The Power of Silence
As busy mothers, our lives are loud. Kids are naturally noisy, and the more we have, the more that noise is multiplied, especially when they are home all day long in a homeschooling household. So when our moms’ group decided to read and discuss The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise by Robert Cardinal Sarah for Lent this year, I knew it would be a challenge to apply his thoughts to our particular vocation.
But I do find myself longing for silence, and a few minutes alone in quiet in the car as I run an errand or when I sit in an Adoration chapel feed my soul in a unique way. Even when I wake up just a few minutes before my children are allowed to come out of their rooms in the morning, there is a peace unlike any other.
This book, dear friends, is amazing, and within the first few pages, I knew that it would bless us. For, Cardinal Sarah immediately speaks about the silence at the depth of our souls:
- At the heart of man there is an innate silence, for God abides in the innermost part of every person…
- …Nothing will make us discover God better than his silence inscribed in the center of our being…
- …There is no place on earth where God is more present than in the human heart. This heart truly is God’s abode, the temple of silence.
While our homes are loud with the noise of children, there is no doubt that our modern American culture is steeped in the noise of privilege – the noise of appliances and traffic and media. When we go out into nature, especially into the countryside away from city noises, there is a deep stillness, without the hum of electronics. As mothers, it can be nearly impossible to capture this kind of true silence with any regularity and still stay true to our vocations. But Cardinal Sarah writes:
- …For we can remain silent in the midst of the biggest messes and most despicable commotion, in the midst of the racket and howling of those infernal machines that draw us into functionalism and activism by snatching us away from any transcendent dimension and from any interior life.
Pause and Find True Rest
I have come to understand that while praying amidst the pots and pans and turning our daily work into a form of prayer is essential, we need to seek an interior silence in order to grow ever closer to God. There has to be an atmosphere of peace, modeled by mom. As Sarah McKenzie says, “we ought to enter into God’s rest and then serve Him wholeheartedly – not out of anxiety, but out of love and trust.”
We must insert pauses into our days when we simply rest in God and acknowledge His holy presence in our lives. Cardinal Sarah quotes Saint John Paul II:
- …“…Ours is a time of continual movement which often leads to restlessness, with the risk of ‘doing for the sake of doing.’ We must resist this temptation by trying ‘to be’ before trying ‘to do.’” Novo millennio ineunte
What does this look like for a mom of littles and/or a mom of many who is in a season where she can’t wake before her children or get away to an Adoration chapel? I sit down to read a picture book to my children, and there is quiet. I play a card game with my teen. I nurse the baby. We take a walk down a path into the woods or across a field and focus on the quiet sounds of nature. I stop moving and watch my children play or listen to their story. These are the things that train my soul to be still and silent and help me to connect with God.
My Personal Noise
Most convicting to me in this book were the comments about silencing the noise that I make:
- Today many people are drunk on speaking, always agitated, incapable of silence or respect for others. They have lost their calm and dignity.
From as early as the third grade, according to my report card comments, I struggle with talking too much. I love words. I know the importance of words, and so I use them a lot. My husband mercifully calls me on it when I am trying to get the children to leave the house or go to bed and become like a machine gun, firing off commands one after the other without taking a breath.
One of my greatest obstacles in relationships is my tendency to interrupt others and to attempt to finish their sentences for them when there is a pause in conversation. That kind of silence is uncomfortable for me, but I recognize the necessity to listen and wait. Cardinal Sarah reminds me:
- Keeping quiet by mastering one’s lips and tongue is a difficult, blazing, and arid work. But we must delve ever deeper into the interior realities that can shape the world usefully.
I will always love words, and writing and speaking are ways I do feel called to glorify God, but I know that in parenting and in friendship there are times for silence. Actions speak louder than words, anyway, right?
The Silence of the Heart
Most importantly, beyond seeking (relatively) quiet moments amidst our days and silencing our own tongues, this book taught me to acknowledge the silent presence of God in my heart. Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.” Cardinal Sarah elaborates:
- The silence of the heart is the most mysterious thing, because although we can decide not to talk by keeping quiet, although we can likewise close our eyes so as to see nothing, we have less control over our heart. In it there is a fire that burns, in which passions, anger, resentments, and violence are difficult to control. It is difficult to conform human love to God’s love…
- Silence of the heart consists of quieting little by little our miserable human sentiments so as to become capable of having the same sentiments as those of Jesus. Silence of the heart is the silence of the passions. It is necessary to die to self in order to join the Son of God in silence…
Prayer and adoration are most important ingredients in finding silence. There simply must be space in our busy days for prayer where we quiet our own noise and seek God. This time whether with family or alone, whether in church or at home, whether for two minutes or twenty minutes, is essential to an interior life united with Christ.
I could go on and on sharing the wise words of this book. In fact, above I have only quoted from the first 45 pages out of 241. Cardinal Sarah’s words will be ones I hope to turn to many times in the coming months, to contemplate and remind myself how essential silence, both interior and exterior, are.
Do you long for silence? Where do you find it?
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