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Monday, September 19, 2011

Be Still, and know that I am God (ps 46:10)

      A few weeks ago after celebrating Mass at St. Peter the Fisherman in Eagle River, WI I was stopped by someone who politely asked why the Mass there didn't move along more.  I asked the person what they meant and the response was that after the readings instead of the next reader or leader of the responsorial psalm got up there was a pause.  Likewise, this individual felt, that too much time was spent waiting after communion.  I explained that these pauses are called for by the Church in its directives for celebrating Mass so that we could briefly meditate on the readings or on what just happened while receiving Communion.  The person politely thanked me, shrugged the shoulders and walked away without, I think, really understanding why there should be silence there.

      I mention this incident because I believe that this response to silence reflects a deeper issue in our culture. We like to think of ourselves, among other things, as living in the age of communication, and in many ways we are.  The TV and radio blare out opinions on every political and religious issue.  We can listen to any kind of music that we like.  Cell phones and computers put us in instant contact with the whole world, and any of us who want can express our opinion on whatever.  I am part of this.  I'm writing this blog and have have one of those fancy phones that does everything.  But we pay a price for this.

      What is that price?  For one we are constantly bombarded by noise.  At baseball games loud music and events on the jumbotron scoreboard keep one occupied between innings, and many folks have to have something electronic attached to their ear at all times  Likewise we are living at such a fast pace which is necessary in a way to keep up with all that we are bombarded with.  Finally we have lost the ability to listen, to truly listen to one another and to God.

      A big part of the solution to all this is to engage in a discipline of silence, to take the time to be still, to quiet ourselves, to take a deep breath and contemplate all that is going on around us--the good the bad, and the ugly.  We need this in our personal relationships, in our political debate and discourse and above all in our relationship with God.  When people question why silence is part of good worship something is amiss.

    So, some suggestions.  Take time every day, even if you start with only 5 minutes, just to be quiet.  Don't even think of it yet as prayer.  Just be still.   Secondly take time regularly to listen to your spouse, or a close friend or relative if you're not married.  By listen I don't mean being quiet to formulate your response in an argument, but try to really get inside the mind and heart of the other.  Do likewise for the people with whom you disagree theologically and politically.  And yes, take time, as the psalmist says, to be still and to know that God is God (Ps 46:10)

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