Silence Speaks

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©Heidi Bratton Photography

Some studies show that, on average, men say about 6,000 words a day, and women close to 9,000 (it may come as no surprise to many of you that the tally is higher for us ladies). Too many? Too few? Just about right?

Every spring (this year it was Sunday May 20th) we mark World Communications Day, an initiative proposed by the Second Vatican Council and launched May 7, 1967. It’s a day the faithful are asked to reflect on how we, specifically the media, communicate the Good News of the Gospel.

As a member of the Catholic media, writing for the Denver Catholic Register, I’m grateful for the privilege to help communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ to others. Proclaiming the Good News is a duty we all share. Though in today’s world of data bombardment, 24-hour news feeds, iPhones, iPads and i-can’t-get-away-from-the-noise, it’s no surprise the Holy Father would propose we all spend less time talking — and more time in silence — to potentially improve our communication.

Last January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers and journalists, Pope Benedict XVI released his message for the 46th World Communications Day “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization.” He encouraged us to embrace silence in our lives to make us better communicators:

“Silence is an integral element of communication…. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves.”

This message has perhaps never been more relevant than today in what the pope has called our more “agitated, sometimes frantic” lives where Tweets, blogs, posts and check-ins have made some people afraid of silence and solitude — two components “essential for finding God’s love and love for others.”

When it comes to online communication, a September 2011 study by Nielson, indicated more than 215 million Americans are active on the Internet, with an average user spending 30-plus hours online each month; roughly eight of those on Facebook.
While Pope Benedict shared his support for evangelizing and developing relationships using social media like Facebook and Twitter, in last year’s message, he advised prioritizing is a whole lot more important:

“… silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary. Deeper reflection helps us to discover the links between events that at first sight seem unconnected, to make evaluations, to analyze messages.”

To make these connections, proper evaluations and understand messages, “it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds,” the Holy Father wrote.

As I seek to balance my own eco-system in “making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation and sharing of the word of God,” I hope to achieve authentic dialogue and deepen relationships which bring “value and meaning” to communication. In treasuring the gift of silence, I should hear others — my spouse, children, colleagues, family, friends and faith leaders – more clearly. Most importantly on the list should be the Lord.

When hearing the Lord more clearly, I’m more likely to discern what’s really important, and therefore, what I’m meant to do in my professional life, personal life and individual evangelization efforts.

Taking the pope’s advice to heart, I’ve made a few small changes in my routine in the last several weeks to incorporate more silence: 1 – no news or talk radio in the car, only silence, rosary CD or music (I consume more than enough news and related opinions during my work day). 2 — I’ve more or less stopped reading online comment boxes.

Again, how many opinions do I really need to sift through in a given day?

While these changes may seem trivial, we all have different ways we can cut back on “the noise.” Through the gift of silence, we may hear the most important words enter our hearts, so we can understand better what God wants us to say, how to say it, and how we can more closely follow the path of evangelization he intends for us – whether that involves 9,000 words a day, 6,000, or a simple “yes”.

Reprinted with permission from (c) Knights of Columbus.


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