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 Post subject: Theology of Silence
PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2005 5:11 pm 
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When I did the Marian consecration at Steubenville almost two years ago, somewhere along the way I decided that the exercising of holy silence would aid me in overcoming some of my root sins and I think that it did but now I need some kind of a "refresher" on it because I'm now in the dilemma that I'm talking too much or I get really scrupulous about being quiet; does anyone have reading material--essays, books, advice--on how to practice holy silence? (not putting up silly posts is probably one good way :dig

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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2005 6:22 pm 
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I am not familiar with the topic so I am not sure. It's something maybe I could benefit from as well :oops:

Google was no help in a search either so :P on google.

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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2005 7:26 pm 
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So kind, thank you for the search.

Theologically, the exercise of silence is the recognition of the gift of language, epitomized, of course, by Mary: her fiat (saying yes to God); her Magnificat (praising God) and the Finding in the Temple (humility before God) all wonderful examples of Christianity that I just can't live up to. The theory is, spiritually, that by being silent, we gain interior recollection (such as the Desert Fathers) and are better able to pray and praise God.

Philosophically, the problem is that we come to know ourselves through language: Ricouer, Kierkegaard, Buber and others emphasize the importance of speech acts but this can be quickly subverted by the claim (that Kierkegaard would second) that we can only know ourselves as we know God (Augustine), so God is the priority over and above our obligations to others and ourselves, naturally.

So, here's my problem and the kind of material I'm looking for (I think): how do I exercise silence in a family of mortally sinful Protestants who are filled with false conceptions of the Church? I'm not afraid of telling them the Truth, but I am afraid of doing it without charity and obviously causing more harm than good; as St. Francis said, "Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words." That's what I want to do, but I'm so spiritually weakened by the sin of pride that I have a difficult time following through with it.

I guess the kind of material I'm looking for would probably be in like Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, the Desert Fathers... I'm just not sufficiently aware of all the advanced spiritualists to know who advanced by what means. :cry:

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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2005 7:49 pm 
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Dante:

As I live in sort of the same situation I can give you my take on things. I live in a spiritual blended family as well. My wife and I are Catholic my mother and father PCUSA.

I have been Catholic since 2002 and have loved the Catholic life. It has been a challenge at times being Catholic in a predominatly prtestant family. Lucky for me though I do not have too many fundamentalists in the family. I have recently help my mother who is 66 years old accept the Catholic faith. She already knew some about it but not a lot her mother was Catholic but she married a protestant man so her mother never went back to the church.

Anyway, I am getting off track. My father has been the one that is a real challenge because he is quite the fan of Tim Lahaye and others like him who have misconcieved notions about the church.

How I deal with him when he brings something up that is flagrantly wrong is that I tell him in a loving manner that he is wrong on what he believes about the church and I will find some material for him that correctly explains what he is trying to say.

I have found http://www.catholic.com (Catholic Answers) to be an invaluable source of apologetics information for people with wrong notions about the church.

Also for your own study there is a website: http://www.amm.org/chss.htm

that is a catholic home study service you can get books from them for free and send in your answers to the questiosn they ask online. Once you finish one lesson you can order another book.

The easiest way to deal with people is to say, you know I love you, but I disagree and believe you are misinformed on this and I will get some material together on this and show you what the church really believes and why.

My ethics professor in college taught me one of the most valuable lessons in life. He said at the begining of the course "if you get nothing else out of this class I want you to know what you believe and why". That is quite important and it is important to be well armed with apologetic information as a Catholic because there are a lot of people out there that will try to confuse you and make you doubt what you believe in Catholic teaching.

Silence may be golden but sometimes saying nothing can be worse.

As for silent prayer and reflection I would start with the rosary, divine mercy chaplets, and like contemplative prayer.

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PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2005 9:03 am 
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You guys, thank you so very much for taking the time to help me, but I did a bad job of articulating myself.
It's not about when to speak and when not to speak--like Apologetics with Protestants or whatever--rather, it's THEOLOGY, it's why Christ was silent during his trial and uttered not a word; it's the "silence of Mary," it's the silence of the Desert Fathers and hermits,....: silence as a way of life to separate the temporal and eternal within and find Oneness in the Sacred and Immaculate Heart. Silence really isn't just about "not talking"--although, as I understand, that is the first baby step of it--but silence as a positive act and statement of it's own to understand the Ineffable...
I'll just pray that I find what i'm looking for and if not than that's God's silence...
Again, thanks guys for your help!!!! :D

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PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2005 10:07 am 
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My prayer was answered!!!!

