“It therefore becomes clear that care must be taken in the choice and execution of music if the sacred liturgy is indeed to reflect its innate splendour. It makes one wonder why we so often settle for second best: insipid tunes with lyrics of questionable theology, lifeless pre-recorded hymns, and secular songs that hardly raise one’s heart and mind to God. In these instances, a sacred silence would surely be preferable to such banal distractions. ”

And so concludes an article I read the other day, an article in a Catholic magazine. One I receive periodically.

You know, we don’t often hear a lot about sacred silence, in our busy lives, and in our often busy Masses.

What is sacred silence?

Psalm 46:10: Be still, and know that I am God

In praying the mass, in praying with the priest, in being silent with Jesus as we receive Holy Communion, we can be stiil…..not a self-centred stillness…..not navel gazing stillness…..but the stillness of intimacy with God, the stillness of contemplation, of worship.

This is sacred silence.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal,says ( number 45) .

“Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times. Its purpose, however, depends on the time it occurs in each part of the celebration. Thus within the Act of Penitence and again after the invitation to pray, all recollect themselves; but at the conclusion of a reading or the homily, all meditate briefly on what they have heard; then after Communion, they praise and pray to God in their hearts. Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.”

Sacred means to be set apart for a holy purpose.

Silence becomes holy during Mass because silence at Mass is particularly set apart for God and worship.

Sacred silence during Mass, then, is a gift.

We should practice this sacred silence in our Masses. Practice becoming closer to God.

Hopefully, we will be encouraged in this by our priests in their celebration of Holy Mass. Hopefully we will not have to experience those “banal distractions”; the ones mentioned by the writer above and other distractions in the form of large or small extras; extra phrases and actions added to the Mass.

There is a time for silence, then,sacred silence, in our worship and liturgy.

There is a time for silence in our life, too. So we are not always at the beck and call of our phones, our texts, our Facebook notifications..So that we do not always have a lot of talk and a lot of music..but also some quiet times, in our lives, in our families.

We acknowledge this need for silence.

However, there is a time, there are times, when we should not practice silence.

Sacred silence is needed in our liturgy. Some quiet, set apart time is needed in our lives. But, sometimes, to be silent is the wrong thing.

Sometimes, instead of silence, we need to speak out. Speak out, in small ways, in big ways, as we are called, against things that are not right.

Against euthanasia, for example. Against abortion.

For chastity.

And, as lay people in our Church, in our parishes, sometimes we should not be silent about false teachings and practices.

We should speak out against these things; in Christian charity; perhaps simply by example. (Receving Holy Communion reverently so that others may know our belief that this is the Eucharist is Jesus).

Perhaps we should speak out by sharing books. Books about liturgy. About the teachings of the Church.

Perhaps we can make our comments, in a friendly ,casual manner as topics come up in conversation. With our smiles, with our hellos, our goodbyes, our social niceties.(“Wasn’t it lovely to see those little ones do that dance after Communion?” “Was it really?”).

A simple statement. yet better than silence ( Silence is assent, says Paul Scofield as St Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons). Better than facile agreement. better than a full blown argument.

Perhaps, too, we can speak out by blogging. Sharing the teachings of the Church, sharing the liturgical legislation, sharing experiences with others.

For to be silent about these issues is not to be sacred or set apart. It is to be remiss.

It is when people who know better are silent, or worse, move from parishes to other more orthodox parishes,. that less than stellar practices are allowed to continue. in our liturgies and in our Church.

The role of the laity is to pray, to live the Good News, to take the Good News to others. We are not to be arrogant. We are to be pious in our worship. ( The Holy Father has said that, fulfilling the lay vocation involves working to “give expression in real life – also through political commitment – to the Christian view of anthropology and the social doctrine of the Church..”).

But we are to be educated. And, once having been educated in what the Church teaches and why, especially with regard to the public liturgy of the Church ( for how we pray affects what we believe..lex orandi lex credendi..), then we must not remain silent. We must share our faith and knowledge and practice of prayer with others. In love. In big or little ways.

Each to his own.

What I desiderate in Catholics is the gift of bringing out what their religion is — I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it. I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity.

So wrote Cardinal Newman, Blessed John Henry Newman, in 1851. He went on to say…

I have no apprehension you will be the worse Catholics for familiarity with these subjects, provided you cherish a vivid sense of

God above and keep in mind that you have souls to be judged and saved. In all times the laity have been the measure of the Catholic spirit; they saved the Irish Church three centuries ago and they betrayed the Church in England. You ought to be able to bring out what you feel and what you mean, as well as to feel and mean it; to expose to the comprehension of others the fictions and fallacies of your opponents; to explain the charges brought against the Church, to the satisfaction, not, indeed, of bigots, but of men of sense, of whatever cast of opinion.

So, let us practice sacred silence in our liturgy. Let us savour some modicum of silence in our lives.

But also let us speak out in love when the situation demands it.

In our parishes. In our lives. In our example. In our discussions.

And, as the Holy Father has encouraged, via the new communication, the new media, the communication of our times – the Internet, be it in a public forum or on Facebook or a on a personal blog.

“Without fear we must set sail on the digital sea facing into the deep with the same passion that has governed the ship of the Church for two thousand years. Rather than for, albeit necessary, technical resources, we want to qualify ourselves by living in the digital world with a believer’s heart, helping to give a soul to the Internet’s incessant flow of communication” .Pope Asks Bloggers To Give Internet A Soul

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