The Remedy of Silence

November 21, 2018

Almost everything about life in the modern world encourages a certain shallowness—shallowness in relationships, in thought, and in interior reflection of any sort. From morning until night, we are assaulted by a stream of images and impressions, many of which are seeking to manipulate us for certain ends. 

Quantity is valued over quality, and if we can do something faster, cheaper, and with fewer demands on our time and attention, we will. We substitute the richness of face-to-face contact with texting and an endless stream of ephemeral social media interactions. We demand fast and free shipping on the millions of products available to us. We purchase robots to vacuum our floors and install devices that enable us to control every device in our homes with verbal commands. 

In short, we are taught by the marketplace to believe that we are entitled to everything we desire immediately and with the least amount of effort and at the lowest cost. After all, as thousands of commercials proclaim, “you deserve it.”

I want to make myself clear: I do not say all this disparage every aspect of modern life. Modernity, with all its benefits, has in some real ways enhanced our lives. I do not propose we reject every aspect of modern life. Not only would complete withdrawal be inadvisable, but it would also be nearly impossible. Like it or not, we are all ensnared in the modern way of being to various degrees. We are all consumers. It is the air we breathe. 

But while I do not counsel a complete rejection of consumerist modernity, I likewise do not advise a completely uncritical embrace of it. We would do well to assess the dangers of our market-driven way of life, for they are very real. 

One of the most prominent dangers we face is importing the consumerist mentality into our spiritual lives. We can easily come to believe the sanctity can be unlocked quickly and easily with a hack, a shortcut, or even a purchase—that holiness can be had without any kind of sacrifice. After all, everything else can. 

Moreover, our shallow, impression-driven way of life is inimical to any real prayer life. Thousands of saints and sages testify that authentic contact with the Divine cannot be found in noise, activity, or much speaking, but only in stillness and quietness. “What we need most in order to make progress,” says St. John of the Cross, “is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love.”

Silence. This is the real remedy to modernity. I can think of no better antidote to the cult of unlimited choice than this. Silence teaches patience, and patience gives birth to prayer. Silence quells our restlessness and puts us in touch with eternal values. 

This silence, however, is not something you stumble into or experience accidentally. It is something you must intentionally cultivate. Each day, we should strive to find moments to pause and reflect; to remove ourselves from the steam of impressions and advertisements which only stir within us restlessness and discontent. We must seek times to be quiet before the Lord in adoration and thanksgiving, for in these moments of quiet communion lie true healing and purification. 

Above all, we must remember that holiness cannot be bought. Unlike so many things available to us, it requires real effort, real sacrifice, and real desire. In other words, holiness demands the cross. And there are no shortcuts. 

 “The greatest things are accomplished in silence—not in the clamor and display of superficial eventfulness, but in the deep clarity of inner vision; in the almost imperceptible start of decision, in quiet overcoming and hidden sacrifice.” – Cardinal Robert Sarah




Sam Guzman


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Reader Interactions


  1. Maria says

    And, yet, nowhere can we find silence in our churches. Nowhere. If you ask any priest for his help in aiding silence at Mass, you will be looked at as if our deranged and taken to the woodshed and lectured on the rights of everyone at Mass to make to make prayer impossible. The anthem is noise at all costs all the time for all.

    • Phil says

      I greately appreciate the views of Maria, Ellis, Homem, & Ohams all of whom I believe understand the author and God exquisitly. Larry on the other hand………..his opinions are his opinions and demonstrate shallowness, misperception, and earthliness; about as low as the earth is below the heavens. “If the light that is within you is darkness, how very great will the darkness be.”

      • Larry says

        Phil, I don’t know what incited you to single me out for such a pointless personal attack, but I have nothing to apologize to you for. And my understanding is just as exquisit [sic] as anyone else’s.

        • Phil says

          Larry, Thanks for making your premise at the earliest possible opportunity. It saves me time not having to read the rest of your opinion. You may want to ‘reflect’ on what a hypocrite is.

          • Larry says

            Gee Phil, you’re 2-for-2 on personal attacks now. All I’ve done is question the author’s underlying dissatsfaction with the world he lives in, which is a legitimate discussion of ideas. You can try to twist my words around, but you’ll only be embarrassing yourself further.

          • Phil says

            Larry, no matter how hard I may try, I could never exceed the egotistical embarrassment duly self-inflicted on yourself by your first post. The author’s piece on ‘silence’ you rejected had much to offer you, but alas is trampled upon by your over-grown pride.

  2. Ellis Spear says

    Sam, Thanks so much for sharing these valuable thoughts. A great thing to contemplate this; as we enter the busy Holiday Season. Great job my friend 🙂

  3. Larry says

    “Almost everything about life in the modern world encourages a certain shallowness”

    Thanks for making your premise at the earliest possible opportunity. It saves me time not having to read the rest of the article.

    You may want to reflect on the source of your dislike of the world that you live in. It’s not a healthy attitude and it’s not a Catholic attitude.

      • Larry says

        Homem, I’ve been reading this site for a long time. Guzman’s writings have a chronic theme of general dislike of the world at large, of a perceived Catholic-ness of withdrawing from society. It’s unfortunate and there’s really nothing Catholic about it.

  4. Eustace says

    Good article for those of us whose vocation is in the world. When one is living in silence for a time, one can hear God speaking to the heart.


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