Benedict on Communication and Silence

Pope Benedict has devoted his 2012 World Communications Day message to the topic of "Silence and Word: The Path of Evangelization."

It's an interesting an fruitful topic for a Communications Day message.  It  touches both upon the theological concerns that are Benedict's forte and very contemporary concerns.

It would be easy enough to write about the need for silence amidst the many forms of jabbering communication that surround us.  Indeed, one might suspect an octogenarian pope, born in the pre-electric era, to take this option.  But he offers instead a reflection on the interplay of silence and speech, locating silence as a part of communication.

"Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested."

He carries this through even in the consideration of the internet:

"Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God."

I've been saved and struck of late by the relation of silence and listening.  Ear plugs are so very different from the small sounds of the winter woods.  The quiet rustlings of the leaves that remain point to a bigger silence always waiting to be heard.


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Beth Cioffoletti
9 years ago
From my perspective, the most amazing thing happening in the Church these days is the blossoming of Contemplative prayer groups.  Almost everywhere I go in the USA I can find a local group of people who meet weekly to support each other in the practice of Centering Prayer.  This was unheard of (at least among lay persons) 25 years ago.  Most of the credit for this rapid growth goes to the Trappists and the Contemplative Outreach Movement that they began in the early 70s at the request of (I think) Pope Paul VI.

I am convinced that this silent prayer will not only show the way for the Church, but that it is an evolution of consciousness and awareness that will bring all of humanity to a new way of being and knowing.

Silence is not the absence of noise, or the opposite of noise, rather Silence is deeper than noise or lack of noise.  Silence is awareness. 
Jim McCrea
9 years ago
I can create a long list of church "leaders" whose silence I would applaud with great gusto.
Hey, Timmy, that's you for one, Big Man.
Amy Ho-Ohn
9 years ago
Everybody thinks other people should be silent. Not many people think they themselves talk too much.
Beth Cioffoletti
9 years ago
The talking isn't the problem, it's the chattering inside one's head.
Thomas Piatak
9 years ago
The importance of silence, and the need for silence within Catholic churches, was effecitvely explained in this piece in the new Jesuit online journal recently highlighted by Father Martin:

Thomas Rooney OFS
9 years ago
"Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words." - attributed to St. Fracis of Assisi
Thomas Rooney OFS
9 years ago
"Spell the name of your patron saint properly at all times; when necessary, re-read before clicking Post Comment." - attributed to Thomas Rooney OFS 
Vic Gallerano
9 years ago
As a writing prompt, I sometimes give my eighth graders the Quaker saying, ''Don't speak unless you can improve the silence'' -  and then the (partly) ironic instruction to ''please elaborate.'' (Quaker wisdom with irony? is a Jesuit parish.)
David Pasinski
9 years ago
Loved your second post, Thomas Rooney!

I haven't read the entire address, but the section quoted is wonderful.

In additon to applying it to my own life, I think of our very hyper-active parish liturgy which I generally enjoy, but could use more of that silence.  I also think of these posts as an intrusion on that silence of pondering these thoghts, and, finally, does Pope Benedict truly practice what he preaches in effectively listening. It seems that the experiences of Elizabeth Johnson and others point in another direction.
C Walter Mattingly
9 years ago
It seems another great gift of God has worked its way into commente here, punctuating the silence: humor, silent laughter.
9 years ago
Inspiring comments from many of you.  Thank you all.  
Let's not forget that Jesus role-modeled for us over 2000 years ago.  He  took time out  from  his hectic  preaching engagements and healing activities to go away someplace very quiet to pray and commune with God the Father. 

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