Three ways to find silence in our digital age

April 2, 2024 at 2:01 p.m.
People are pictured in a file photo riding Segway scooters on a bike path as a small brush fire burns on a hillside above Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades, Calif. (OSV News /Jonathan Alcorn, Reuters)
People are pictured in a file photo riding Segway scooters on a bike path as a small brush fire burns on a hillside above Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades, Calif. (OSV News /Jonathan Alcorn, Reuters) (Jonathan Alcorn)

Sister Hosea Rupprecht, OSV News

One day, I was running an errand that took me along the Pacific Coast Highway. It was a bright, sunny day and the ocean was sparkling. On my way home, I spotted a few empty parking spots along the side of the road and, totally on a whim, pulled into one. Since the traffic was whizzing by on the driver's side, I rolled up that window but kept the other one down. This made the rhythmic sound of the ocean waves more prominent.

I sat in the car, closed my eyes, and just listened for three minutes. I felt such a sense of calm, even among all the tasks that had crowded my day, that I still remember that feeling months after the day I've described.

Those three minutes in the car were not silent. I could hear all kinds of sounds around me, but what was important was that my heart was silent. In that inner silence, I found peace and serenity.

How often in our daily lives do we long for moments like that -- calm, peaceful and still -- only to find that they consistently elude our grasp? I think God is laughing a little because, even as I write about silence, there's a guy with a chainsaw going right outside the office where I'm working, cutting down a dead tree. Seriously?

Alongside the sounds of life, the digital world provides plenty of sound, noise and input that fills not only our ears but our brains, sometimes to the point where we feel overloaded with visual, audible and intellectual stimuli. These things are not bad in and of themselves but where do we draw the line to find the balance we need? And why bother? Because silence connects us with God, others, and ourselves.

Here are some things to remember:

1. Silence is a choice.

Well, ambient silence may not be, such as traffic or chainsaw noise, but we can choose to be interiorly silent. Pope Benedict XVI talked about having an "ecosystem" that favors silence.

"When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary," he wrote in 2012, "it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of 'eco-system' that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds."

Make it a point to set up times and/or places for yourself where silence is the default. Maybe it's unplugging from media during your commute to work or designating a special room or corner in your home where you can sit in silence. I crave quiet in the evening hours so I programmed my phone to silence notifications from 8 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. the next day.

2. Use silence to enter into contemplation

On a recent road trip to lead a retreat, I was listening to an audiobook novel to help pass the six-hour drive time. Eventually, I turned off the book and just drove in silence. It gave me the perfect opportunity to be in touch with God's love for me, and to pray for the people I was going to meet the next day.

God's voice is the most important one to hear each day, but we can only hear it when we are silent ourselves. During your morning routine, carve out a few minutes to silently connect with God. Ask God to bless your day and give you the courage to seek and follow His will for you. Then relax and listen, letting God love and guide you.

3. Practice silence in your relationships.

The Letter of St. James says, "You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger" (Jas 1:19). True, authentic communication begins with listening. That means being silent so as to hear the needs of the other, whether those needs are expressed in words or not.

Pope Benedict XVI observed, "It is often in silence, for example, that we observe the most authentic communication taking place between people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other."

Outside my window, the chainsaw wielding guys have progressed to the stump grinder so ambient silence isn't on the agenda for me any time soon. Even so, my heart and soul can be peaceful and still, trusting in God because inner silence is possible, despite the cacophony around me. So, if you're feeling frustrated from the digital, mechanical or relational "noise" you experience, be patient. Interior silence comes with prayer and practice.

Sister Hosea Rupprecht, a Daughter of St. Paul, is the associate director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies.


Related Stories

One day, I was running an errand that took me along the Pacific Coast Highway. It was a bright, sunny day and the ocean was sparkling. On my way home, I spotted a few empty parking spots along the side of the road and, totally on a whim, pulled into one. Since the traffic was whizzing by on the driver's side, I rolled up that window but kept the other one down. This made the rhythmic sound of the ocean waves more prominent.

