Silence on Fire


It is rare these days to have opportunities to retreat out of the noise and busyness of life and enter into a place of silence.  And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we know in the depths of our being, our souls thirst for this silence where God speaks to our hearts.  This universal human thirst for union with God is actually a response to God’s initial thirst for our love. Over the past several years, the Sisters of Life have had the privilege of hosting silent retreats at Villa Maria Guadalupe for young women.  At first the thought of a silent retreat seems quite daunting for many of them, and yet it is precisely this element of silence that increases the capacity of their hearts to experience an intimacy with Christ hitherto unknown.  This experience of silence is but an instrument God uses to be able to speak to the human heart.

What is this hidden longing for silence that is not being fulfilled?  Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said that, “God is the friend of silence. In the silence of our hearts, God speaks of His love; with our silence, we allow Jesus to love us.”  This thirst for silence is not a longing to be silent for its own sake, but actually a longing for God’s love that is communicated in the silence.  It is here that, Cor ad cor loquitur” (Heart speaks to heart) as Blessed John Henry Newman’s Episcopal motto expresses.

But what usually happens to us when we try to enter into times of silent mental prayer?  All of a sudden we remember all the things we should be doing, and everything seems to be urgent!  Distractions galore!!  If God is the friend of silence, and in the silence God speaks of His love, then does it not seem obvious that the enemy would try everything he can to prevent us from knowing God’s love?  If we truly desire to grow in intimacy with God, the key is fidelity and perseverance.

Fr. Jacques Philippe, in his book Time for God writes, “What matters is not whether our mental prayer is beautiful, or whether it works, or whether it is enriched by deep thoughts and feelings, but whether it is persevering and faithful…The quality will come from fidelity…It is not an easy battle. Knowing how much is at stake, the devil wants at all costs to keep us from being faithful to mental prayer.”   How do we deal with distractions?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church #2729 gives us this advice. “To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our hearts.”

If we remain faithful to daily mental prayer, especially in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Spirit begins to transform our hearts into the likeness of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Conversion is essential for anyone who wants to be a disciple of Jesus. Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) in 1986 said on Bavarian radio,

“By its very nature, being a Christian means conversion, and conversion in the Christian meaning of the word is not just a changing of some of our ideas, but a process of dying. ‘Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a simple grain, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ The boundaries of the “I” are broken open, the “I” loses itself in order to find itself again in a more noble form that encompasses heaven and earth, past, present, and future, and so touches truth itself. This is the Holy Spirit. He is the power behind the openness and the fusion into that new form that we call the body of Christ or the Church… [Conversion] is possible only for one who possesses the courage to be converted, to let himself be broken open like the grain of wheat. The Holy Spirit is fire; one who does not want to be burned ought not to approach him.But such a one must then realize that he is sinking into the deadly loneliness of the closed “I” and that any communion sought by avoiding the fire is, in the last analysis, but a game, an empty illusion.”

In seeking God’s holy will in your life, let your time for silent mental prayer betransformed into fire through the power of the Holy Spirit! It is in the fires of Divine Love that our hearts are set free to respond to His call to love Him radically.