“ . . . A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord – but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake – but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire – but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire was a tiny whispering sound.” 1 Kings 19:11-12
These couple of verses remind us of something very important for all Christians. Throughout our lives we seek signs from God. We pray that God will give us clarity and guidance in major decisions. We pray that He will speak to us. We ask him to be loud and clear like fire or an earthquake. But these verses remind us that God does not speak to us in all those loud things, but in a whisper which will be missed if we are not surrounded by silence.
Just a few weeks ago the Holy Father gave a talk on the value of silence during a Wednesday general audience address. Perhaps the Holy Father gave this talk because he understands well that silence is a lost beauty in the world we live in. We tend to surround ourselves with noise, whether it’s the sound of driving cars, television, music, radio, or constant conversation. In fact, prolonged silence tends to make many of us feel uncomfortable. But silence should not make us uncomfortable at all, in fact, it ought to make us feel warm and safe. Silence is beautiful and allows us to hear God speaking to us. FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) recommends that its student leaders (those students leading Bible studies) pray at least 20 undisturbed—silent—minutes of mental prayer each day, because it takes at least that long for our minds to stop talking to God so that He can talk to us.
Recognizing the power and importance of silence is not easy. Having silent time in a family isn’t easy either, with kids who constantly seem to be loud and vocal. How do we teach our children the value and importance of silence? How do we help them to bring silence into their own lives? Here are a couple of ways to help bring silence into your own life and the lives of your children.
Exposure therapy: For most of us, prolonged silence is uncomfortable. How do we conquer this issue? By immersing ourselves into silence continually. Perhaps you can go to the chapel with your child and pray in silence for 20 minutes or so. At first this might be very hard for your child, but encourage them and don’t give up even if they seem to be struggling with the silence. In my life, continued silence has brought not only greater comfort but a great many blessings as well. Practicing silence may benefit your child too, once they learn to appreciate it.
The Step method: This method is more of a gradual exposure to silence. For some this might be preferable compared to an exposure method, especially for young children. Perhaps you might start by having your child pray the rosary with you in silence while only listening to an Audio rosary CD. This way they begin practicing the silencing of their own tongue. After becoming accustomed to this practice, then have them silently read the Catholic Bible or a Catholic prayer book where both their mouths and their surroundings are silent. Next, expose them to praying in the chapel where they are challenged to silence both their minds and their mouths in the midst of a surrounding silence. This step method allows children to gradually learn to enjoy silence at their own pace.
These two different methods are not only great for your children but might also work for you too. Silence allows us to listen to God’s voice in our lives in a powerful and unique way. Imagine how relaxed and refreshed you will feel with this break from all the noise in your life, and how renewed you will feel with this special time of quiet with God. Remember that hearing God’s voice in the silence is not possible if we are not open and receptive to receiving this grace. Also, sometimes we need to practice spiritual disciplines before reaping the benefits. Practicing silence can be hard. But be encouraged to develop this practice in your life and in your children’s lives using these methods, and you will begin to experience the blessings that silence brings.
Copyright 2012 Kathleen Wellman