Try more silence during the Lenten season
Silence as an essential part of communication seems at first to be a contradiction. Silence may be golden, some would say, but it won't help you get your point across to others in a world dominated by a steady stream of voices and information flowing nonstop from televisions, radios, computer monitors and smartphones.
But Pope Benedict XVI, in his message for World Communications Day, reminds us that silence plays a vital role in our communication with others: It forces us to listen more closely, evaluate ideas more thoroughly and temper our responses.
Who wouldn't like to see more of that kind of communication taking place during presidential debates or television talk shows? Or during discussions on important social policy issues facing our state and nation? Or, even in our workplaces and around our family dinner tables, where all of us have trouble at times not interrupting or raising our voices?
If we are going to cultivate the value of silence in our lives, however, it will take more than just silencing our voices. We also have to silence our minds from time to time by unplugging from the 24-hour cycles of news, entertainment and social media so we have the "mental space" to rejuvenate ourselves and reflect more deeply on our lives, our relationships and the world around us.
Many of us try to do something extra for our spiritual lives during the season of Lent — which begins Feb. 22, Ash Wednesday. If you haven't already committed to a Lenten program — and even if you have — book some additional time right now during those 40 days for silence, prayerful meditation and reflection.
• Check your parish bulletin or diocesan newspaper calendar section for upcoming opportunities for silent retreats around the area. Or make a point to visit one of the many eucharistic adoration chapels for an hour or even a few minutes once a week.
• If you enjoy the outdoors, take advantage of area nature trails and state parks for some quiet time alone to pray and contemplate the beauty of God's creation.
• Spend some time at home as a family with televisions, radios, phones and computers turned off. These media — as valuable as they are — can sometimes interfere with family communication. Shut them down, share a prayer and a meal together, and then play a board game or enjoy another family activity. Silence here is not the focus, but it's an opportunity worth seizing to nurture better communication in other ways among husbands and wives, parents and children.
Pope Benedict wrote that "if God speaks to us in silence, we, in turn, discover in silence the possibility of speaking with God and about God."
Silencing our voices and our minds can help us deepen our relationship with God and broaden our awareness of his presence in our life. Silence coupled with attentive listening can also help us deepen our relationships with others we encounter every day of our lives in our families, workplaces and communities.
(Joe Towalski is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Distributed via Catholic News Service.)