Silence in Carmel
"The life of a Carmelite is silence,” writes St. Elizabeth of the Trinity.
A Secular Carmelite, living in the world as we do, needs silence, both exterior and interior because the former soothes and nourishes the latter. Like our Carmelite friars and nuns, we need silence in order to listen and hear the Lord’s voice.
St. Teresa speaks of the necessity of solitude when she stresses that prayer entails taking time frequently to be “alone with Him.” “The essential thing is not what we say but what God says to us and through us. In that silence, He will listen to us; there He will speak to our soul, and there we will hear His voice.”
“The Father spoke one Word,’ St. John of the Cross said; “this Word He speaks in eternal silence, and in silence must it be heard by the soul.”
It is the prophetic and mystical silence of Elijah that enabled him to comprehend when God was passing by on the mountain. (1Kings 19:12) Carmelites are called to embrace a contemplative silence, so that God can enter into our soul to show us new ways of being and relating, not only in our community, but also in our world and especially in our church.
“If I could prescribe just one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence. For even if the word of God was proclaimed in the modern world, no one would hear it; there is too much noise.” (Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard)
Distractions are a loss of silence that comes from a lack of poverty and detachment. They are about the things we want to possess, to enjoy, mixed in with worries, anxiety, and concern for others. They also include memories, thoughts about the future, and snippets of what others have said. The soul that fills itself on newspapers, magazines, radio and television, computer games and surfing the Internet can never come to rest. "Where your treasure is, there too shall your heart be!" (Mt 6:21)
Silence is a survival measure in a noise-polluted world. How much silence do you have in your life?
Can you take off your headphones, turn off your phone, TV, computer, iPad? For a few hours once a week or once a day? Can you go on a retreat and live in silence for a weekend or a week?
Then perhaps you are called to be a Carmelite – priest, nun, sister, or secular!