“We are no longer able to hear God –
There are too many different frequencies filling our ears.”
– Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Everywhere there is noise, from the ever-present television, to the radio or podcasts in the car, the kids, the neighbors, the video advertisements at the check-out line in the store – even at the gas station pump! We are surrounded and saturated with noise. And we are usually the ones who turn it on. It is almost as if we are afraid of the silence. But to hear God we need silence, because God is in the silence. And to be in the silence we need to slow down.
Sometimes we need not just to slow down, but also to take some time to do nothing. Believe it or not, this is an important part of going beyond Sunday and staying spiritually healthy.
My Italian ancestors call this dolce far niente: the art or sweetness of doing nothing. It might sound crazy, but it’s rooted in Scripture. In Psalm 46 the Lord reminds us,
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
– Psalm 46:10
And doing nothing, although it is so contrary to our busy-bee American way of life, is essential when it comes to allowing ourselves to slow down and be with no one else but God.
In today’s crazy, “microwave” society, where everything seems to happen at breakneck speed, few of us slow down to do much of anything. We eat on the go, text behind the wheel, talk on the phone while doing a number of other tasks, and by the time we get home at night, we hit the pillow completely exhausted — only to start the same insane schedule over again the next morning. I once heard it said that Christians should think of the word “busy” as another important acronym: “Being Under Satan’s Yoke.” While, of course, there will always be tasks to complete at work, laundry to do at home, and a long list of other must-do projects, we’ve taken busy to an extreme where it is pulling us in all kinds of directions and, namely, away from God.
We have little time to really think, reflect, and ponder what God might be trying to show us, teach us, or tell us. Most importantly, we don’t give ourselves time just to be with him and keep him company. Obviously, that makes it really hard to have a real relationship with him. And that’s not to mention the impact it has on our other relationships — with our spouse, in our family, and in our broader communities.
In order to grow, we need to recharge and refocus, and one of the best ways to do that is to spend time just sitting and doing nothing with God. How this happens is entirely up to you. One suggestion would be to find a parish near you that has Eucharistic Adoration. Sitting before Jesus in the monstrance is a deeply moving way to just be in his presence. You don’t have to even say anything. Just be still and let him do the talking.
Slowing down eases our stress levels and helps us get reconnected with God and with our families. It has a positive ripple effect that can be felt throughout our life. As that old cereal commercial used to claim: “Try it, you’ll like it.” Doing nothing, or being still, is really the art of doing the most important thing of all.
So, how do you slow down, silence the noise, and reconnect? Take up a fast – from the noise. Particularly during Lent. First of all, turn off the TV. Unless you have a specific program you like to watch, turn it off. Don’t have the TV be background noise all the time. You’ll be surprised how awkward it can be at first. You may yearn for the noise. But stick it out. You don’t need it. And you’ll be able to hear your own thoughts for a change, and hear your family members. And maybe talk to the Lord a bit, pray the Rosary, read scripture, or do a daily examen. You can’t hear God if you can’t even hear yourself.
Second, turn the radio off in the car. Same reasons. You don’t need to do it your whole commute, after all I do have a radio show I’d like for you to listen to! But bringing in the silence helps your body relax. Feel yourself breathe and stress and tension leave your body. You will get where you are going more focused and refreshed, and you’ll do some of your best chats with God in the car.
The computer may not always be “noise” in the audio sense, but also in the visual and mental sense. Try to stick to work and not surf the ‘net, go shopping, get stuck for ages in Facebook land, or watch more cat videos on YouTube.
And then there is the cell phone. Think about what you really important for you to do to on your phone and limit notifications. Maybe move those social media and news icons off the home screen to one farther away. Or put them in a folder. Put your phone on vibrate. Stop texting for awhile. A great idea is to use the “Do Not Disturb” function on your phone. It is good, not just for blocking out time to work or sleep, but time to recharge and pray. Time to just catch your breath.
Trying to reduce the noise in our lives doesn’t mean that we have to live the life of a hermit in total solitude or silence. But cutting out a great deal of it will not just allow us to spend time with the Lord uninterrupted, and help us be skilled at dolce far niente. The news and social media posts will still be there later – you won’t miss much, but your quiet time with God, and yourself, will be priceless.
To Find Adoration In A Parish Near You Visit MassTimes.org
21 Ways to Worship: A Guide to Eucharistic Adoration, (Spanish version also available), Vinny Flynn
Conversation With Christ: The Teaching of St. Teresa of Avila About Personal Prayer, Peter Thomas Rohrbach
The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection
How to Listen When God is Speaking, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J.
An Easy Way To Do A Daily Examen – Fr. Mark-Mary, C.F.R.
The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, Robert Cardinal Sarah
Day By Day With St. Faustina: 365 Reflections – Susan Tassone
Note: This is an adapted excerpt from Teresa Tomeo’s book “Beyond Sunday: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic” published by Our Sunday Visitor.