All posts tagged: silence

St. John of the Cross: The Depth, Height, and Edges of Silence

Overture on Silence There are many kinds of silence: the stony silence of hatred, the crimped silence of hurt, the directed silences of envy and contempt, the silence that is the pause between our chattering and nattering, the concentrated silence of an attempt to find oneself in the scattering of oneself across work and home, task and function, busyness and the distractions we pile on in our leisure, the silence that is the time of planning and plotting, the silence rutted by fantasy, the silence that is the relief of withdrawal from a worn day with even more worn words, the silence before one drifts off to sleep, the silence which marks our having been beaten down and become abject, and the silence that is the acceptance of one’s death now coming in from the wings. There is happily also the silence of waiting on a sign that we are loved, the silence from which a work of art emerges and returns, the blessed silence from which scripture comes and the silence with which it …

I Will Not Leave You Orphans

Even as our days remain filled with many activities, we can still remain close to God, we can still “abide” with him (Jn 15:4).To remain with him we need to develop a habit of love: hospitality toward his coming in love throughout the day. Of course, we need to go to the Blessed Sacrament to pray, but we also need to learn how to receive his love throughout the course of a workday or during family commitments. In order to receive his love, we need to be affectively vulnerable toward him and become adept at noticing when he comes to us within these affective movements of love. How do we maintain our availability? Married couples will oftentimes fill their workplaces with photos or reminders of their spouse so that, throughout the day, they can emotionally connect with one another by glancing at these icons, even if only for a short moment. The heart in love wants to stay connected with the one it loves. God loves us and so he too wishes to initiate an …

The Saint for a Troubled Church

With so many issues troubling the Church and world at large, it can often be a difficult to get a grasp on these problems and identify practical solutions. But there is a Saint who faced similar challenges in his own time who can help us realize the grace and peace that God has given us. Saint Bonaventure joined the Franciscan order and was an academic by training, but he was also a great preacher and confessor. Recognized as a man of wisdom and talent, at the age of 36, he was elevated to the post of Minister General of the Order, a position he held for nearly 17 years, before being named Cardinal. One of the Doctors of the Church, Bonaventure is an remarkable spiritual master and theologian, but also a fantastic administrator and leader, who can help us chart a path that both clings to the Gospel ideals of Jesus, but also recognizes the importance of moving in the direction of the current times of the world. He is a great exemplar for us …

Silence: A First Review

The Jesuits left Japan in 1587. Shūsaku Endō published Silence in 1966. Martin Scorsese read it in 1989 and now releases, 27 years later, the movie he has wanted to make ever since. Why drag a story from distant history to examine today? Scorsese’s Silence raises so many issues it’s hard to choose one. It made me consider: What is the nature of humility? What happens when we and our environment conflict? How does Scorsese change Endō’s story? How do stories change us? So a little of each. Silence traces Fr. Sebastiao Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield), a young Jesuit who goes to Japan searching for his mentor, Fr. Christovau Ferreira (Liam Neeson). Ferreira has allegedly apostatized, permanently betrayed his once viral faith and has since been living as a Japanese man with a Japanese wife. Rodrigues and fellow priest Francisco Garrpe, convinced this is a lie, want to find the man who inspired them. Japan reveals the prideful underbelly of Rodrigues’ zeal. Their translator Kichijiro (Yôsuke Kubozuka) introduces them to clandestine Christians, literally starving for the sacraments. …

Festive Silence

The weeks leading up to Christmas are a noisy time amid the constant din of advertisements, Christmas music, and planning for the holidays. In this atmosphere it can be difficult to quiet our souls in preparation for the coming of the Christ child. An ascetic plunge into silent preparation this Advent may seem like the only alternative to cranking the Christmas tunes to get in the spirit of the season. But perhaps there is a way in which a festive silence is necessary to suppress the noise occupying our spirit. This may be the silence we need to prepare to enter more fully into the festival of Christmas when it comes. This silence does not need to be thought of as a sort of Lenten “music fast,” but rather as a silence that encompasses the joyful hope of the coming of Emmanuel. Then, at Christmas, when God comes to dwell with us (truly a time for the festival to begin) we are prepared to receive him. Allowing God’s indwelling in our lives requires radical openness …

Jesus' body over Japanese characters

Silence and Decision 2016

At the end of Shusaku Endo’s beautifully grueling novel, Silence, the protagonist, Fr. Sebastião Rodrigues, faces a debilitating choice. Held captive by the Japanese government, Fr. Rodrigues’ is commanded to recant Christianity by stepping on the fumie, an icon of Christ’s face. If he resists this apostasy, he will condemn peasants, who have already renounced their faith, to continue their slow death in the gruesome “pit”. What would Jesus do? Endo’s novel is startling as it is bleak. Without any sugar-coating, Endo captures a singular reality of Christian life in Rodrigues’ anguished predicament. While we wish life would present us with clear choices, good and evil are intertwined too closely together in the world to be easily delineated. Fr. Rodrigues’ choices represent this truth, pushed to an extremity. If he refuses to apostatize, his inaction will cause him to participate in the suffering of innocents, condemning souls to death. If he tramples on the fumie, he will betray his beloved Christ, as Judas did. “If Christ were here,” another priest counsels Rodrigues, “certainly Christ would …

God in the Silence: Full of Grace

Silence is both a terrible and a beautiful thing. But how does one describe silence? Since I was born profoundly deaf in both ears, I know silence quite intimately. Even though I use a hearing device called a cochlear implant for my right ear, I am still able to encounter silence whenever I turn off my cochlear implant, and from my experience, I can tell you that the silence of the hearing world is incomparable to the silence of the deaf. Although it is an inadequate analogy, the best way that I can describe to you the physical experience of silence, that is, the complete absence of sound, is this: imagine waking up very early one winter morning and standing outside, gazing upon the mounds of fresh, white, pristine snow. There’s no movement, no wind, no birds chirping or squirrels running around. No sound of scraping shovels, whirring snow blowers, or snow plows grinding down the street. If you hold your breath for a moment, then there’s absolute stillness. And you’re all alone. You hear …

There are No Silent Saints: St. Joseph, St. André Bessette, and Holy Meekness

“. . . a time to be silent, and a time to speak . . . ” (Eccl 3:7) We live in a world that is too frequently noisy, replete with a cacophony of distracting sounds and sights. It is no wonder that we make recourse to the word “loud” to describe an obtrusively bright, flashy color or design, or even the many prominent figures within our culture who surround themselves by a whirlwind of activity and clamor for our attention. Yet, this loudness is not how God operates, and it is not how God calls us to operate. Instead of boastfulness, immodesty, abrasiveness, or any combination thereof, we are actually called to holy meekness and humility. Some of the most profound passages of Scripture indicate a God who is subdued, but not in an indecisive or unsure way; rather, in a manner that allows him to enter into the refuge of our hearts. Let us first look at the Old Testament. In Psalm 46:11, God commands us to “Be still and know that I …