I sat in the car, closed my eyes, and just listened for three minutes. I felt such a sense of calm, even among all the tasks that had crowded my day, that I still remember that feeling months after the day I've described.

Those three minutes in the car were not silent. I could hear all kinds of sounds around me, but what was important was that my heart was silent. In that inner silence, I found peace and serenity.

How often in our daily lives do we long for moments like that -- calm, peaceful and still -- only to find that they consistently elude our grasp? I think God is laughing a little because, even as I write about silence, there's a guy with a chainsaw going right outside the office where I'm working, cutting down a dead tree. Seriously?

Alongside the sounds of life, the digital world provides plenty of sound, noise and input that fills not only our ears but our brains, sometimes to the point where we feel overloaded with visual, audible and intellectual stimuli. These things are not bad in and of themselves but where do we draw the line to find the balance we need? And why bother? Because silence connects us with God, others, and ourselves.

Here are some things to remember:

1. Silence is a choice.

Well, ambient silence may not be, such as traffic or chainsaw noise, but we can choose to be interiorly silent. Pope Benedict XVI talked about having an "ecosystem" that favors silence.

"When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary," he wrote in 2012, "it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of 'eco-system' that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds."

Make it a point to set up times and/or places for yourself where silence is the default. Maybe it's unplugging from media during your commute to work or designating a special room or corner in your home where you can sit in silence. I crave quiet in the evening hours so I programmed my phone to silence notifications from 8 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. the next day.

2. Use silence to enter into contemplation

On a recent road trip to lead a retreat, I was listening to an audiobook novel to help pass the six-hour drive time. Eventually, I turned off the book and just drove in silence. It gave me the perfect opportunity to be in touch with God's love for me, and to pray for the people I was going to meet the next day.

God's voice is the most important one to hear each day, but we can only hear it when we are silent ourselves. During your morning routine, carve out a few minutes to silently connect with God. Ask God to bless your day and give you the courage to seek and follow His will for you. Then relax and listen, letting God love and guide you.

3. Practice silence in your relationships.

The Letter of St. James says, "You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger" (Jas 1:19). True, authentic communication begins with listening. That means being silent so as to hear the needs of the other, whether those needs are expressed in words or not.

Pope Benedict XVI observed, "It is often in silence, for example, that we observe the most authentic communication taking place between people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other."

Outside my window, the chainsaw wielding guys have progressed to the stump grinder so ambient silence isn't on the agenda for me any time soon. Even so, my heart and soul can be peaceful and still, trusting in God because inner silence is possible, despite the cacophony around me. So, if you're feeling frustrated from the digital, mechanical or relational "noise" you experience, be patient. Interior silence comes with prayer and practice.

Sister Hosea Rupprecht, a Daughter of St. Paul, is the associate director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies.

Have a news tip? Email [email protected] or Call/Text 360-922-3092

e-Edition


e-edition

Sign up


for our email newsletters

Weekly Top Stories

Sign up to get our top stories delivered to your inbox every Sunday

Daily Updates & Breaking News Alerts

Sign up to get our daily updates and breaking news alerts delivered to your inbox daily

Latest Stories


Supreme Court weighs Idaho abortion ban against federal emergency health care law
The Supreme Court on April 24 weighed a ...

Biden signs $95 billion aid package critical for Ukraine's defense, global humanitarian needs
President Joe Biden on April 24 said the ...

BEING AUTHENTIC
Former NFL star destigmatizes mental health challenges in honest talk with students
What Caleb Campbell is most proud of, he told Donovan Catholic students, isn’t his recognition as ...

What's going on with the Latin Mass?
Q: What's going on with the Latin Mass, and why do some priests like to celebrate...

Historians' work should lead to dialogue, truth, Pope says
Historians serve the common good when they seek historical truth and not an ideological interpretation ...


The Evangelist, 40 North Main Ave., Albany, NY, 12203-1422 | PHONE: 518-453-6688| FAX: 518-453-8448
© 2024 Trenton Monitor, All Rights Reserved.