December 01, 2011

Silence is essential to the evangelization of the young Church

By Arcbishop Robert J. Carlson *
Silence is not simply the absence of noise. It is a necessary condition for discernment and reflection, for meditation and prayer, and for "welcoming the word" into our minds and hearts.

Silence is necessary for evangelization — welcoming God's word and integrating it into our daily lives. Unless we are able to filter out the ever-increasing bombardment of messages of social communication and mass media, there is no way we can welcome God's word. Or reflect on it prayerfully. Or act on it in our daily lives.

Silence is essential to our ministry to the young Church. Young women and men are the targets of advertisements and the entertainment media. They are the constant recipients of seductive and alluring images that are meant to persuade them to think, dress, consume and behave in certain ways. They are told what to do and what to value. To counteract the barrage of secular or worldly communications directed at the young, we must preach the Gospel in word and action. But we must also make room for silence to allow members of the young Church to welcome the word and to discern what they are being called to be and do as followers of Jesus Christ.

The patron saint of silence is St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. In the Gospels he does not speak a word. He listens. He reflects. He acts. St. Joseph welcomed the word of God into his mind and heart. He welcomed Jesus, the Word made flesh, into his family and into his loving care. The silence of St. Joseph speaks louder than words. It gives bold witness to his unique vocation as redemptoris custos (the guardian of our redeemer).

If we want to reach out to members of the young Church and encourage them to welcome God's word in their lives, we need to help them discover what it means to be silent. If we want to foster vocations to ordained ministry, to consecrated life, to marriage and to the dedicated single life, we must help young men and women discover times and places where they can turn off the noise of modern life and tune in to the grand silence of God's holy peace.

Parents: Create quiet times and places in your home. Be quiet yourselves and help your children learn the importance of prayerful silence in their lives.

Parishes and schools: Promote silent prayer, eucharistic adoration, retreats and days of recollection for everyone -- but especially for the young. Discourage the tyranny of busyness and help members of the young Church discover how liberating and enriching it is to listen attentively for the word of God in the silence of an open heart.

Pope Benedict XVI has rightly proposed "Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization" as the theme for World Communications Day 2012. The paradox is that silence is rarely seen as a means of communication. Women and men of faith know better. We know that God's voice is often heard most clearly in the still, small voice that whispers to us in silent prayer.

Silence can speak louder than words or music. It can help us integrate the noise around us and be attentive to God's call in our lives. Silence is necessary to evangelize the young Church and encourage vocations.

Let's help our children and youth discover this great paradox. Let's help them discern who they are — and whom God is calling them to become — in the quiet moments of their lives.

Reprinted with permission from the St. Louis Review.
The Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson is Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.

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