Thursday, March 3, 2011


Henri Nouwen, in The Way of the Heart, points out the relationship between solitude and silence to prayer:
If solitude were primarily an escape from a busy job, and silence primarily an escape from a noisy milieu, they could easily become very self-centered forms of asceticism. But solitude and silence are for prayer. The Desert Fathers did not think of solitude as being alone, but as being alone with God. They did not think of silence as not speaking, but as listening to God. Solitude and silence are the context within which prayer is practiced.
From Popes on down, silence has been valued. Pope Paul VI, on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1964, visited Nazareth. His main teaching was on silence.

May there return to us an appreciation of this stupendous and indispensable spiritual condition," Pope Paul said, "deafened as we are by so much tumult, so much noise, so many voices of our chaotic and frenzied modern life. O silence of Nazareth, teach us the ... value of ... interior life, of secret prayer seen by God alone.

And more recently, in a talk given in October, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI took up Pope Paul's theme, saying that,

silence and contemplation have a purpose: They serve, in the distractions of daily life, to preserve permanent union with God. That is their purpose, that union with God may always be present in our souls and may transform our entire being.