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The Catholic Faith In Slow Motion (No.51)

Seeing in Silence
 
Much gets lost in a world that is filled with noise and endless chatter. Along with the inevitable noise of autos and industry and commerce, we have a host of increasingly sophisticated devices with which to ban silence. The devices are “on” day and night in more and more places—at home, at school, at work, in waiting rooms, hospital rooms, living rooms, bedrooms, malls and lobbies, parks and playgrounds. Much information is distributed by the chatter. Our favorite music helps us through the boring times. Keeping the chatter going among friends saves us from loneliness, and at least some of the movies and t.v. shows are truly entertaining.
 
If you are going to experience silence, you will have to choose silence. You will have to turn off the devices. You will have to find a time to be alone and be still.
 
But why would I choose silence? Isn't silence just absence, emptiness, and awkwardness? Yes, there are empty silences. But there are also full silences. Before getting to the obvious relationship of silence to prayer and worship, we might think about the every-day costs to our humanity when the natural opportunities for silence are no longer welcomed. A couple of simple examples will have to do.
 
In all human endeavor, silent reflection is the natural preparation for appropriate action and right response. The high school football team I played on kept a mandatory hour of absolute silence as final preparation before loading the bus for the stadium. This was hard for a bunch of adolescent boys to learn. But we found the discipline fruitful. In the silence we “gathered” ourselves for the challenge. In the imposed stillness we rehearsed our movements, we recalled what we had learned of our opponents, we “saw” the game ahead of time.
 
In human relationships, a kind of inner “seeing” of others, a stepping back in “contemplation” of others, is required to truly know and love others. Such moments do not have to be manufactured; they are simply “there” for the one who is open to them. Think of the exhausted young mother saying her “goodnight” to her young child, when suddenly the wonder, the sense of the gift of the child, speaks to her heart as she turns out the light.
 
Such moments are not always recognized as “religious” moments. But they anticipate the call to silence within the call to prayer. Pope Benedict XVI once wrote about the “contemplation” (the new way of seeing) available to us through prayer. “Through prayer, daily life takes on new meaning. It becomes a classroom of communion. In that classroom we learn the truth about who we are - and who we are becoming - in Jesus. Through prayer we receive new glasses through which we see the true landscape of life. Through prayer darkness is dispelled and the path of progress is illuminated.”


 
 
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