Acquiring a Listening Heart

The Power of Silence

Against the Dictatorship of Noise

In a world bombarded by the dictatorship of noise, it is all the more necessary to provide a place for men and women to experience the power of silence. The monastery is one such oasis. In fact, in his Rule, St. Benedict dedicates a whole chapter to the practice of silence:

“Let us do as the prophet says: “I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue, I have placed a watch over my mouth; I became dumb and was silent, and held my peace even from good things” (Psalm 38:2, 3). Here the prophet shows that if we ought at times to refrain even from good words for the sake of silence, how much more ought we to abstain from evil words, on account of the punishment due to sin. Therefore, on account of the importance of silence, let leave to speak be seldom granted even to perfect disciples, although their conversation be good and holy and tending to edification; because it is written: “In much speaking you shall not avoid sin” (Proverbs 10:19); and elsewhere: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). For it becomes the master to speak and to teach, but it beseems the disciple to be silent and to listen. And therefore, if anything has to be asked of the Superior, let it be done with all humility and subjection of reverence. But as for buffoonery or idle words, such as move to laughter, we utterly condemn them in every place, nor do we allow the disciple to open his mouth in such discourse.”

 – Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 6

We practice a daily and nightly silence. Our nightly silence extends from 9pm to after breakfast each day. It is a strict silence where only what is necessary is communicated and even then with few and moderate words or signs. The daytime silence is less strict as it may be broken on account of charity, necessity and obedience. Both daily and nightly silence are necessary if one wishes to pray and to be guided by the Holy Spirit.