After I made that last post, I turned on EWTN and there was Mother on the Religious Catalogue with a book on "St. Joseph the Silent"; God be praised, thanks guys! Thanks St. Joseph!!
:cloud9:

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PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2005 11:19 am 
Hey, Dante could you post a link to that book? I have a deep interest in silence (with 4 kids who wouldn't be! ;))


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PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2005 5:09 pm 
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Here's the info:
https://www.ewtn.com/vcatalogue/index.asp?category=books
Joseph the Silent: Michael Gasnier, O.P.; Item #10101. $10.00 + shipping

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PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2005 1:01 am 
Thanks! Sorry, somehow I missed your post earlier. :oops:


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 12:52 am 
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Dante,

Glad to hear you found that book on EWTN. Have you ever heard of Brother Lawrence, a 17th century lay Carmelite brother who kept a silent conversation going with God throughout his life?

He was a remarkable man. Here are some quotes. You can get his book, "Practicing the Presence of God" online as an e-book. Good luck to you.

"I make it my business to rest in His holy presence," he said, "which I keep myself in by a habitual, silent, and secret conversation with God. This often causes in me joys and raptures inwardly, and sometimes also outwardly, so great that I am forced to use means to moderate them, and prevent their appearance to others."

“He (Brother Lawrence) said that it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times; that we are as strictly obliged to adhere to God by action in the time of action as by prayer in the season of prayer. That his view of prayer was nothing else but a sense of the Presence of God, his soul being at that time insensible to everything but Divine Love; and that when the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with God, praising and blessing Him with all his might, so that he passed his life in continual joy; yet hoped that God would give him somewhat to suffer when he should have grown stronger.”

"You will tell me that I am always saying the same thing: it is true, for this is the best and easiest method I know; and as I use no other, I advise all the world to it. We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him; and when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure."

http://www.practicegodspresence.com/

http://www.ccel.org/l/lawrence/practice/htm/i.htm


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 2:01 am 
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There is no "theology of silence". It is a matter of practical virtue.

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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 3:16 am 
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Matthew wrote:
There is no "theology of silence". It is a matter of practical virtue.


I don't know Mathew. The central Person in our religion is known as the "Word". I think that silence can certainly be an object of theological reflection.

Secondly, any virtue falls under the aspects of moral and ascetical theology. Our Lord says that every idle word will have to be accounted for, so I really don't see why this should be dismissed as a matter of "practical virtue"

I think that Dante was just looking for some spiritual advice here Mathew.

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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 12:16 pm 
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Alex, that was incredibly charitable of you to share that with me, God bless you abudnantly and I will MOST DEFINITELY check that out!!!

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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 6:00 pm 
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Quote:
There is no "theology of silence". It is a matter of practical virtue.

Dear Matthew, I am sorry for not outlining "silence" as I understand the issue to be.
1). There is the silence that Christ practiced for the first 30 years of His life, the Hidden Life as it is sometimes called, and there is the silence which He chose to exhibit during His trial and Passion.
2). There is the silence of Mary (and John the Baptist before he began preaching)
3). There is the silence of St. Joseph
4). There is the silence of the Desert Fathers
5). The 400 years of silence of God before the Exodus of Israel
Now there are several ways of angling these situations: for example, it's not that Mary didn't speak, it's that the Scriptures don't record/speak often of her (the same with John the Baptist and St. Joseph). With Mary not often being recorded within Scripture it becomes an exercise of Humility for the Mother of God and of the Church. With Jesus speaking at the Finding in the Temple, it becomes an act of Obedience to His Holy Mother and a prophesy of what He will do, but the Silence which surrounds it also becomes holy (as, for example, poverty becomes holy because that's how Christ and His Mother chose to live, in poverty and in silence). Because Mary is silent, the recording of her Fiat and Magnificat become all the more powerful because, in both cases, she gives back to God the gift of speech which was given to her (to worship Him with, of course, as it is with all of us). Likewise, John the Baptist uses his "voice in the wilderness" to testify to God and St. Joseph also gives his consent in remaining with Mary and not turning her out. These great Saints entered into God (spiritual Oneness it is sometimes called) by separating from the world via language by adopting silence and making a statement with that (Desert Fathers): one prefers to learn of God in silence instead of with words.

I called this a "theology" because God's language is above human language, as I think Alex probably understands in his suggestion of looking into Brother Lawrence. There is a practical issue to this in that one begins Silence by making simple sacrifices, and orienting themselves towards inner peace to always be conversing with God, which is the foundation--as I understand it--of desert spirituality. Yes, God makes Himself known to us through language, because He sanctified it by speaking it Himself (the Sermon on the Mount, for example) but He also sanctified Silence by practicing it Himself in the first 30 years and upon the Cross (for He spoke ONLY 7 things upon the Cross, instead of discoursing the last few things He didn't get in before, He chose to be Silent the rest of the time) and so, for some people, this becomes a theology because it is how God reveals Himself to us and teaches us to come to the Father as He Himself came to the Father when on this earth.

