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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Pope Benedict and Sacred Silence

Regarding the importance of sacred silence, Deacon James Keating of the Institute of Priestly Formation shared with me a great piece on the Holy Father's visit to a Carthusian monastery in southern Italy. This short article is a reminder of how important it is to schedule periods of the day when we withdraw from the barrage of noisy diversions all too available to us. A little time each day in prayerful silence protects against the illusions our noisy culture promotes and it helps us keep in touch with what is really real. Practicing silence and protecting our limited powers of attention from all forms of dissipation helps us focus our strength to confront the really important questions that we all must face at some point—questions which expose the truth about ourselves. If we are patient, silence strips us of the silliness that so often pulls us away from the truly essential. In silence surrendered to God we discover just how vulnerable we actually are and how little we understand our need for God. In such silence, we touch what is truly human and we taste what it is to be fully alive. It is in this sacred silence that we discover we are awaited by Love. As reported by CNA last Sunday:

The Pope contrasted the silence of the order with the noise of modern life. “Without realizing it, people are immersed in a virtual dimension, because of the audio-visual messages that accompany their life from morning to evening,” he said. He called the Carthusian charism of silence “a precious gift for the Church and the world,” and one that contained “a profound message for our life and for humanity.” “Retiring into silence and solitude, man, so to speak, is ‘exposed’ to reality in his nakedness,” said the Pope. This allows man to experience “the fullness, the presence of God, of the most real Reality that there is, and that is beyond the dimension of the senses.” The Pope joined the monks for Vespers, the evening prayer of the Church. Before entering the monastery, he remarked that the ancient monastic life is a rebuke to a certain modern mindset “that is not Christian, or even human, because it is dominated by economic interests,” or is only concerned with earthly and not spiritual things. A society based on such a mindset, he said, “not only marginalizes God, but also our neighbor, and we do not strive for the common good.” The monastery, though, is instead “a model of a society that focuses on God and fraternal relationship.” This is something for which we have “so much need in our time,” said the Pope.

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