The silence that speaks

The silence that speaks

Posted: Wed, 17 Mar 2021 10:38

The silence that speaks

In his article this week, Catholic teacher and Deacon, Michael Bennett asks us to look closely at our schools and our world to find the silent sermons of God all around us.

As a teenager I used to enjoy Sunday evening Mass. It was a great time for young people. It meant that I could lie in on a Sunday morning, go to Ju-jitsu and laze around the day with friends. There was, however, one drawback. The priest who celebrated this Mass was advancing in years and would preach for at least forty minutes. A saintly man though he was, his sermons would drive me to reading the hymn book.

The Franciscan spiritual teacher Fr Richard Rohr advocates silent sermons! In a world of noise, how often do we allow God to speak through silence? How often do we let the awesome nature of the God-soaked ordinary speak to us, touch us, penetrate the core of us? Maybe never? Maybe all the time? It depends on how we look at the ordinary!

To see the Great Spirit in all of creation is to look through the eyes of incarnation. When we do that, God is visible in all things, at all times and in all places. I am sure this is what St Francis of Assisi meant when he told his friars to 'preach the Gospel always and if necessary, use words'.

It is the silent 'sermon' that is often the most powerful witness. The Bible is full of examples of this: take the parable of the Good Samaritan—the simple look of compassion from the Samaritan spoke volumes, as did the silence of the priest and the Levite who gazed the other way! In the parable of the Lost Son, it would surely have been the look of love radiating from the father's eyes that let his son know he was forgiven. If a picture paints a thousand words, imagine what the gaze of love can write!

When I'm in Lourdes, I love to visit the Grotto late at night. The sound of silence in that sacred space sings to me. Its song is one of beauty. The silent prayers of the hearts of those gathered there are tangible. God speaks in this way; not exclusively, but silence is the dwelling-space of the soul, and through silence, we can listen and be heard.

I am fortunate that I live not too far from the banks of the river Mersey. The sunsets over the Mersey are quite spectacular. In the moments when the sun is setting, the sky is red, and waves lap the shore, I can feel the presence of the Lord all around me. Again, it was St Francis who called nature the 'first Bible'. Allow it to speak. Indeed, as our children return to school, let their beauty speak. Let the God-infused children reflect the image of the invisible God.

I believe that our youngsters themselves are a sermon. Their energy, enthusiasm, wit and humour are sermons. It will be a difficult transition in to the 'new normal' post-Lockdown Three! And for this reason, we, as ministers of education, must allow God to speak through the children in our care. Look for God in them. Seek the Father through the children in your care, and you will truly find Him there. The evangelist Mark could not be clearer on this point: 'Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.' If we look for God in our pupils we will find God.

As I write, I can see the Salesian calendar; each month has a picture of a child from a Salesian school. Each is an icon, reflecting the image of God. April's child is an ex-pupil, and his smile cannot fail to make me feel happy: it is the smile of the Lord within . When my earthly pilgrimage is up and I see God face-to-face, if God looks like a child then I'll know I am home. Please, if you have the 2021 Salesian calendar, take some time this Lent to look the images and read the words – March invites us to 'serve the Lord Joyfully' (Don Bosco).

So, my prayer as I return to full classes, busy play grounds, bustling canteens, is to stop and let the God of the universe speak to me silently through eyes of the children I teach. I pray you do the same, because if we can do this, we will indeed be serving the Lord with joy.

It is enough

to listen to the silence.

Silence comes to fetch us

from where we have just been

with our thoughts and feelings.

It is enough to listen to the silence.

Silence brings us

to where we are now,

right here,

into this room,

to this place,

this morning.

It is enough

to listen to the silence.

Silence embraces

what wants to become.

Whatever this day brings us,

is held,

and always has been,

in this silence


It is enough

to listen to the silence.

Silvia Ostertag, in Living Silence: Tuning in and Practising (Beauchamp: Matador, 2013), 2.

Michael Bennett

Tags: Gospel, Homepage, Prayer, Salesian Schools, Salesian Spirituality, Salesians of Don Bosco