Starving For Silence…

… You know what I miss? Silence.

There have been relatively few moments in my life where I’ve had the luxury of pure silence. This morning, in the final stretches of spiritually exhausting Lent, I was awarded a small moment of utter silence and stillness.

Lord knows, I desperately needed it. Just last week I was complaining that I didn’t want to be Catholic anymore. Like a child throwing an tantrum. Catholicism is hard. I don’t wanna anymore!

And then I found myself in an empty church this morning and all was right with the world.

Silence is so important to our emotional and spiritual well being yet most of us never get a quiet moment to be alone with our own thoughts.

I remember when I was in Rome. After a few days the city started to wear on my nerves. There was absolutely nowhere I could escape from the noise of traffic and tourists. Overstimulated and exhausted I remember practically stumbling into this church near the Trevi fountain. Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi was completely empty except for one bored looking monk selling candles at the door.

Cool, dim, and reeking of incense I sat there and thanked God for unlocked churches. I could never get over that while I was over there. Unlocked churches everywhere! Can you imagine? Aside from adoration chapels, where only a few parishes in my area offer 24 hour adoration, stopping by a church when mass isn’t being celebrated to find the doors unlocked is almost unheard of.

If it weren’t for the then unlocked doors of the Richmond Cathedral I might not be Catholic today. Now it’s shut up tight when mass isn’t being celebrated to keep out the homeless that live across the street in Monroe Park. But back then, in the late nineties, it was a place I could creep off to at night and listen to the rustling, clicking sound of silent prayers being whispered by a sparse handful of other solitude starved souls.

So this morning I found myself in an unlocked church, during those lonely early hours before work, all alone in blessed silence. And I was thankful.

My friend, Colin O’Brien, wrote an fantastic piece about silence.

“Silence: More than the absence of speech.”

…this practice of silence extends beyond speech, and indeed beyond sound, to encompass a detachment from all manner of sensory distractions.

It would be a mistake to think of this broad practice of silence merely in terms of deprivation or as a sacrifice; although there is an undeniable penitential, Lenten aspect to monastic life, silence is not treated as an end in itself. It is, rather, a way of entering more deeply into the sacred, into the mystery of God’s love for us. By being silent, by being still, by eliminating extraneous distractions in the form of chatter, electronic gadgetry, music, videos, and other forms of “noise”, one can begin to experience new things. The senses become more attuned to ambient nature sounds, such as the rainfall, or the wind in the trees, or the song of birds at daybreak; smells, like that of bread, or fresh-cut grass, or the incense used at Mass, all take on a new intensity. In the silence, you begin to experience a deeper sense of connection to Creation, and a deeper understanding of yourself and of God. READ MORE

He’s writing of monastic silence, but this gift (yes, gift) of silence is something we all inwardly crave and desperately need. So today I am thankful for unlocked churches and utter silence.

Unlocked churches and silence — keeping me from going all stab-y since 1997.

About Katrina Fernandez

Mackerel Snapping Papist

  • KyPerson

    Our church was open 24/7 until it was vandalized. I know what you mean about silence. There’s a local coffee shop that has such good bagels, but the music is so loud it drives me out. I am going on a retreat next week for several days of blessed silence.

  • pofi

    Give Saint Joseph’s on Buford a try for silence and contemplation at church. Lots of big C Catholics there. The behavior of even the tiniest tots is simply amazing. Silence is not a problem there even before or after mass, although you will likely hear the rosary being prayed before each mass. I really appreciated a paragraph you wrote a couple of years ago about how hard it is to be a good Catholic. Keep praying. God Bless you.


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