“We need to make time for silence in our lives if we are to pray and listen to God”, said Pope Benedict XVI in his weekly general audience on Aug. 10.
“Silence is the environment that best promotes recollection, listening to God, meditation,” he told pilgrims gathered at his summer residence in the hilltop town of Castel Gandolfo, 15 miles south of Rome.
“The very fact that a taste of silence leaves us, so to speak, to ‘fill’ the silence predisposes us to prayer.”
It is for this reason, noted the Pope, that monks and nuns have traditionally established their communities “in particularly beautiful places, in the countryside, in hills, in mountainous valleys, along lakes or seas, or even on small islands.”
“These sites combine two very important elements for the contemplative life: the beauty of creation, which refers to that of the Creator, and the silence guaranteed by their remoteness from the cities and highways of communication.”
The Pope charted the history of man’s quest for God — and God’s quest for man — conducted through silence and prayer.
From the Old Testament, he noted that God spoke to the prophet Elijah on Mount Sinai in “the gentle breeze” rather than through wind, earthquake or fire.
He then highlighted the 13th-century life of St. Clare of Assisi, whose feast day is Aug. 11, observing how she created a community at San Damiano on the outskirts of Assisi, “living on prayer and small jobs.”
“God speaks in silence, but you need to know how to listen,” said the Pope. “For that, monasteries are oases in which God speaks to humanity; in them one finds the cloister, a symbolic place, because it is an enclosed space but open to the sky.”
Hence, when we are “looking at things from a spiritual perspective,” the spirit of monastic places actually provides the “backbone of the world,” he said.[ The house early in the morning, the car between home and work or school, can be a refuge of silence, closed to the noise but open to God, in which we seek time for reflection and prayer. ]
Pope Benedict suggested it was “no coincidence” that so many people, especially during times of rest, choose to stay for a few days in convents or monasteries, since “the soul, thank God, has its own needs.”
The Pope then concluded his address by pointing to the Virgin Mary as the person who can best “teach us to love silence and prayer.”