I welcome Virginia Fraguio as a new contributing writer for Joy In Truth. Her writing is a blessing for us all and a wonderful gift to the Church. May Christ continue to bless and sustain her ministry of discipleship of infusing the divine faith of the Church into culture—Deacon Frederick Bartels
Have you recently stopped to think about how many minutes of pure silence you have each day? Your answer to this question might be the key to figuring out some of the current challenges you may be facing in your life.
By Virginia Fraguio
19 June 2018
By pure silence here we mean both external and internal – in other words, space without noise around you and inside of you.
As human beings we need water, air and nutrients for our bodies to live with health and energy. How about our minds, soul and heart? We are created by God in His image and likeness, with intellect and free will, with the ability to think, love and discern. How we utilize these faculties and gifts literally defines what person we are, what our life looks like, how holy and truly happy we are. God is the source of it all and the key means to tapping into His infinite gifts that nurture us is silence.
Let us look at a real-life example. My good friend called me up one day crying, and told me her life seemed out of control, people pulling at her from all directions, she found herself reacting often with impatience and anger, even to her children. She felt so exhausted that on Sunday she did not even find the energy to get up to go to Church. Does that sound familiar? Where can we begin? The spiritual masters say: begin with silence.
Try this: Stop. Turn off the TV. Turn off the radio. Turn off the computer and the tablet. And yes, turn off even the cell phone! Stop. Go to your room. Close the door. Sit or lie down. Or, even better, go to Church, sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Close your eyes… and, now what? Wait in pure silence…
Then the Lord said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord—but the Lord was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the Lord was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11-12, emphasis added)
“I was waiting for you for so long! Finally you made the time!” says a friendly voice. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), says that friendly voice. Now, it is just you and Him, the one you cannot live without. Jesus Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), is with you, He was with you all along. “A voice said to him, Why are you here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:13).
We are made for eternity by an everlasting God. Our souls are the eternal gift we have been entrusted with by Him to go through this earthly life and reach our true homeland in Heaven. Moreover, through sacred spiritual silence, He brings the Kingdom into our lives right here and now! St. Teresa of Avila saw the soul as a diamond or crystal where God lives. This sacred crystal gets stained over time with sin, with noise of all kinds that distorts the truth of who God is, who we are, who other people are. Silence is a gift given to us for cleansing, refreshing, developing, growing, expanding, healing and nourishing our soul as we journey towards our Eternal Home with Him.
There is a fundamental fact on silence that is often missed. Cardinal Robert Sarah reminds us in his profound book on this subject that silence is not an end in itself (1). For Catholics (and, we hope for everyone), stillness and quiet is actually the means to be in the presence of and commune with Our Lord, who reveals to us who He is and who we are. Silence is not a self-centered notion, it is a Christ-centered one. It is not a meditation technique, it is a relational reality. St Teresa of Avila exhorts us to “look at Him, as He never takes His eyes off us” (2). Jesus patiently and lovingly gazes at us in silence, and waits. Once we look at Him… “Oh, infinite greatness of God!” (3).
Some of us wait until crisis and tragedy hit us, and are brought to a halt by circumstances. Suddenly all activity and noise around us stops, and we are forced to sit in silence. Others are blessed to realize daily that silence is the present He himself gives us, if we only decide to take it and open it. Whichever way we find the blessing of silence, it is the door to all the treasures that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (do not forget the gifts of the Spirit!) is waiting to shower us with.
You must be thinking: finding or making the time and space for silence is easier said than done! Indeed, that is true. But it is also true that valuable things come with some effort. Making time for sitting quietly alone is already a challenge in the over-active culture we live in. Moreover, once we have sat down, conquering the silence in the mind is even more of an ordeal for many of us. So, yes, we need to be intentional and persevere, as St. Teresa of Avila recommends (4). God rewards tenfold those who give of themselves to Him, right? (Mark 10:30). Little by little, as we sit in silence, He will grant us the grace to receive His blessings.
My passion for silence is ignited by learning from Jesus and Mary, and so many saints – Discalced Carmelites being my favorites. This passion has grown through my own small experience as well. I have started to notice enhanced calmness, awareness and healing of vices and sin, clarity of mind, equal-minded discernment, sensitivity towards others’ needs, deep devotion during Mass and prayer, a more detached perspective and reaction to my daily affairs and interactions. But, above all, the love – not as the mere emotion the world defines – but as the infinite life-giving gift of the Spirit. Sitting in silence with Him is gradually unfolding the realization of my total dependence on His mercy, along with the sense of true love, faith and hope – the theological virtues – defined as such by the Catholic Church because they are a gift from God. The silence lets Jesus Christ, who is the Truth, the Life and the Resurrection, touch our soul like a gentle breeze, a ray of sunlight, a flame of fire or the sound of running – living – water (using images of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross, doctors and masters of prayer) that fill our being with His grace, transforming us more and more into His image and likeness.
So, would you like to try silence? An idea could be to take a kitchen timer (not your cell phone) to begin with five minutes in the morning and five in the evening, and increase the time little by little, very slowly. It will never be a time wasted, and you will never be disappointed, as it is always the Lord’s initiative and His time. The treasures to be found are infinite and eternal, just as the One True God who has contemplated the encounter with you from all eternity in silence.
1. Robert Cardinal Sarah, Nicolas Diat. The Power of Silence. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2017.
2. Teresa of Jesus. The Interior Castle. Translated by E. Allison Peers. New York: Dover Publications, 2007.
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Virginia Fraguio is a Secular Discalced Carmelite pursuing her Master of Arts in Theological Studies at the University of St. Thomas at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, Texas. She is passionate about the truth, spreading the Catholic faith and spirituality, going on pilgrimages, and the international dimension of the Universal (Catholic) Church. Virginia was born in Argentina and grew up in Japan. After living in Brazil for some years, she was brought to the United States by her U.S. employer twelve years ago.