The value of silence

/ 24 January 2012

Pope Benedict focused his statement on World Communications Day this year on silence: its value, silence as a foundation for good listening, silence in a world of noisy chaos.

I found his words very profound.

It's hard not to wonder, of course, to what extent we are to follow what is said, rather than what is enacted. I am reminded of the dictum in the Rule of Benedict that goes: "To obey in all things the commands of the Abbot or Abbess even though they (which God forbid) should act otherwise, mindful of the Lord's precept, 'Do what they say, but not what they do.'" (RB 4.60)

The Pope's message is difficult to encounter when so many church officials seem to be urging silence not for reverence's sake, but for political reasons. Still I resonate with this reflection, written by a Jesuit, who is reflecting upon his increasing need for reverence in church and how that connects with his practice of bikram yoga:

So I want something different. Not just in my own room, but in a place out in the world, with others. A silence that is shared. I want to enter a place where quiet is not only an expectation, but is so internalized by its devotees that they wouldn’t think of breaking it. I find this then, for a few precious minutes each day, at Bikram. People are quiet because, I think, they know how good it is. For themselves and for the others. They enjoy being quiet there. In fact, I think my fellow yoga students have fun being silent. As people walk down the hall toward the hot room, you get the sense that they are going to an amusement park. Oh, come on in with me. They let us be silent in here! It’s a riot! You’ll love it!

Along with everything else, this is what Bikram gives me. Silence, and calm, and silence. Most weekday masses do their best to be quiet too, and sometimes they pull it off. Every day at Bikram there is silence. I go as much as I can.</blockquote>