One of the wisest sayings I have ever heard is that listening is the most important thing you can do in a relationship and you can’t listen if you are talking.
I’ve been thinking about this saying the past couple of weeks.
My school district had failed the last two levies it has put on the ballot. As a result, most of us have lost our busing. We need to drop off and pick up our children at school. I have actually considered it a blessing that I’ve had the opportunity since school has started to pick up my young ones in the afternoon.
The process is always the same. The multitudes of parents arrive at the end of the school day and we wait - anywhere from 15-30 minutes – depending on when we get there. At some point, we finally get to collect our kids and scatter on home.
A lot of parents are grumbling about this process. But, I have found something exhilarating about it.
I’ve found – silence!
I sit in my car, waiting for my kids – in perfect silence. I can’t speed up the process and I don’t want to sit and grumble. I also really don’t want the radio on. I don’t want to read anything. I just want the silence.
It’s almost as if I am in adoration.
I enjoy adoration, because I know it’s just me and Christ in the Real Presence. I can’t talk, so I have to give him the opportunity to speak with me. I get to shut out the world and just listen. And by listening, pray.
With this in mind, I want to turn to what the Catechism has to say about silence. It has two paragraphs on silence.
The first is in the section on Adoration -
“Adoration is the first attitude of man acknolwedging that he is a creature before his Creator. It exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us and the almighty power of the Savior who sets us free from evil. Adoration is homage of the spirit to the “King of Glory,” respectful silence in the presence of the “ever greater” God. Adoration of the thrice-holy and sovereign God of love blends with humility and gives assurance to our supplications.” (CCC 2628) (emphasis added).
The other paragraph addresses comtemplative prayer -
“Contemplative prayer is silence, the “symbol of the world to come” or “silent love.” Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the “outer” man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.” (CCC 2717) (emphasis added).
Silence is the key to our spiritual lives. It is instrumental if we are going to block out the demands of the world and the excesses of our culture. Most times, it seems, God only truly communicates with us when we are dead silent, listening to him.
Think about your relationship with your wife. If you never listened to her, always talking, always on the go, how would that relationship go? The same goes for your children. The same goes for Christ.
The Catechism gives us the two most fruitful times – adoration and contemplative prayer – when we can engage in silence to hear the Lord speaking to us. But, we don’t need to be in a church or locked in our bedrooms to engage in this prayer. We can be in a line waiting for the next available representative; or our office in between meetings; or in a car waiting to pick up our kids
Silence is especially important because we have too much noise in our lives. We don’t have enough silence. As such, we end up listening to the wrong voices and finding our way into a lifestyle that separates us from Christ and his Church.
I truly believe that people believe what they believe based upon where they get their information. If one listens to the culture, it’s these values that the person will follow. To the contrary, if one is listening to Christ and his Church, it is these values that the person will follow.
The culture tends to communicate through a bombardment of words and actions that are thrown at us. They are full of emotion and feel-goodedness but devoid of the universal truth.
Let’s compare this communication with that of Christ and his Church. They communicate to us through silence – the silence of prayer, the sacraments, and the study of Church teaching and scripture. They communicate the universal truth through the ages and in the silent moments of our lives.
With the culture, we really don’t listen. We process and act. With Christ and the Church, we have to listen and to do so in silence, through the Word and the Sacraments and prayer.
It is up to us to decide which way we are to go.
Stairway to Heaven is a weekly feature exploring how to live our Catholic faith in our culture.