The silence of the storm

Our silence can say so much or say nothing at all.  Silence can be used as a mark of contempt as when you are in a situation where you cannot say what you want to say, but nevertheless feel that some sort of response is called for. Silence can be a very effective bullying tactic when you say nothing and the person who is trying to be heard is squashed by being met with total silence. In this case there is nothing that can be said which will elicit a response and the affect can be devastating. Silence can be the loudest non- sound in the world. Have you ever sat in a room at night and there is absolutely no sound at all? No traffic, no voices, no birdsong, no noise from the refrigerator, no music, absolutely nothing! For some, the sound of no- sound can appear to be very loud and upsetting because we are so used to having some sort of noise in the background that an absence of sound can be disquieting. Yet silence is a virtue and a strong foundation stone for every relationship. Hopefully each of us have one of those friends with who you can go for a walk with, or just sit on a beach and watch the waves without having to say anything? Is conversation always necessary? The silence is what we call companionable silence. Both are at peace with our friendship and each other, rendering conversation in many cases unnecessary.  Not a word has been spoken yet both know exactly what the other wants. This is yet another example of the power and meaning of silence.

Once more, I went back to our own Rule of Life to see how we are encouraged to live silence as Disciples of Jesus Master and this is what I found:
  • "In the emerging Pauline Family, the community of sisters grows in a spirit of adoration and of service.  It is characterized by heroic faith, assiduous labour and reciprocal love, lived in joy, silence, and habitual recollection (referring to the foundation at the beginning)". Rule of Life no. 4
  • "In interior silence we listen to Jesus our Teacher and Prophet.  With a heart docile to the Holy Spirit we obey his words of eternal life." Rule of Life no.18
  • "During this period of initiation to the lifestyle of our Institute, in an atmosphere of silence and prayer, the novice intensifies her personal relationship with Jesus Master Way, Truth and Life present in the Word, in the Eucharistic Mystery and in the community." Rule of Life no. 50

  • "We appreciate silence as a precious gift which prepares the way for an authentic relationship with God and among ourselves.  In listening we offer hospitality to the Lord and to our neighbor and learn the art of true communication. In recollection we draw strength of clarification, of purification and concentration upon those things which are essential. Silence thus leads us to the fullness of interior life and becomes the source of apostolic efficaciousness." Rule of Life no. 60

This last article from the Rule is one of my favourites. We have this on the wall in our community in Dublin and many guests comment on it. Indeed silence is a precious gift because in being silent we listen. We all know what it is like when we speak and the other 'hears' us but doesn't 'listen' to us. Often they are busy formulating what they want to say in response. Indeed, we are guilty of doing it ourselves. It is good to remember that if you look closely the words 'silent' and 'listen' have the same letters!

I was struck very much by this following piece. Thanks to our friends over at a nunslife for this gem:

"Silence is a place where I go to when I need to still myself. If I can get to that stillness point, it will be quiet there, and whatever has been churning about in my head will stop. It’s a place I go to that helps me let go, and let God.

Sometimes though, I don’t take the time for silence and an inner storm often develops.The storm comes when I get stressed, and busy, and try to handle everything and everyone that comes along. It comes from all the little things that build up that I have internalized or decided not to or can’t deal with, but probably need to. Becoming engulfed in this storm makes me edgy and reactive to everyone and everything around me.

For me, that kind of storm causes a torrential rain where distance grows and becomes a forest of tangles. It’s within the process of trying to find my way through those tangles that I become exhausted, and stop trying to find my way out because I’ve finally realized I am lost.

I stop. And in that moment I can hear my heart, and the steady, fast rhythm of its beating. It helps to still my whole being into silence.

I feel God’s presence inside me.
I feel God’s slowing of my racing heart.
I feel God calming my each breath.

The rain has stopped.
The tangles have disappeared.
God is with me.
God is with me.
Let go, let God.
Let go, let God.

It is quiet now. I open my eyes and the way has been made clear for me.
Sometimes hearing and trusting that God is with you, means you have to get through the silence of a storm."  (Karol Bartlett)

So this weekend, try and take a little time out for some might be surprised what you might hear if you stop and listen what God has to say to you!