Friday, April 3, 2009

Interior Sacred Silence

In a recent blog post, Fr. Z encouraged priests to foster a sense of the sacred and holy inside of our churches.  I think that’s great.  I think it is a shame when people want to be there in the presence of our Lord in the Sacrament, and folks interfere with that by chattering.

That said, I was disturbed this morning by my own inability to silence my own mind.  I am so blessed to now live within about five minutes of my parish (I go to St. Anthony’s—that picture doesn’t do it justice; I’ll have to grab one of the inside sometime to share), and it is a beautiful church—the kind that really inspires you to look upward and transcend the here and now (as church architecture and design should!).  This morning, as I sat there before mass, I was trying to just be with our Lord.  And I couldn’t, at least not more than just a few seconds at a time.

My brain just kept wandering off.  I even started musing about how frustrating it is that I couldn’t do it, and then realized that I was doing it again!  I remember reading, I think it was St. Teresa of Avila, on how to contemplate (and I’m at the very beginning of that journey), but the nice thing, if I recall correctly, is that she said it’s okay if this happens—it takes practice.  Just make space for it, make time, and practice; it will happen.  (Clearly, I’m not practicing enough!)

But I think it’s maybe even harder today with the level of “inputs” we have from TV to phone to email to blogs to twitter to music to just the Web in general, and it’s all always available on nifty mobile devices, so we can always have our inputs.  I find myself, even worse since I got my iPhone, constantly checking all these different sources when I have down time (and sometimes when I don’t!). 

Now I’m not one to say the Web is making us dumber, but I do think all this makes it harder to not only just concentrate but also to simply relax and be silent.  That has psychological value in its own right, but take that to the next level of sacred interior silence, true contemplation of the Divine, and losing the ability to be silent becomes not just unfortunate but positively destructive to our spiritual growth.

On the other hand, I have on my one device that I always have with me everywhere, the iBreviary, the Roman Calendar, and bookmarks to a good examination of conscience and a couple litanies that have come in handy many times already, including just this morning.  So it’s obviously not all bad—I certainly wouldn’t advocate luddism to solve the problem.  It just means we have to try harder to cultivate this interior sacred silence.

We just need to recognize that we need to, and then do it.  Pray for me to be better able to do this.  Leave a comment or email me if you want me to pray for you.