Almost every guide about how to pray I’ve ever read begins with the instruction “Find a quiet place…” including this one from TJP’s own Ryan Duns, SJ. Of course, finding such silence grows more and more difficult, a fact that’s been brought home powerfully during these early days of getting TJP up and running — notifications from Facebook, tweets, updated pageview stats, emails, and one eye kept on the webserver to make sure it doesn’t melt when Jim Martin links to us. (We’re doing just fine, as it turns out; feel free to send more readers our way.)
Even when these notifications don’t cause an audible interruption — I know how to silence my iPhone — they still get in the way of my interior silence, which is the first step not only of prayer, but also of any real communication and authentic human connection with God or with other people. That need for reverent silence is widely felt, as Mary Hess noted, responding to Joe Hoover SJ’s recent piece here on church and yoga. But you don’t have to take my word on that; the Pope said so today, in his message for World Communications Day, which will fall this year on May 20th, the Sunday before Pentecost:
When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary. … For this to happen, it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.
Seriously, read the whole thing, it’s outstanding. One of the things we’re trying to do with this site is to build our corner of that “eco-system,” a place where we can provide evidence, in the form of lived experience and reflection, that the kind of silence cultivated in prayer leads to a deeper and richer engagement in the world and in culture.
But in order to do that, as I’ve rediscovered during these past few days, I need to reinvest in silence myself. If you feel some of that need as well, take a look at the quiet place project (they’re so quiet, they eschew capitals — as do i when i write about them). This site crossed my Facebook feed a few months ago, and I’m really impressed by the way they’ve used the web, the medium of distraction par excellence, to provide an experience of fairly profound silence. I’ve even used it as the beginning of my Examen.
And then get back out on the web, and help make it a place where that silence bears fruit. After all, the Pope told us to:
Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God.
Sweet … that’s what we’re trying to do.