Fr. Dominic Foster, TOR
“There’s no authentic spirituality that doesn’t involve silence,” remarks Fr. Dominic Foster, TOR, discussing his experience with contemplative prayer. Such prayer consists of “meditation leading to contemplation,” using words of Scripture or writings of saints to nurture a deeper reflection on the relationship between God and ourselves. This reflection, Fr. Dominic emphasizes, is not necessarily doing something – it is being with God, allowing ourselves to be present to Him. Through being present, we are not “zoning out,” but we are also not completing a “laundry list.” Rather, we are enabling ourselves to engage fully in meditating upon the mysteries of the Faith.
This reflection must be accompanied by silence, even if it feels “uncomfortable.” After all, we “don’t want a spirituality that’s so full of noise that [we] can’t hear God in the silence.” In order to hear Him clearly, we must “listen more than we speak,” especially in the silence. This silence “is not emptiness…[or] loneliness” – it is surrender of worldly noises for the sake of hearing heavenly melodies. Although we should not neglect the significance of sharing our hearts with God, we must “remember Who we’re speaking to.” God already knows what we’re going to say, so our speaking “is almost more for us” than for Him. Even so, God desires us to ask and to vocalize our wants, such as in the Our Father, but we need to find a balance between speaking and listening. Next time we find our minds wandering during prayer, let us ask ourselves, ‘Am I speaking for my own benefit or for God’s?’
Creating relationships with God through silence is the first half of fostering our spiritual lives. The second half revolves around our relationships with ourselves, specifically recognizing our identities as His Beloved. “The foundation of spiritual life,” Fr. Dominic states, “is recognizing you are loved as you are, and the Holy Spirit is living inside of you because of your baptism.” We are “already in communion with God,” so we do not need to make our spiritual lives about establishing a communion that is already there. Therefore, we must overcome a “performance-based way of looking at spirituality” – spirituality is not about how many rosaries we pray or what sacrifices we make. It is not a check-list or a presentation. It is a matter of the heart that cannot be measured. Prayer is not a performance. We need only to “unplug, create a zone of silence within yourself,” and be with God.
Thus, in order to grow in discernment and in relationship with God, we must be unafraid to pray in silence. Silence is necessary if we wish to foster an authentic spirituality, and being silent is something we can learn. Practice being silent for 60 seconds every day, adding on a couple seconds each day, or pray with Scripture or other holy writings to foster meditation. Above all though, recognize that the foundation of your spiritual life rests on one fact: you are already loved by God, and He already dwells in you by virtue of your baptism.