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The Revolutionary Power of Silence

With the age of digital connectivity, we are bombarded with many different stimulations that can overwhelm us. Silence and stillness is needed in order to help us reassess our sense of self, connect with God, and decide on how to affect real change.

The verse “Be still and know that I am God” is not an escape from the problems of the world, but the answer to the problems of the world. This stillness is greater than the turmoil, greater than the violence, and greater than the hatred … There is a beautiful image of our soul being like a lamp burning in a place where there is no wind. Just steady, quiet burning. … We may have a lot of turbulence and turmoil going on in our minds and in our feelings, but that does not disturb the stillness that is at the center of our heart. … (Laurence Freeman)

The convent of the Trappist Sisters lies on top of a small hill with a beautiful view of the city and its dazzling lights. Our group of young people, composed of both Catholic and Protestant, decided to join the Sisters for evening prayer and adoration as we waited for the New Year countdown. 

The vespers were chanted in unison and after each psalm there was a long period of silence. Adoration was also done in absolute silence. While the Sisters were perfectly and naturally still, we were unable to sit for a significant amount of time without doing any movement or noise. 

I realized that the idea of being seated in silence and stillness, in the age of smart phones, is scary and a cause of anxiety. It feels as if, by being silent and by stopping the endless flow of thoughts and external stimulations, we may lose the sense of connectivity and control of the situation. 

Internet addiction is all about connectivity and fear of being alone. Sadly enough, digital connectivity does not correspond to real connectivity. Hence, silence is scary: it makes us realize that we are not at home with ourselves, with God and with reality. The difficulty of those young people to simply sit silently for a period of time, without the stimulation of thinking, noises or visuals, was definitely justified. 

The silent prayer of those sisters brought us to the beautiful realization that, without needing to do anything, our inner being was naturally part of God’s web, a loving plan which includes each one of us, the people around us and each human being, our world and even the whole universe. Any action and choice should be grounded on this awareness if it aims at bringing about real change.

Surely enough, to reach that awareness is a long journey. As soon as the prayer finished, almost everybody immediately reached out for their cellphone. 

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