Afraid To Be Still?
'Germans Flock to See Silent Monks'. This
newspaper headlines caught my imagination
because today monks hardly ever make the
news except for the wrong reasons! 'Into
Great Silence' is the first movie ever, about
life inside the Grande Chartreuse, the mother
house of the legendary Carthusian Order -
a very strict religious family - in the French
In this movie there is no music except
chants in the monastery, no interviews,
commentaries, no extra material.
"I think they simply do it because
choose to... become close to God,"
the film's director Philip Groening.
a very simple concept, the concept
himself, is pure happiness, the closer
move to that, the happier you are."
It seems ironic to talk about silence
a culture where the ability for creating
noise is phenomenal and unparalleled…car
horns, drilling, mowing, radios, ringing
cell phones, air-conditioning racket,
background music at restaurants and
youth who just plug earphones in their
and live in their own ipod world… What
rumpus! Environment experts predict
in the 21st century we will bear a
of water and silence!
Some hunters at the Amazon forests
were traveling by foot when suddenly
natives, who were carrying their gear,
down and stopped. They simply refused
keep going on! When confronted, their
was enlightening. "Sirs, we do
to be disrespectful but we need to
for our spirits to catch up with our
As Thomas Merton once wrote, "When
live superficially, when we are always
ourselves, never quite "with"
always divided and pulled in many directions
by conflicting plans and projects,
ourselves doing many things that we
really want to do, saying things we
really mean, needing things we do not
need, exhausting ourselves for what
realize to be worthless and without
in our lives: "Why spend your
on what is not food and your earnings
what never satisfies?" (Isaiah
We need to stop and be silent. Only
way we can start enjoying ourselves
Obviously silence is not just an exterior
reality. It is basically an inner attitude
as Abba Poemen rightly points out:
man may seem silent, but if in his
he condemns others, he is talking ceaselessly.
Yet there may be someone else who talks
morning until night, who, because he
nothing unprofitable, is truly silent."
However this inner attitude becomes
only if we to learn how to regularly
ourselves to a standstill and be quiet.
Master did it. Many time he just isolated
himself to enjoy the presence of His
He did it also with and for his apostles.
"Come with me by yourselves to
place and get some rest" (Mark
Silence is the injunction God asked
He wanted to do marvelous things. When
people of God came to cross the Red
God said to His people, "The Lord
fight for you while you keep silent"
(Exodus 14:14). And in his farewell
Samuel gave his people this advice,
still and see this great thing the
about to do before your eyes"
The advantages of acquiring inner silence
are enormous. Abba Nilus said, "The
arrows of the enemy cannot touch one
loves quietness; but he who moves about
a crowd will often be wounded."
Silence helps us to focus on what is
in life, it strengthens our inner self,
alerts the ears of the heart to discover
God's plans for us. It enhances patience.
It opens our mind to meditation and
chases away interior perplexities and
way to inner peace.
Our biggest enemy, perhaps, in this
are the many small things that we have
do. The moment we sit down to be silent….
thousand things spring up to our attention
that needs to be done urgently… pick
dry cleaning, return a phone call,
chicken out of the freezer, jot down
St. John of the Ladder inspired countless
people to entertain living a deep Christian
life. And this is what he has to say
"A small hair worries the eye
small care destroys silence, for silence
means the laying aside of all thoughts
bearing on the work of salvation, and
of all cares, even for matters of good
Nor will a man who has attained true
worry about his body for He Who promised
to care for it is not false...."
A brother in Scetis went to ask for
from Abba Moses and the old man said
"Go and sit in your cell and your
will teach you everything."
We need slowly to build a small cell
ourselves where we can retire daily
our mental sanity! And when we are
small cell, let us close the inner
and shut out everything and everyone.
that moment we are being intimate with
And intimacy demands privacy!
Let us be somewhat silent-er this Passion
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
hereby granted for any non-commercial
provided that the content is unaltered
its original state, if this copyright