The Chaplain at our university gave us a challenge. For 24 hours, in the spirit of solidarity with those around the world whose voices are silenced over freedom of speech and human rights we had to remain silent. In our silence, remembering those who face religious persecution.
It seemed like an easy task at first, particularly starting on a Friday and finishing on a Saturday evening. But the reality is it was challenging and difficult, as we may not always notice or appreciate our dependency on our voices.
Silence, in our modern, busy, noisy lives, is a forgotten but profound part of our lives. Often, the silence can be more daunting than the noise.
Silence plays a huge part of our spiritual lives as Catholics and our ability to hear God. Fr Christopher Jamison, who is now the Vocations Director for England and Wales as part of his documentary, The Big Silence said “Silence is a gateway to the soul, and the soul is the gateway to God.”
After his baptism, but before beginning his ministry and his work (which we marked on Sunday), Jesus spent forty days and nights in the wilderness in solitude. During which he was tempted by the devil. We can learn from Jesus’ example, silence and contemplation strengthens a person’s troubles and battles against temptation. Jesus also was able to defend himself with the Word of God. Silence allows us to hear the Word of God and to hear Him speak to us.
As I used to describe to students at my 6th Form and Secondary School when I was Spiritual Life Officer. It’s like listening to your best friend while you have your headphones in on full blast, listening to your iPod. You just cannot hear them.
In fact, to aid their ministry, priests today still are obliged to make an annual time of contemplation, a retreat by Canon 276.4:
They are also obliged to make spiritual retreats, in accordance with the provision of particular law
In our modern noisy lives, silent contemplation can be a more profound meditative form of reflection as it marks something distinct, different, apart from the day-to-day. Silence is the most basic and simplest form of personal spiritual reflection and can suit whatever your previous spiritual experiences and journey. Silent reflection can take place in our schools, universities, Churches and even in our own homes. As Our Lord said “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Image Credit: Sean MacEntee, 2012, Silence stone at Croagh Patrick shrine in Co Mayo, Ireland. Flickr.