A friend of mine has an apostolate in which she encourages people to acknowledge and give thanks to God for all the ways He is working in their lives, which often requires carving out space for silence. “The world is noisy, God whispers” – a slogan of hers. To notice God and attend to Him requires stillness – openness – calm. Silence provides the perfectly charged atmosphere of quiet for an encounter with the Lord, and so during Mass we leave space for this quiet. But then the question remains: what am I supposed to do with the silence? Understandably, in our world of chaos and over-stimulation, silence and stillness are hard to find, and when we find them – or they find us! – it can be a shock. Silence provides the atmosphere most suited to an encounter with the Divine, but we must attend to Him if the silent encounter is going to bear fruit. There are several key places we can practice prayerful silence during the Mass:
- Immediately Prior to Mass – We can use this time to gather our hearts and minds and everything we need to bring to the Lord as we prepare to celebrate His Sacrifice once more. Like anything, if we go into an action without any forethought, it tends to be less fruitful. If we ascend in heart and mind to the Lord’s sacrifice before Mass begins, we will be able to enter more deeply into it and draw more profoundly from its riches.
- During the Liturgy of the Word – There are many little moments of silence at this point in the Mass, especially following the Gospel and homily. I always recommend closing your eyes and trying to listen, rather than watch or read along (if you can do without it) because “faith comes from what is heard” (Rom 10:17). When we suppress one of our senses, it tends to sharpen the others, so closing our eyes can be a good way of opening our ears, letting the Word of God sink into us, to ponder in our hearts.
- At the Offertory – This silence is more pronounced at daily Mass where we have no music, but even on Sunday, it is a time of prayerful preparation. In the pews, we have some booklets entitled Lift Up Your Hearts, with some beautiful prayers to recite at the offertory. In the booklet, there is a description of the importance of this moment: “At the offertory of the Mass, as the priest is offering the gifts of bread and wine to the Father on our behalf, we should unite ourselves with the priest in making this offering. This is of critical importance to our full participation at Mass” (Lift Up Your Hearts, page 10). Use these prayers to help yourself enter into the silence during this time.
- After Communion – After we have received Holy Communion, we must use that quiet time to converse with Our Lord, who has newly taken up His abode within us. The Church has taught as a general rule for many centuries that the Lord is sacramentally present for about 15 minutes once we receive Him, after which the physical Species break down and His Eucharistic presence within us desists. St. Teresa of Avila said about those precious minutes: “After Communion, let us not waste so good an opportunity to do business with God. As a rule, His Divine Majesty does not pay badly for His lodging, if He gets a good welcome.” While the communion procession carries on, and while the priest purifies the vessels, let’s not be distracted. Rather, we should retire into our hearts with the Lord, once again closing our eyes, and rest with Him – listening to Him, and expressing our love to Him.
- Immediately After Mass – It is important to take even just a few moments to kneel once Mass has ended and give God thanks for the gift of the Mass, our ability to participate in it, and to ask His grace and strength as we go forth to glorify Him by our lives in the day and week ahead. We shouldn’t immediately launch into conversation with our fellow Mass-goers without first giving our salutations and thanksgiving to God. And once we have finished, it is good and noble to allow for others to have time in quiet prayer with the Lord in His House, refraining as much as possible from loud or unnecessary conversations until we have left the sanctuary.
If we capitalize on these special times of silence and actively try to engage with the Lord who meets us within them, we will find that He is able to bear more fruit in our lives as we become aware of His peaceful and powerful presence. And hopefully, these times of silence will lead us to seek out silence more and more in our daily lives and activities, so that God is no longer something confined to an hour on Sunday, but Someone we seek to encounter every day as we carve out silent space for Him to whisper in the midst of our noisy world. May God bless you in the week ahead, and may Mother Mary lead you more deeply into the Sacred and Merciful Heart of Jesus. I remain,
Affectionately Yours in Christ,