For many people in today’s world, time for personal silence has been stolen. It’s time to reset and recover this stolen treasure.
Think about Jesus’ advice in the Gospel of Saint Matthew about not getting so absorbed in “what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear” that you miss an awareness of God’s presence. “Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow” (Mt 6:26-28). Take some time for silence to appreciate what you have.
Saint Paul is straightforward: “Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col 3:2). Reset. Give yourself breaks of silence and prayer. Come up for some air.
The wonderful value of silence and prayer was imprinted in my mind by the visit of Pope Francis to Auschwitz in Poland last July. He was there alone. He walked through the gate of the Nazi extermination camp in silence. He sat on a wooden bench alone, in silence. Before the death wall, where thousands were executed, he prayed and placed a simple candle. In the underground cell of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the Franciscan who volunteered to replace a husband and father marked for death, Francis prayed in silence. He embodied silent prayer. His silence, in effect, was golden. Giving silent time to talk with God is an example for all of us.
The pope had specified beforehand that he wanted “to go to that place of horror without speeches, without crowds. Alone, enter, pray. And may the Lord give me the grace to cry.” His only public words were written in the guest book: “Lord, have pity on your people. Lord, forgive so much cruelty.”
There’s a time for words just as there’s a time for silence. We use words to reach out to one another, to connect, inform, console, beg forgiveness, and express our love. Pope Francis has spoken and written many powerful words, but his visit to Auschwitz was a place and time for silence and prayer. Such silence and prayer was not unusual for the pope. It enriches his life every day—as it can ours.
Teresa of Calcutta, one of our newest saints, had many things to say about the value of silence. “God is the friend of silence. In prayer and silence God will speak to you. In silence, we find new energy and unity. Silence gives us a new look on everything.”
Is it time to reset your life?
Jeremy Harrington, OFM, contributes to the free e-newsletter Franciscan Espirations. Click here to subscribe!