Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sacred Silence

To make possible true inner silence, practice:

Silence of the eyes, by seeking always the beauty and goodness of God everywhere, and closing them to the faults of others and to all that is sinful and disturbing to the soul.

Silence of the ears, by listening always to the voice of God and to the cry of the poor and the needy, and closing them to all other voices that come from fallen human nature, such as gossip, tale bearing, and uncharitable words.

Silence of the tongue, by praising God and speaking the life-giving Word of God that is the truth, that enlightens and inspires, brings peace, hope, and joy; and by refraining from self-defense and every word that causes darkness, turmoil, pain, and death.

Silence of the mind, by opening it to the truth and knowledge of God in prayer and contemplation, like Mary who pondered the marvels of the Lord in her heart, and by closing it to all untruths, distractions, destructive thoughts, rash judgments, false suspicions of others, vengeful thoughts, and desires.

Silence of the heart, by loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength; loving one another as God loves; and avoiding all selfishness, hatred, envy, jealousy, and greed. Mother Teresa, Heart of the World
The Family Cloister has sections on Obedience, Silence, Humility, and Attentiveness.   It seems to me that these three are closely related.   Obedience is silence of one's own will.   Silence -- well, of course.  Humility -- silencing the clamor of your ego which wants everything to center around itself.  And Attentiveness -- no one can listen and hear unless he is silent.

In thinking about how this applies to family life:

A lot of people have excellent and wholesome traditions connected with sacred silence.  Here are a few that I can think of:

  1. Morning devotions or "quiet time" for each child who is old enough to study on his own.
  2. Afternoon "quiet time" to allow rest and alone time.
  3. A hush in honor of our Lord's Passion at 3 pm
  4. Silence for prayers or reading, during mealtime or elsewhere.
  5. The stillness of night.
  6. Requiring quiet from children during Mass or church services.
  7. Quiet in the sanctuary -- no chatting before or after Mass, while still inside the sanctuary.
  8. Turning off music or TV during Lent.
  9. Periodic family retreats -- for an hour, a morning, a day.  
  10. Getting outside into Nature. 
Maria Montessori had a Silence Lesson.   Sometimes it is called the Silence Game.    It was thought of as a preparation, because when you think of it, many "callings" came out of the silence.   David lived the lonely life of a shepherd before he was called to be anointed as king.  Samuel heard and answered God during the silence of the night. 

One of the early symptoms of misbehavior in my house is an escalation of noise.  Sometimes the child is making noise and basically shutting out his inner wisdom by doing this, sometimes the noise is around the child and fraying at his peace of mind until he acts against his better judgment.    All noise affects the emotional landscape. ... it seems to have a magnifying effect on whatever emotion it targets.   When you are outside, the various sounds of nature are balanced out with silences, but in artificial surroundings, sometimes noise is almost an entity in itself.   That's one of the things I best remember about my schooldays -- the constant, echoing, dull roaring noise!

Homeschooling, in some ways, can be a choice for silence.  But sometimes homeschoolers are tempted to rush to fill in the silence with a scurry of activities and talk and music.  It's not that these things are bad, but that they can pile upon themselves recklessly if not balanced, like a closetful of art supplies or games that are good in themselves, but piled in great quantities so they are in danger of falling out every time the door is opened.

Anyway, this is what I get from The Family Cloister.   I happen to like silence, but sometimes I tolerate noise because I've learned to basically shut it out.   As a mom I probably should help my children be more aware of the discipline of practicing silence in the right contexts. 

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