“God is the friend of silence” — Mother Teresa

[In keeping with the demands of an incredibly busy semester, I will likely not post again until Friday]

Archbishop Theophilus came to Scetis [a monastery in the Egyptian desert] one day. The brethren who were assembled said to Abba Pambo, who had said nothing as the archbishop entered his cell, “Say something to the archbishop, so that he may be edified.” The old man said to them, “If he is not edified by my silence, he will not be edified by my speech.”

My first spiritual director, a Trappist monk, wrote me once that among the most important signs of a man’s greatness is his capacity to be at home in silence. He said, “If you can’t be at home with yourself alone and in silence, you are not yet fully human … Praying demands more listening than speaking. Thinking requires a space free from noise. Friendship demands an intimacy that transcends words. There are those who have no place for inner silence and talk out of compulsion, and there are those who are at home with silence and speak deliberately with serene freedom. While the first leave you unsettled, the second bring you peace.”

A seasoned marriage therapist I know asks couples who reach an impasse in a counseling session to stop and sit in silence for a period of time, just looking at each other. She says, “It’s almost always the case that when we resume, the dispositions are better and more open. In the quiet, both relearn how to receive the other as they are.”

Recently, a friend of mine texted me after he had gone to spiritual direction with an elder priest who, I can say from first hand experience, is about as close to human sanctity as I have gotten. Here is what my friend said, which I will leave as the last word today:

All I will say is that towards the end, he finished a comment and we sat in silence for 4-5 minutes. And in that silence I learned more than discussion with him over the past 2 years. It was indescribable. Felt like heaven just ripped the veil and sat there with us. I don’t quite have words to process it. I feel like I need to go back and do a time of lectio on that silence. Don’t know if I have felt the presence of a person more powerfully. Like his whole life, everything he stands for spoke for itself…it was the humility of his silence…the humility of someone who knows how to be silent like that and doesn’t feel need to fill the empty void with idle chatter. I kept being tempted to fill it. A minute, three minutes went by. He was unphased, like he could have been there for an hour like that. I actually think it was longer than 5 minutes…it was the sense of the humility of this man. Only thing I can compare it to is the humility of heaven. So present, so exposed. All his words to me earlier took on a whole new meaning in that silence…

5 comments on ““God is the friend of silence” — Mother Teresa

  1. tmm says:

    Thank you for a ministry of excellence. During the video😢, after the video😁, thanks be to God! Oh my goodness, do not get to read all of the time, but hitting the jackpot here. Can’t wait to try that exercise with a few people. In particular with someone who aggravates me a little. Could just imagine doing it, so the real deal should be very interesting. Feelings of sorrow for the person surfaced and thoughts of how it would be very charitable to cut the person some slack and beef up my love. To live in the zone regarding love, nothing else will suffice. On the same page with you Dr. Neal, cause tomorrow starting a series of posts from this book: “Silence, A Series of Conferences Given by a Camaldolese Hermit”. It’s for sale at Amazon, but the Holy Spirit helped me to find a link for a free copy, praise the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is the info in case you care to take a look:

    📕Link to a free pdf copy from this site:

    This was the pill that was swallowed from my first read:
    💊 “Silence is compatible with action. God is infinitely silent and infinitely active. All the universe, all mankind, and all creatures depend on Him. He takes care of all in greatest silence and peace with infinite love.”

    What a happy way to begin “The Lord’s Day” before heading off to the Holy Liturgy, will be remembering all there.
    🔦God’s grace isn’t da light @ da end of da tunnel, It’s da light dat guides us thru it
    🔦Like in all things, da Lord isn’t just B4 us, but He’s also behind, above, beneath, in & with
    🔦So united 2 Him we can’t loose as we go head on, it’s His power dat gets us thru, even if it’s a tight fit
    \ 😇/
    / \ tmm/PTL

  2. Katy says:

    “If he is not edified by my silence, he will not be edified by my speech.” That’s money.

    My first year of teaching, I put a lot of weight on my words, and was careful to clarify often. The summer after the first year, I went to Peru for a mission trip. Knowing almost no Spanish, I learned to ask the “who, what, where, when, why” questions, and would get myself in funny situations because I couldn’t understand the answers that followed my questions. But I kept doing it. I really did not care that my understanding was so minuscule. One day in a small mountain village in the Andes, I had a 30 minute “conversation” with a man. He was just as patient with my Spanish as I was with his English and we laughed and stammered our way through about 2 minutes-worth of actual information. But the next day, we saw each other in the village square and our eyes lit up and eager waves were exchanged. We knew each other! And had barely said anything!

    When I came back to school the next year, and years following, I’ve been unwaveringly convinced of the ministry of presence. And that most of what I “say” to my students comes not from the words I speak but who I am. And it’s beautiful to accept the reality that I am loved because of who I am, not what I say. “If I have beautiful words, but have not love, I am nothing” could be rephrased to “If I have love, that is enough.”

    Thanks for writing this, Tom. Also, I agree with Austin’s request for reposting some of your older work…having read for a few years, I know there are gems from of yore that I’d love to read! But no pressure 🙂

  3. Nos says:

    Katy some would call it a BOOK + + + + + + +. Get with it Dr kneel.

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