The Great "S"

Part 19







In a society increasingly immersed in technology, SILENCE is rapidly becoming a lost virtue. That makes the need for cultivating a warm, deep, living SILENCE even more imperative, for the human person is made for speech and song and SILENCE, and without it, a vital dimension of our humanity is diminished and even damaged.

SILENCE is far more than the mere absence of wounds (although that is always a good place to begin when seeking to nurture silence in one's life!). SILENCE is an attitude, an atmosphere which is life-giving, renewing and revitalizing. SILENCE is the gateway to the interior life, ushering us into intimate communion with God. It is not a vacuum or a void but, as one ancient author expressed it, a symbol of the world to come. Contemplation, the culmination of the journey of prayer, has been described as silent love. SILENCE not only allows us to make room for the mystery of God, it also permits us to cross the threshold into that mystery and enables us to listen to the One who dwells in the depths of our souls.

St. Francis of Assisi was a man of SILENCE. The singing herald of the Lord and ardent preacher of the Gospel knew firsthand how vitally important SILENCE is in the spiritual life. Francis was careful to heed the Scriptural admonition against vain and idle words. He saw in holy SILENCE a profound expression of interior poverty. He urged his brothers to surround their prayer with the mantle of discreet SILENCE. But for Francis, there was even more to the GREAT "S," and that "more" he learned from the Divine Word Himself.

The entire earthly life of Jesus can be described as a lesson in SILENCE. It was in the SILENCE of the night that He, the Omnipotent Word, leapt down to earth from His heavenly throne. His thirty years in a remote village could easily be re-titled "the SILENT life." Even during His public ministry, our Lord made it a point to go apart from the crowds so that in a solitude filled with SILENCE, He could commune with His heavenly Father. In the face of His accusers and detractors, Jesus remained SILENT. Fulfilling the ancient prophecy, like a lamb led to the slaughter, He was SILENT and opened not His mouth. In the SILENCE of the night, He rose from the dead.

St. Francis saw in this SILENCE a sign of Christ's inner strength and a seal on His total sun-ender to the Father's will. That was enough to make the Little Poor Man set out on the road of the Great "S" and to invite all his followers to do likewise. He understood that reverence propels us to SILENCE and SILENCE equips us to listen to God, first of all, but also to our neighbor. This is one of the most liberating aspects of holy SILENCE. It is a discipline which leads to a deepening discipleship which, in turn, opens our hearts (and our ears!) to a fruitful listening and responding to the needs of others.


Gospel SILENCE, Christian SILENCE, is not something cold or cruel or condescending. Just the opposite! The SILENCE which God invites us to practice is focused on the good of the other. It is warm and welcoming. SILENCE requires strength and single-heartedness and, often, a good measure of self-denial. But the rewards are so great - right speech and pure praise and the ability to hear what the Lord God is saying, in the depths of our hearts and in the brothers and sisters He has placed on our life's path.


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