits us in the deep desert of our heart,” we find ”the manifestation of a presence, the most intense of all presences” who brings us boundless joy, and desires our hearts.

For a model of a perfect silence, he writes, one need only to look at the life of our savior:

“If man wants to imitate Christ, it is enough for him to observe his silences. The silence of the crib, the silence of Nazareth, the silence of the Cross, and the silence of the sealed tomb are one. The silences of Jesus are silences of poverty, humility, self-sacrifice and abasement; it is the bottomless abyss of his kenosis, his self-emptying.”

Of course, this silence doesn’t have to be observed only in adoration. I’ve spent these past few weeks trying to remember to keep my favorite baseball podcast off during my drive home, or to turn off the cool jazz on the radio just before bed. In these silences, I can reflect and, just maybe, quiet my soul enough to hear God’s voice deep down inside.

In front of the Blessed Sacrament, the rosaries and readings I’ve done can help me on this path to holiness as I seek the intercession of Mary and the wisdom of the saints.

What I’m realizing more and more, though, is that what God really wants from me is my time and heart.

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

Categories: Columns, Growing in Faith

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