Make space for silence in your faith life

Giving God room to move is vital in any vocation.
Catholic Voices

“Do not speak harshly to an older man, but speak to him as to a father,
to younger men as brothers, to older women as mothers, to younger women
as sisters—with absolute purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1–2)

The Bible, silence, and prayer are all equally significant in my life. I can’t rank them in terms of preference; I need all three. However, there is never enough time in active ministry to fully immerse myself in any as I would like. I’m not St. Mother Teresa, who somehow found time for prayer and contemplation while she tended the poor and dying in Kolkata. I’m not St. Anthony Claret, who wrote of his extended times of prayer.

I, like most of us, struggle to carve a few minutes out of each day to give God room to move. Years ago, a friend told me she went to the third floor of her home each morning before her children woke up to sit in silence for a few minutes and, perhaps, to pray. These days, I have a similar practice. I get up at 5 a.m., drink a cup of coffee, sit on my rocking chair, and, for 20 minutes, read selections from a variety of books: spiritual, inspirational, theological, or fictional. Then I go to my prayer corner, light an incense stick, and kneel before icons and images reminding me of God’s presence. In the evening, when I return from the office, I continue my reading and end with a decade of the rosary and a Daily Examen. When I go to sleep, I light a vigil candle before my icons to remind me of God’s presence through the night.

Whenever I am faced with a difficulty, I try to go to silence, prayer, and scripture. Early in ministry, when I worked in parishes, I threw myself into everything. Since I was the youngest priest in my assignments, I was expected to get involved with the parish school. I loved the ministry, for it brought me not only to young people but also to parents. I fell in love with the people. To the young people, I was sort of a big brother or even a father figure; to the older adults, a son. I was always a priest to the parishioners, but I also became more: I was part of their family, a friend. Children invited me to their homes. Families invited me to their gatherings. I was trusted. And I was loved.


This is where the quote from 1 Timothy 5 comes in. I was in love with the people; but I had to bring this to prayer and silence. I had to search the scriptures for direction. I had to relate to the people as Christ related to the those of his day: They were the Father’s children. True, I valued their friendship, but they were the Father’s first.

I think of this now because, in 2001 and later, multiple investigations revealed that some priests took advantage of young people. Some of the children and teens with whom I worked in the 1970s and ’80s suffered from the abuse of others. Back then, I wasn’t aware. When I eventually learned about the abuse, I did not know how extensive it was; now I know. And I grieve. I grieve for the children and teens who suffered under my fellow priests.

My question is: Was there prayer, scripture, and silence in the lives of the abusers? Did they take time to understand what they themselves needed to be faithful to God’s people, to his children? 

This article also appears in the May 2023 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 88, No. 5, page 9). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

Image: Unsplash/Ian Noble