A few of us priests went in search of silence to a friend’s cabin in the Sierras this week. While the others yet slept, my guardian angel woke me up at 6:00 with the first rays of the dawn. I rolled out of bed, grabbed a chair and a breviary, and went to the nearby lake. The sun had just risen, casting sparkling glimmers on the lapping water. Volcanic cliffs above the lake glowed red in the morning light, and towering Douglas Firs tilted slightly in the morning breeze. Aside from the gentle sighing of pine boughs, flitting birds provided the only other sound. Prayer was as simple as looking and listening to an ordered a near-perfect landscape. Within a few minutes I was thrilling in the conviction of God’s infinite love for me and his perfect providence for all creatures great and small. It doesn’t take long to perceive God when we soak ourselves in silence.
But then the construction crew came, and my precious silence was interrupted. They came to remodel one of the cabins, about a mile away, but in the morning silence I could hear their rough conversations, and then their drills, saws, and pounding hammers. How hard it is to preserve silence, either because we cannot sit still or because others cannot sit still! But I sat quietly by the lake, and decided to finish out my hour of prayer where I began it. It is possible to preserve an interior silence even in the midst of noise, but it takes an act of will. God has permitted this noise, I told myself, and he means to show me love even through consternation. God permits chaos, and we are meant to find silence within it. There is a good bit of chaos at the moment, and it will likely get worse before it gets better. But no government persecution, or Church mismanagement, or cultural decline need break our silence and blessed interior stillness. “In the silence of the heart, God speaks,” said Mother Teresa. Silence of the tongue, of the eyes, of the ears, of the heart, is an act of the will, within reach of every man. Silence is joy.