SILENCE IS AN ENDANGERED SPECIES

This reflection is based on Luke 18:1-8.

There was a time in my life when prayer felt like second nature. Whenever I was stuck in traffic, I would simply shut the world out and quietly say my rosary. Not only did I get the chance to pray for people who asked for prayers, but I also got to reconnect with the Lord in all sorts of places. You see, even if as we believe, God’s presence is constant and everywhere, we don’t always get to maintain our sense of that holy presence. But even in jeepney rides, I would be discreetly racing through my beads, praying even for the strangers I was commuting with.

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Unfortunately, that habit of prayer no longer comes as naturally. You would think that with the worsening Metro Manila traffic, I would have more time to pray. But these days when I’m stuck on the road and find myself with time in my hands, I no longer resort to praying the rosary by default. Instead I catch myself engaged in a flurry of digital activities: exchanging text messages, sending out emails, or just checking out Facebook. 

It’s not easy to shut the world out to pray when you can’t keep your eyes and fingers off your smartphone. Even while praying, I continue to be barraged with every sort of text messages and notifications. To be able to pray, one has to work really hard to pry oneself away from all the digital distractions that have become the very atmosphere of our lives. Can you bring yourself to shut off your devices? I suspect that for many people, the idea of getting disconnected–even for just a while–sounds almost life-threatening.

Which makes me wonder: Is silence an endangered species? How much space for silence and solitude are we still able to carve out of our busy digital lives? 

The American comedian, Louis CK, shares this experience of driving alone one evening and hearing a Bruce Springsteen song that quite inexplicably made him experience a deep sudden sadness. The unexpected sadness was strong enough and intriguing enough for him to pull off the road and stop his car. He was about to reach for his phone to text some friends about it, but for some reason, decided against it. He sat there, stayed with his feelings–alone–and before he knew it, he found himself weeping. It was a rare and valuable gift–a moment when he could–for once–be with himself and by himself, and savor what life was offering him there and then.

Had he not resisted the temptation of immediately connecting with others and “sharing” that experience, he might have missed out on that significant experience; he might have lost that moment. 

How many times have we lost moments like that because we were too eager to share our experiences with others? Instead of quietly gazing at a blazing sunset and allowing the power and beauty of it to flood us with a sense of awe, we Instagram it. Instead of staying with an unexpected feeling of anger, nursing it, taming it, and in the process, learning something important about ourselves, we react in the same way many people do today: We give vent to “internet rage” and impulsively type out an angry tweet that we will most likely regret almost as soon as we post it.

When we deprive ourselves of fully experiencing our feelings, we are depriving ourselves of the silence and solitude so essential to human living and growing. Even more importantly, just as mystics have reminded us again and again, only through silence and solitude can we make room for the sacred.

Andrew Sullivan writes in a recent New York Times article: “The reason we live in a culture increasingly without faith is not because science has somehow disproved the unprovable, but because the white noise of secularism has removed the very stillness in which faith might endure or be reborn.”

Today’s Gospel reminds us to pray–and to “pray always without becoming weary.” But our problem today isn’t exactly getting tired of prayer, but getting started in the first place! We live in an age when the norm is a lifestyle of constant connection with all its non-stop digital distractions. But we simply can’t pray without silence and solitude. 

So here are some disturbing questions that deserve honest answers: Is silence an endangered species in your life? Do you need some kind of digital detox? What “baby steps” can you take today to save your prayer life?

Good news: Thanks to our online faith community! PINS OF LIGHT has been honored as the Best Blog of the recently held Catholic Mass Media Awards. Thank you for all your support, participation, and inspiration. Let’s spread the word and continue sharing God’s Word in this digital universe.

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2016 Catholic Mass Media Award for BEST BLOG
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53 thoughts on “SILENCE IS AN ENDANGERED SPECIES”

  1. Thank you so much for the wonderful reflection shared to us. It really matters and as such, it has given us inspiration in our daily undertakings. I am always longing to read such inspiring reflection.

  2. Congratulations on the CMMA award!

    “…only in silence and solitude can we leave room for the sacred” Thanks for this valuable reminder. There is so much “noise” in our daily lives that time for silence and even sleep have sometimes become elusive. May the Good Lord bless us with more gifts of silence and with an open heart to benefit from the gift.

    Thanks!

  3. Touche, Fr J! I will most certainly share this with kith and kin.
    Congratulations on the award! More power to Pins of Light!

  4. Thank you and congratulations on the award! I look forward to your reflections.

    Put a bird feeder outside your window. It does the trick for me as I quietly watch the great wonders of the birds existing through God’s providence.

  5. Congratulations & thank you, Fr. J. It is in silence & solitude that i find myself & fully recharged, ready to face life’s challenges again.

  6. Thank you Fr J for reminding us of the need to be still and silent so that we can experience the Divine more fully. Congratulations on the recognition and award! God bless!

  7. Sometimes my silence is misunderstood. Nevertheless it doesn’t matter because oftentimes it is in this misunderstood silence that I gain complete understanding.

  8. Congrats on the award, Fr J! Thank you for starting what could be – and God may surprise you and everyone of us on how She will use this for the Kingdom – a genuine online faith community. AMDG!

  9. As the saying goes, “Bato-bato sa langit. . .” Thanks for the very timely (for me), honest and direct but gentle reminder to turn towards the One who is always waiting . . . especially now – for me – as circumstances beyond my control have me slowing down and reflecting! Thanks!

  10. “Just be still.” That was the answer I got to my question: what now? We were on the 7th of our visita de siete capillas and at the very last chapel, i felt like I struck bottom in my prayer. That’s why I asked God what else could I pray.
    “Be still. Just be still. Listen to Me.”
    “What if I’d only hear myself telling me what I want to hear? What now?”
    “Stop talking. Just be still.”

  11. Congratulations! Thank you Fr Johnny! Pin of Light is like reading your homily! May God continue to give you the grace to spread His words online!

  12. Lord, grant me the persistence to seek you in the silence, that I may might begin to disarm you with my pleadings. Through St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine, I pray. Amen.

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