A special silence


9 Oct 2018


Silent devotion to the Sacred Heart allows us to really hear ourselves and others.

Recently Pope Francis has, more than once, called for a return to devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Devotion is a word that can sound antiquated to contemporary ears, so perhaps its better call it a ‘habit of the heart’ or a ‘way of being’ that places compassion at the centre of our relationships, with God, self and others.

At the centre of all devotion to the Sacred Heart is a particular kind of silence. There are different kinds of silence in our lives: the silence of grief beyond words; the silence of sacred ritual; the silent protest (often the most unsettling protest for those in authority to face); to name but a few kinds. However, the silence of devotion to the Sacred Heart is the silence of the Creator-lover and beloved-creature. And there is no other silence like that.

I am blessed to work alongside many young people who want to change the world. They are inspiring to say the least. But I am fond of reminding them that if they want to change the world, they must begin with silence. It is only in listening to the hearts of those persecuted and forgotten that we can hear the wounds of our own hearts. Without listening to, and learning from, them we are left with the worst kind of ‘poor house’ charity, or statist bureaucratic managerialism, both the opposite of the solidarity offered in the Sacred Heart.

One of the reasons it is so important to stress the need for silent prayer in the Christian life, is that we live in a culture that pushes against silence. Working with young people I am so often struck by the absence of silence in their lives. Smartphones can be pernicious. The successful business model of much social media is clearly founded on addiction, and our young people are at sea in its culture of distraction and pathological ‘busyness’. God’s word is drowned out by this ‘static’ making it nearly impossible for the silence needed to hear His voice.

Silence is to speech as forgetting is to memory; meaning emerges from their symbiosis. They are lost without each other. To sit in the gaze of the Sacred Heart’s overflowing love for us is an antidote to clutter and an invitation to the deepest silence – the silence of divine love.

This article first appeared in the Madonna magazine Spring 2018 edition. For other Madonna articles, see madonnamagazine.com.au.

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