An amazing joy of silence30 Apr 2018, by Augustinians in
In the spirit of St. Augustine, our holy father, we, the Augustinians of the 21st century, continue to promote the necessity of the inward journey. It is not about running away from the world but going into oneself to rediscover who we are, our relationship with God, and rest in him while still in the world. St. Augustine says You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
Our world has become so busy that we hardly have time to get in touch with ourselves. The Marylake retreat house in King City, Canada, is one of the Augustinian retreat houses where you can quietly withdraw into to have an amazing experience of silence and a rediscovery of self in Christ.
The virtue of silence is priceless; that is what I try to make our retreatants understand here in Marylake. There is no doubt, so many different voices speak to us in moments of silence, but we choose which to listen to. I shared the experience of my long flight from Nigeria to Canada with some beautiful groups of men and women who were at our Augustinian retreat house to experience the power of silence. It was an Ethiopian airline, big and beautiful with about 400 passengers on board. At a point in the flight, there was absolute silence, I turned around to look at everybody, and I observed that some were sleeping while so many others had their earplugs on and focused their attention on the TV screen right in front of them. Even though there seemed to be absolute silence, we were all listening to different things; some watched movies, others listened to some music, while others played computer games. In the midst of the silence that enveloped the aircraft, every ear, eye, and the head was so busy listening to different things. That is how it is with silence; so many confusing and conflicting voices speak to the same mind. Society itself puts so much pressure on us, exposing us to all kinds of cultures, fashions, ideas, and mentality that are totally devoid of the presence of God. But in the midst of these confusing voices, God speaks to us. He reminds us of who we are, our true identity. He invites us to be still and know that he is God.
The highly prized virtue of silence and meditation that the Catholic Church is known for is gradually losing its significance, especially among young Catholics. The busy nature of our world and the protestant influence are easily noticed in them. Silence is seen today as a sign of weakness, vice, and not a virtue. Today, many Christians prefer to continue to speak to God without taking some time off to listen to what he has to say to them. Many now believe that God has to do more of the listening while we talk. But that is wrong; it should be the other way round. And this is certainly not another way of saying we shouldn’t talk, but to learn also to listen.
We must learn to constantly withdraw to be alone with the Father as Jesus did himself many times. It is an amazing experience like what the apostle Peter, James, and John had at the transfiguration mountain. It was so great that they never wanted to come down; Then Peter said to Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah (Mat. 17:4). They wanted to do everything to make Jesus let them remain in that beauty of his glory. That feeling of the reality of his presence and our reconnection with our creator is what dawns on us when we withdraw from the busy world to be alone with God. Do not be afraid of silence; therefore, learn to embrace it at some points in life to get in touch with self and with God.