We live in a noisy world. All day long we are bombarded with sound, not all of it helpful. Sometimes we bring that noise with us into church and indeed into our prayer.
The church is not just any meeting place; it is not a theatre or cinema, not a café or a pub, it is not a bank or a mall! The church is a sacred space in which we are gathered to worship God, to hear the holy Word, to enter into the mystery of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection, to pray for the world, the Church and our own needs.
We are asked to respect the sacredness of the church building, to be considerate of the people around us, to be quiet, indeed to keep a reverent silence.
However it has been brought to my attention that some people chat all through the Mass –even during the Consecration! Even two people talking can distract 40 others!! Of course we can try and impose silence: if the priest sees blatant disrespect, or is interrupted by cell-phone noise, he can take steps to enforce a religious silence. But imposing silence is like keeping order in a class room; when the teacher’s back is turned, the noise re-emerges at the first opportunity.
The religious silence which we value is not imposed; it comes from within. There is silence, religious silence, within everybody. We just have to let it surface, especially when we pray, when we worship, when we gather in numbers in a church or for prayer. That is the kind of silence that does not need any sanctions; it can’t be switched on like an electric light. it comes from deep within each of us.
Sometimes people are afraid of silence but the religious silence of which I am speaking is a treasure, allowing our spirit to soar and our attention to be given to God. I hope we can reflect on this silence and let it surface in our prayer life especially when we come to Mass.
Fr Sean Wales, C.Ss.