Friday, January 21, 2011

Silence and Sanctuary

I continue to stumble upon interesting takes on silence both as a respite from an overly noisy, busy world and as a contemplative experience.

Tim Muldoon, writing in, writes: "Silence is a gateway to the soul, and the soul is a gateway to God."

Actually, he is quoting Christopher Jamison, author of Finding Sanctuary, and abbot of Worth Abbey. His statement sums up in one memorable sentence what I tried to say in a long article on silence as Christian mindfulness in last year's Cithara, a journal of St. Bonaventure University. There, as in several shorter articles, my focus was on the contribution of Thomas Merton to the literature of silence.

Muldoon cites St. Benedict's Rule: Be silent and listen. So, of course, does Jamison, who quotes a Buddhist monk as saying pretty much what Benedict and Christian contemplatives have taught: "The silence will teach you everything."

Yet, as T. S. Eliot famously wrote, there is not enough silence; as a result, the word cannot be heard. The truth can rarely penetrate our busy, noisy minds, which today need the stimulation of the internet and other media even while they yearn for quiet.

Thus we remain divided, fighting each day for some time away from voices and noises that distract us from what can be the frightening realities encountered in silence.

1 comment:

Ned Kessler said...

Finding Sanctuary is a wonderful book that I bought in August, 1999 at the diocesan Liturgical Conference. There is a website ( on which can be found lots of good information about the BBC television series which documented the experiences of three or four laypeople who entered Worth Abbey to try the monastic life.

I find a sense of peace every time I pick up that book and read from it.