JUN 30, 2022

Fr. Álvaro de María, msp (Spanish)

When I was trying to discern the content of this article, considering the possibility of various topics, due to those small and curious but significant--because providential--“coincidences” with which life sometimes surprises us, I came across an article from a secular digital publication which promotes family values that really caught my attention and made me decide on my choice. The article underlined the importance of educating in silence. I reproduce part of its content:

Those of us who are dedicated to teaching appreciate that a fundamental ingredient is missing in the education of our young people: silence. If we see a group of young people in silence, they are inevitably looking at a screen. Even in higher grades, the phone prevents mental silence, concentration, recollection, deep study. (...) In families, there is only silence in front of a screen, be it television, computer or phone. How many boys like to read and we see them reading a book in silence? Few, very few. Without silence there is no thought of one's own, there is no analysis, there is no criticism, there is no concentration, there is no reflection.

Without the above, there is no criterion; and, without criteria, our young people are puppets in the hands of puppeteers who do not value them for what they are but for what they represent: votes. We know it, but we do nothing or do very little. And that education must begin in the family. We need to transmit to our children the value of silence, working without noise, without auditory noise and without visual "noise." We know that it is going against the current, it is true, but (...) it is perfectly possible to have lunch or dinner with the family without the phone in front of us. It is perfectly possible to educate our children without phones. The problem will be if we are capable of educating by example. Educating by example is not a way to educate, it is the only way to educate (

It is inevitably a chain effect:  it is a sign of a healthy person (mentally, spiritually and morally speaking) to have the capacity for silence (interior and exterior). This balance is learned (like almost everything in our life) already in the family. Then the person will only have to consolidate what has been acquired. There in the family (the first and fundamental social and ecclesial nucleus) it is essential to educate in this particular value of silence, not silence understood negatively as lack or absence, but positively as the most appropriate environmental condition for listening and subsequent dialogue. And, if we are used to that healthy silence in personal relationships, we will have the best preparation to live the other Personal Relationship (with a capital letter), that with God.

Personally, I am surprised, and sometimes scared (sometimes even shocked) by the inability of some people to be silent. On the one hand, I feel the danger of losing peace myself when I inevitably have to experience noisy music or loud conversations. On the other hand, I feel sorry for the people immersed in them, not out of haughty compassion, but because of the pain I feel seeing the treasure they are depriving themselves of. But, how does one make a person understand that this capacity for silence is really an incredible treasure if he has not been educated in it?

I remember that, years ago, a person visited us in our House of Formation in Ajofrín and, after a while, he confessed to me that he felt nervous. The reason? Too much silence! He was used to noise, to high-decibel music, and silence necessarily led him to have to think, to have to face his "ghosts" and the questions he had always tried to avoid, distracting himself and plugging them with all kinds of noises.

That made me reflect and I decided to put on a door of the corridor to the chapel a ceramic sign that said: "Listen to the silence." Also, some time ago, Father Giovanni had some beautiful wooden signs made in our carpentry workshop in the City of Boys in Andahuaylillas which were later distributed in various corners of our houses, with various allusions to silence to make us continually remember the richness of this gift: "Love silence and you will find peace," "Silence, key to the Heart of Christ."

And silence is not simply an absence of noise. It is the ideal environmental condition in which God communicates. God speaks in the silence; and, if this silence is not sought, we run the risk of depriving ourselves of meeting Him. I like that precious expression of Saint John of the Cross in his Spiritual Canticle, explaining the relationship of the soul with God: “Solitude speaks.” It’s a paradoxical expression because, although it seems a physical loneliness, it is the presence of the Almighty; and, although it occurs in silence, it is sonorous because His voice is perceived there.

Let us ask for the gift of silence, and let us collaborate in it, not only seeking silence with specific acts, but also internalizing a constant attitude of silence.

However, beware! There is silence and there is silence… But we will talk about this soon, in the second part of this article.