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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 7:50 pm 
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There is an older Marian book titled "A Woman Wrapped in Silence." Perhaps you could find it at a Catholic college library?

I did a quick search, and it is available for purchase.

http://www.paulistpress.com/1905-6.html

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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 8:14 pm 
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Dante wrote:
So kind, thank you for the search.

Theologically, the exercise of silence is the recognition of the gift of language, epitomized, of course, by Mary: her fiat (saying yes to God); her Magnificat (praising God) and the Finding in the Temple (humility before God) all wonderful examples of Christianity that I just can't live up to. The theory is, spiritually, that by being silent, we gain interior recollection (such as the Desert Fathers) and are better able to pray and praise God.

Philosophically, the problem is that we come to know ourselves through language: Ricouer, Kierkegaard, Buber and others emphasize the importance of speech acts but this can be quickly subverted by the claim (that Kierkegaard would second) that we can only know ourselves as we know God (Augustine), so God is the priority over and above our obligations to others and ourselves, naturally.

So, here's my problem and the kind of material I'm looking for (I think): how do I exercise silence in a family of mortally sinful Protestants who are filled with false conceptions of the Church? I'm not afraid of telling them the Truth, but I am afraid of doing it without charity and obviously causing more harm than good; as St. Francis said, "Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words." That's what I want to do, but I'm so spiritually weakened by the sin of pride that I have a difficult time following through with it.

I guess the kind of material I'm looking for would probably be in like Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, the Desert Fathers... I'm just not sufficiently aware of all the advanced spiritualists to know who advanced by what means. :cry:



Regarding St. Francis' quote "Preach the Gospel..if necessary...", I've read that has been taken out of context. Recently I've read on it but I can't find it. Unfortunately that quote has been used by priests as an excuse not to preach.

ZF


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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 11:34 pm 
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Quote:
Ricouer, Kierkegaard, Buber


Will someone please throw a cold glass of water on me. :)

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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 11:45 pm 
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Dante, I appreciate your insights. I'm just warning against psuedo-mysticism that parades around in imitation of true mysticism. I cringe at 1) personalist expositions of the interior life and doctrine and 2) attaching "theology" to everything in sight; next we'll be seeing the "theology of pet ownership".

Here's a good little article that should give you everything you need to know about the practice of silence and the virues attached to it, such as penance, patience and humility.

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13790a.htm

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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2005 2:27 am 
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Dear ZackF, I'm terribly sorry if I have misquoted/decontextualized the St. Francis quote: I thought that "Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words," meant that the Love of God was to so permeate our lives that we wouldn't even need to say anything at all, His Grace would be evident to everyone such a person encountered, so that God's Grace could work on them by us being His Instrument, and living as Jesus lived was the ultimate way of preaching the Gospel, and when people didn't understand the power of that lifestyle, that was the point at which the (verbal) instruction of the Gospel was to be practiced. I have problem following that advice (as I understand it to be) because I have difficulty in calming myself from the tumult of things going on around me, whereas St. Francis, IMHO, was always focused on God, which, I thought, what the basis of Christocentric Franciscan spirituality.

Dear Matthew, I do have a very strong tendency to be a silly airhead at times, and I do appreciate your concern for my falling into a silly mysticism; thank you. I have a problem with becoming "entangled" in trivial externals and so was seeking advice on how to discipline myself in an appropriate way (such as Alex's helpful post on Brother Lawrence), that is, as Jesus, Mary, Joseph, St. John the Baptist and other saints did; please, forgive my sillines and thank you for your charity in correcting my mistakes and waywardness.

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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2005 6:53 pm 
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Dante wrote:
Dear ZackF, I'm terribly sorry if I have misquoted/decontextualized the St. Francis quote: I thought that "Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words," meant that the Love of God was to so permeate our lives that we wouldn't even need to say anything at all, His Grace would be evident to everyone such a person encountered, so that God's Grace could work on them by us being His Instrument, and living as Jesus lived was the ultimate way of preaching the Gospel, and when people didn't understand the power of that lifestyle, that was the point at which the (verbal) instruction of the Gospel was to be practiced. I have problem following that advice (as I understand it to be) because I have difficulty in calming myself from the tumult of things going on around me, whereas St. Francis, IMHO, was always focused on God, which, I thought, what the basis of Christocentric Franciscan spirituality.


No need to apologize. I wasn't even on solid footing as I don't have a direct quote. I'll keeping looking though.

Blessings,

ZF


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