I have written before about silence and how important it is in our lives. On the Feast of St. Francis de Sales on Jan 24th, Pope Benedict wrote about silence in his message for the 46th World Communications Day which will be celebrated on May 12, 2012. The question that might be asked is, what does silence have to do with communication? Isn't silence a lack of communication? One might think so. We often get the "silent treatment" from friends, loved ones or co-workers when there are differences or anamosity between people. But even that is a form of communication, since it communicates negativity and the lack of desire to settle differences.
In a world filled with constant noise and instant communication, the Pope shows us the necessity of silence as a means to enhance communication, not only with God but with humanity as well. He writes:
Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested.
I happen to love silence. Sure I enjoy talking as well, in fact when I was younger my parents would say I talked too much and would call me a chiaccherona (Italian for chatterbox). Sometimes, like many women, I tell long stories to the point where it takes awhile for me to get around to what I really want to say. I think some people would enjoy a bit of silence on my part. That is not, however, what the Holy Father is referring to with regard to silence. We need silence in our lives in order to be able to communicate better with words. In the silence we hear God's voice and are able to better discern His will and His desires for us with regard to communicating with words.
Silence is difficult for many people. We are so used to noise that silence makes us uncomfortable, and in conversation we often say things without sufficient reflection, leading to mis-communication. The Pope writes that silent reflection "permits seekers to reach into the depths of their being and open themselves to the path towards knowledge that God has inscribed in human hearts."
The Pope, I believe, offers us a corrective for our noisy world and a means to better communicate and in turn to engage in the ministry of evangelization that is so necessary today. I am considering making silence a large part of my Lenten disipline this year. The hardest part will be to stop talking to myself out loud and to not offer my opinion when it is not solicited. I think it might be good for me. The idea of silence has been coming to me clearly for a number of weeks, so Pope Benedict's message seems to be a confirmation of what I have been thinking about. It won't be easy, but I am sure it will be worth it.
You can read the entire text of the Pope's message here.