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Monday, September 17, 2012

Silence of Words

The first of the five silences is the "silence of words". Contrary to popular belief this virtue is not about not speaking; rather, it is about using words and speech prudently and with charity. Father Chaminade defined silence of words as "speaking only when you will it, and willing it only when necessary." All of the virtues of preparation have this two-fold aim: 1) to bring a normally subconscious or instinctual aspect of my life under my willful control; and 2) to use that willful control to sanctify that aspect of my life.

So often, the words that come out of my mouth are an instant reaction or a reflex. I often speak without thinking, and I don't think I'm alone. This is something I see with my students...words just pour of out of their mouths, and often their words have little to no meaning. The first part of this preparation virtue encourages each of us to become more mindful of our words and the ways we use language, to stop and think about what we're about to say. The goal of the first part is "to speak only when you will it." In other words, I should bring my speech under my conscious and deliberate control.

Once I have conscious control of my speech, and I'm no longer reactively/reflexively blurting things out, I then have an obligation to work at using my speech (and my silence) for the benefit of all. There are times when words are needed; and in those moments, it's important that we speak with love, kindness, and consideration (taking Jesus as our model). It is important that we speak Truth, and that we raise our voices against injustice. These are times when speech is necessary.

There are also times when silence is what is needed. Sometimes silence is needed to open space in our minds for thought. Sometimes silence is needed to open space in our souls for God. And in moments filled to the brim with abundant beauty and outrageous mystery silence is needed...moments when no words can do justice to what we see and feel.

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