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The virtue of silence

09 Apr 2015, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Events

The Divine mercy novena started on good Friday and like every other parishes we have been observing it in our parish, Our Lady of Lourdes, Lagos, Nigeria. In our parish, apart from the novena prayers, guest speakers are invited to give talks on some selected topics each day.

imagesYesterday (8 April 2015), I gave a talk titled; THE VIRTUE OF SILENCE and I feel I should share it with you even though this is an edited version, the main points are still intact.

To talk about the virtue of silence, we need to know exactly what virtue is. A virtue is a “behaviour that shows high moral standard… an attractive or useful quality.” If virtue is a behaviour that shows high moral standard, then it means that there are many other virtues apart from silence. Many people believe that of all virtues, the most ignored is the virtue of silence and I agree with it. Yes; we live in a very busy and noisy world today that we no longer recognize noise as noise. A lot of people are so used to noise today to the extent of not seeing anything wrong in it, yet, it keeps them very far away from themselves. The importance of the virtue of silence cannot be over emphasized, it keeps one from a whole lot of embarrassment and even danger of death. The bible makes it clear that when a fool keeps quite, his or her foolishness may not be noticed (Prov. 17:28). Silence hides his foolishness just as silence can equally hide our weakness to expose us to God’s strength.

The virtue of silence and meditation that the Catholic Church is known for is gradually loosing its significance especially among young Catholics, the busy nature of our world and the protestant influence is easily noticed amongst them. Silence is been seen today as a sign of weakness, vice and not virtue.

Noise is the opposite of silencesilence and the English dictionary defines noise as “a sound, especially when it is loud or unpleasant or disturbs or worries one.” This definition sounds very good but I personally don’t feel it covers everything about noise. I say this because of my experience in a photo studio; I was there and I heard a professional photographer talked about noise. I wondered what connects photography and noise but his explanation made me understand that noise is more than a loud and unpleasant sound. Treating a photo of a customer, the photographer observed a spot on the face and he referred to that spot as noise. The spot on the face wasn’t a sound yet it was noisy to the photographer, which means therefore that noise could be anything that distracts one from the object of focus.

The virtue of silence cannot cohabit with noise, noise obstruct and disrupt silence. Noise can be physical (something you can see or hear) or spiritual (something you may not see or hear as such). Noise, physical or spiritual works against the virtue of silence.

Physically, there are so many things that hinders our desires to enjoy silent moments. Some of these things we created ourselves while others are beyond our control. For instance, somebody observed recently that so many young people are beginning to suffer some form of deficiencies in their sight and their hearing ability. He connects this deficiencies to the frequent use of Lap tops, Phones and Ear plugs. This person may not have carried out a scientifically controlled research, but we can see some element of truth in his observations. It is obvious today that many young people cannot go about their daily businesses without some ear plugs on, listening to music and some breaking news. These plugs may be on for hours, damaging their ears and keeping themselves far away from silence. The same is true of Lap tops and phones through which they are constantly connected to the internet; a good but very noisy world.

On the other hand, the virtue of silence can be obstructed by what you cannot see or hear as such; your thoughts. I have heard so many complained that they cannot concentrate in prayer, the moment they begin to pray or meditate, their minds goes ells where. But I feel only very few if any, can boast of not having this problem which is a form of noise. In our imperfection and struggle with this form of noise, we let the Holy Spirit lead. He prays for us with a sighs too deep for words (Rom. 8:26), be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

The virtue of silence must not be watered down. Jesus himself often withdrew from the people to be alone with the Father, to enjoy some moments of silence, to withdraw from the distractive and noisy nature of the world (Lk 5:16, Mk.1:35). St. Augustine has a name for this withdrawal; interiority. It is not running away from the world but going into ones self to rediscover who we are, our relationship with God and to rest in him. He said, “you have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

The virtue of silence leads us into ourselves, we journey into our inner most being to know that we are more than the names people call us. Augustine said, “do not look outside; return to yourself. In our interior the truth resides… Go inside, where the light of reason is illumined.” (Augustine, True Religion 39,72).

The virtue of silence humbles you, it makes you realize that its not all about you but about God. It leads you into a deeper awareness of your self and the mystery of God. You listen to the voice of God speaking within you with sharpened ears of faith.

God still speaks, he talks to us in the scriptures and every events of life. “Enter, then, into your heart (Isaiah 46:8) and if you have faith, you will find Christ there. There Christ speaks to you. I must use my voice, but he instructs you more effectively in silence.”

  • !That could be a little inaccurate. Would you add to this for me please? 🙂