Practical Advice from Cardinal Sarah’s Book: The Power of Silence

Quotes from: The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of 
Noise by Robert Cardinal Sarah with Nicolas Diat, Translated 
by Michael J. Miller, Ignatius Press, 2016.

Here is some of the practical advice I gathered from reading Cardinal Sarah’s book.

(1) Read Sacred Scripture in silence

“Through Sacred Scripture, when it is listened to and meditated upon in silence, divine graces are poured out on man” (23).

“In the life of prayer, some support is necessary, because we always run the risk of going far from ourselves when we are invaded by noises, dreams, and memories. Reading the Bible silently and diligently is the best method” (48-9).

“Reading should help us to pray by concentrating our attention. Let us not forget the vital connection between prayer and the Word of God… Meditation consists of imagining in silence the earthly, everyday life of Jesus. It is not necessarily to recall a historical event; rather, we must seek to bring the Son of God silently into our heart” (52).

“Nestling in silence against the heart of God, with the open Bible over our head like the wings of the Holy Spirit, is still the best antidote, the one thing necessary to chase away from our interior territory all that is useless, superfluous, worldly, and even our own self” (74).

“The reading of lectio divina is by its nature reserved for a situation in which one addresses God, and thus it reflects perfectly the riches of silence” (82).

“The whole life of Jesus is wrapped in silence and mystery. If man wants to imitate Christ, it is enough for him to observe his silences (ie. meditate of the silence of the crib, the silence of Nazareth, the silence of the Cross, and the silence of the sealed tomb)” (100).

“Lectio divina, listening to the Word of God, which has always been at the heart of the monastic life, is the time of the word, the time of the heart that listens, receives, and allows itself to be impregnated. It is also the time of silence that will meditate at length so as to let the Word penetrate the very depths of our being and to become truly ours. If we move along too quickly, the imprint will remain superficial or will be erased” (221).

“In order to keep silence and to nourish it with the presence of God, we should develop the practice of lectio divinawhich is a moment of silent listening, contemplation, and profound recollection in the light of the Spirit. Lectio divina is a great river that carries all the riches accumulated over the course of Church history by the fervent readers of God’s Word. Lectio divina is never solely our own reading. It feeds on the intepretation of those who have preceded us… if we persevere in lectio divina and silent listening to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches, our effort will be rewarded by unheard-of jewels and riches” (240).

(2) Create an environment of silence

It is necessary to provide ourselves with the means of the best possible environment for finding within us the silence that allows us to be in intimate communion with God… BUT our real room is precisely ourselves. Man is invited to enter into himself so as to remain alone with God (48).

Thus it is important to stay in the presence of the Lord so that he can find us available and introduce us into the great silence within that enables him to become incarnate in us, to transform us into himself (52).

From silence is born silence (54).

Christ often recommends that we withdraw if we want to pray. It may be a remote place, in solitude, so as to be alone with the Alone. But the question of the external setting cannot avoid the problem of interiority. It is important to create the interior room where man finds God in a genuine face-to-face encounter (55-56).

We can become true contemplatives by living in peace with God IF our houses become temples of God (71).

Days of solitude, silence, and fasting, nourished by the Word of God alone, allow man to base his life on what is essential (76).

But we can never create intimacy with God; it always comes from above, and our responsibility is to build the setting in which the encounter can take place (202).

(3) Silent prayer MUST come before active work.

“All activity MUST be preceded by an intense life of prayer, contemplation, seeking and listening to God’s will” (28).

Jesus sacrificed even charity for prayer. Without God, we are too poor to be able to help the poor! (47)

Silence is more important than any other human work. Because it expresses God. The true revolution comes from silence; it leads us toward God and others so as to place us humbly and generously at their service (54).

Let us not hesitate to give pride of place to silent daily prayer in the solitude of our room (71).

We MUST uproot ourselves from the world, from the crowd, and from all activity, even charitable works, in order to remain for long moments in the intimacy of God (103).

There is NO genuine action or major decision EXCEPT in the silence of prayer that precedes them (154).

(4) Adoration in silence

For my part, I know that all the great moments of my day are found in the incomparable hours that I spend on my knees in the darkness before the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (46).

Mother Teresa had a face charred by God’s silences, but she bore within her and breathed love. By dint of remaining long hours before the burning flame of the Blessed Sacrament, her face was tanned, transformed by a daily face-to-face encounter with the Lord (98).

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a time when the quality of interior silence can allow us to enter a little into God’s silence. Adoration is a little drop of eternity (99).

(5) Develop an asceticism of silence

“How can we come to master our own interior silence? The only answer lies in asceticism, self-renunciation, and humility. If man does not mortify himself, if he stays as he is, he remains outside God” (51).

The search for interior silence is a path to perfection that demands repeated attempts (56).

Asceticism of silence is a form of nakedness and poverty… it enters us into the mystery of God by becoming little, like a child (60)… it is a necessary medicine: one that is sometimes painful but effective (61)… it does not depend on human factors; it is divine (98).

Silence strips man and makes him like a child: pure but frail, innocent, and without provisions. Silence shapes us as the blacksmith works metal (61).

It is impossible to enter into the mystery of God without entering into the solitude and silence of our interior desert (65).

Overall, this quote captures it

Let us devote a lot of time to God, to prayer and adoration. Let us allow ourselves to be nourished abundantly and ceaselessly by the Word of God (47).

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