On Monday night I attended a public lecture with His Eminence Cardinal Robert Sarah, at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto, Ontario.
Cardinal Sarah was born in Guinea, West Africa. Made an Archbishop by Pope Saint John Paul II and a Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI, he was named the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments by Pope Francis in 2014. He is the author of such books as God or Nothing and, more recently, The Power of Silence ~ Against the Dictatorship of Noise.
Cardinal Sarah’s talk was about how to live our faith authentically and the importance of the strength of silence in our lives. “The modern world generates so much noise, he says, that seeking moments of silence has become both harder and more necessary than ever before.” “Silence is an attitude of the soul.”
Silence is the space that allows God into our lives, said Cardinal Sarah. In his most recent book The Power of Silence he writes:
“There is one great question: how can man really be in the image of God? He must enter into silence. When he drapes himself in silence, as God himself dwells in a great silence, man is close to heaven, or, rather, he allows God to manifest himself in him. We encounter God only in the eternal silence in which he abides. Have you ever heard the voice of God as you hear mine?
God’s voice is silent. Indeed, man, too, must seek to become silence.
In his book I Want to See God, Blessed Marie-Eugene de L’Enfant-Jésus O.C.D. writes:
God speaks in silence, and silence alone seems able to express Him. For the spiritual person who has known the touch of God, silence and God seem to be identified. And so, to find God again, where would he go, if not to the most silent depths of his soul, into those regions that are so hidden that nothing can any longer disturb them?
When he has reached there, he preserves with jealous care the silence that gives him God.
He defends it against any agitation, even that of his own powers.
At the heart of man there is an innate silence, for God abides in the innermost part of every person. God is silence, and this divine silence dwells in man. In God we are inseparably bound up with silence. The Church can affirm that mankind is the daughter of a silent God; for men are the sons of silence.
God carries us, and we live with him at every moment by keeping silence. Nothing will make us discover God better than his silence inscribed in the center of our being. If we do not cultivate this silence, how can we find God? Man likes to travel, create, make great discoveries. But he remains outside of himself, far from God, who is silently in his soul. I want to recall how important it is to cultivate silence in order to be truly with God. Saint Paul, drawing on the Book of Deuteronomy, explains that we will not encounter God by crossing the seas, because he is in our heart:
Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is to bring Christ down) or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does [the law] say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom 10:6-9; Deut 30:12-14, 16)
It is necessary to leave our interior turmoil in order to find God. Despite the agitations, the busyness, the easy pleasures, God remains silently present. He is in us like a thought, a word, and a presence whose secret sources are buried in God himself, inaccessible to human inspection.
Solitude is the best state in which to hear God’s silence. For someone who wants to find silence, solitude is the mountain that he must climb. if a person isolates himself by going away to a monastery, he comes first to seek silence. And yet, the goal of his search is within him. God’s silent presence already dwells in his heart. The silence that we pursue confusedly is found in our own hearts and reveals God to us.”
“When we retreat from the noise of the world in silence, we gain a new perspective on the noise of the world,” he said. “To retreat into silence is to come to know ourselves, to know our dignity.”
“Marvels of technology have made it more difficult to know and to learn the value of silence. Cardinal Sarah urged his audience to keep technology in its proper place.
“Technology is only ever a means. Technological development is never an end in itself. Technology does not satisfy our deepest desires.” he said.”
And I would like to conclude with this quote from the Cardinal, “Let us seek silence, for in silence we come to know God and to know ourselves.”