An old proverb says silence is golden. Whoever came up with that proverb was on to something.
Today, I went to a popular fast food sandwich chain restaurant for lunch. While waiting in line to be served, I couldn’t help but take notice of the man in front of me. During the entire time the employees were making his sandwich, he never stopped talking into his cell phone. Several times, the employees had to repeatedly ask him if he wanted a specific topping on his sub or not. So engrossed was he in his conversation that the man completely blocked out everyone else around him. And this continued even after he paid for his meal and left the store. From start to finish, he never once put down his phone and rarely acknowledged that anyone else was present.
The man’s actions and responses, or more accurately, the lack thereof, caused me to reflect upon some things that had occurred in my own life lately. Now I’m even thinking I need to go buy Cardinal Sarah’s book The Power of Silence.
Just the day before the restaurant incident, on Sunday, August 13, at Mass, our deacon was reflecting upon the first reading in which Elijah was taking shelter in a cave at Horeb, the mountain of God in his homily:
Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. (1 Kings 19:11-12)
During his homily, the deacon remarked on how reliant we’ve become on technology. In this day and age, with social media at our fingertips, lightning-fast Wi-Fi, and smartphones, it’s become so easy for us to become distracted. We’ve become so fixated on filling every waking moment with “noise and stuff” that perhaps, in the deacon’s opinion, it’s causing us to overlook the importance of silence in our lives. Near the end of his homily, he encouraged the congregation to spend ten to fifteen minutes a day in silence; to simply be in the presence of God and listen for His promptings and voice.
Time to Unplug
On the car ride home, my fiancée Marjorie and I talked about what the deacon had said. In both of our lives it seemed that the theme of silence and “unplugging” had been laid on our hearts. For those of you who don’t know what that is, “unplugging” means living life without computer-related distractions. In short, it means getting off of social media outlets like Facebook, turning off cell phones, and interacting with the friends and family in our lives.
Later that same day, we had our last session of Dynamic YOU, a summer program with our teens. During the last video session, the speaker in the video relayed a story about a college sociology professor. In her class, the professor challenged her students to ask somebody out on a date in person (not through social media or text messages). She then said they had to put away their phones while on the date, and actually interact with each other. If her students were to do that, she’d give them extra credit.
I don’t know if any of her students accepted her challenge, but the professor obviously felt unplugging was important for the well-being of her students. She felt it was crucial for them to take a break from getting lost in a world of electronic distractions, non-committal hook-ups, and social alienation.
Silence is Golden
We should be the same way with God. Think about your own faith journey. When was the last time you went to Eucharistic Adoration and just sat in His presence? When did you last pick up the Bible, read a chapter, and then quietly reflected upon how it relates to your own life? Do you have a peaceful spot in a park to simply relax, to be free from all the distractions and stresses of everyday life? When was the last time you knelt by your bed, with folded hands, and prayed from the heart to God about some concern of yours?
A few weeks ago I had a rather strange dream. Normally, I don’t remember my dreams but this time I did. When I woke up, I was haunted by the events depicted in it. I took the uneasy feelings and misgivings to God in prayer. For several days, I asked Him (along with St. Expedite – the patron saint for people in need of quick solutions to a problem) for some clarity.
It wasn’t until I attended a retreat for youth ministers that I finally got my answer. Our retreat was held at the beautiful Ironstone Ranch near Elizabethtown, PA. The devoutly Catholic owners did a wonderful job converting portions of their picturesque farm land into a retreat center. The retreat center has an outdoor Stations of the Cross, a grotto devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and an upcoming Rosary Walk. While there, we celebrated Mass and Reconciliation in one of their lovely barns, and were given ample time to explore the ranch on our own.
Silence is Powerful
After Reconciliation, I ventured out onto the property to do my penance, one Our Father and one Hail Mary. The caveat was that I had to reflect upon each line as I said the prayers. For the next two hours, I did just that. By the end of that day, I felt closer to God. The fears I’d been feeling had vanished. I had the answers to my questions and I returned feeling refreshed.
For most of my time there, I kept my phone in my pocket and focused on my interior spiritual life. God met me where I was once I removed the distractions — once I took my eyes off the glowing screen and fixed them on the Lord.
So I leave you with this thought: Is it really so difficult to set aside ten or fifteen minutes a day to devote to God in silence?