Have come across this review of Cardinal Robert Sarah’s book The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise while I was looking for a quote by him that had something to do with our focusing on Christ, instead of on partisan arguments, and defensive positions.
Cardinal Sarah’s words move me in ways I remember a Cardinal Josef Ratzinger affecting me back before I became a Catholic—with words I found inspiring and profound, and made me hungry for more of the Spirit that animates them.
In the Catholic world, it was a year of silence. Martin Scorsese fulfilled his longstanding dream to adapt Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence for film. The book chronicles two young Jesuits in Japan searching for their lost mentor, rumored to have abandoned the faith. Japan experienced a massive number of martyrdoms as the Emperor banned the newly established religion in 1587, as it was gaining converts quickly. The novel asks: “Why is God silent in the face of this persecution?” Endo writes: “Behind the depressing silence of this sea, the silence of God … the feeling that while men raise their voices in anguish God remains with folded arms, silent.” It’s a question many people ask: Why is God silent?
This year also saw the release of Cardinal Robert Sarah’s second interview book, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. Cardinal Sarah, originally from Guinea, Africa, serves as the Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Coupled with Scorsese’s film, his book makes a significant contribution. God is silent because, Cardinal Sarah tells us, silence is the language of God (238). We generally think of silence as a sign of absence or impotence, but Sarah points us to a deeper reality. God is present, but due to our inability to enter silence with a listening heart, we do not hear his voice.
“At the heart of man there is an innate silence, for God abides in the innermost part of every person. God is silence, and this divine silence dwells in man. In God, we are inseparably bound up with silence. … God carries us, and we live with him at every moment by keeping silence. Nothing will make us discover God better than his silence inscribed in the center of our being. If we do not cultivate this silence how can we find God?” (22).
Probably the most productive spiritual discipline I have ever cultivated is that of sitting in silence, in the present moment, not allowing myself to drift away in the thought stream, but gently rising above it, to experience that Presence of God in stillness.
I am aiming to do a half hour in the morning, and a half hour at night, though not always successful at carrying that out. That in addition to praying the morning and evening offices—often doing the morning office via conference call at prayer.covert.org
Then add to that the Rosary, and once a week the Seven Sorrows Rosary, which is obligatory for those in the Spiritual Motherhood of Priests. I would also like to add at least an hour of Adoration.
All these disciplines I find beneficial, but the discipline of silence, of stillness, of waiting patiently on the Lord in quietness and rest makes all the others more fruitful.