If you’re familiar with Dynamic Catholic—maybe you participated in one of our programs, read one of our books, or attended one of our events—you have probably heard us talk over and over again about the classroom of silence.
But what really is the classroom of silence, and why are we always talking about it?
Matthew Kelly, our founder and CEO, wrote in Rediscover Catholicism “If I live to be a hundred and write for my whole life, I will never be able to emphasize enough how important silence is as an ingredient of the spiritual life.”
If you look at Scripture, where does it seem like God prefers to speak to people? Look at Adam and Abraham and Moses and Joshua and David and Jesus and you will discover the answer.
That’s right: silence and solitude.
Our modern world is a world of noise. Our lives have become so filled with noise that many have become uncomfortable and even afraid of silence.
It is in the silence that the whole world starts to make sense.
During the 1940s, C. S. Lewis wrote a series of letters that appeared in a London newspaper called the Guardian. These letters were the humorous and insightful correspondence between a senior devil, Screwtape, and an apprentice devil, his nephew Wormwood. The thirty-one letters were later published in the form of a book titled The Screwtape Letters.
In the letters, Screwtape is advising Wormwood about the procedure for winning a soul away from God for the devil. At one point, Wormwood is trying to think up all kinds of exotic ways to tempt the man who has been assigned to him. Screwtape rebukes Wormwood, explaining that their methods have long been established. One such method, he explains, is to create so much noise that men and women can no longer hear the voice of God in their lives. In one letter, the senior devil announces, “We will make the whole universe a noise in the end.”
Think of all the noise in our world today. C. S. Lewis wrote these words over seventy years ago, before people had iPhones and iPods, shower radios, laptops, tablets, computers at work, a radio in their cars, loudspeakers at markets, email and texts, and all the other devices that fill our world with a constant buzz of noise. Research suggests that the average American checks their phone more than one hundred times per day and spends an average of ten hours per day in front of a screen.
There are a few things in life that, when we embrace them, have an incredible impact on every other aspect of our lives. Silence is one of those things.
How in the world are you supposed to work out the big questions of life when you can’t even hear yourself think? The reality is, you won’t. Unless you withdraw from all the noise of your life and the world for a few minutes each day, you will most likely just become another cog in the wheel of the world.
The classroom of silence is where we go to break the wheel. For a few minutes, every day, we go to hear the voice of God in our lives. It is in the classroom of silence that we finally are able to listen to God and life can finally start to make sense. It is in the silence that the whole world starts to make sense.
Consider this: You are taking a road trip, and you get a little lost. OK, maybe you even get a lot lost. Do you tell the people in the car to turn up the music and talk louder? Of course not. What do you do? You turn off the music and ask everyone to be quiet. Why? Because things start to make sense in silence.
This is just as true for our personal lives. We’re all trying to make sense of something in our lives. I’m trying to make sense of something and so are you. It’s a family member’s sickness or the loss of a job. It’s something you think you want or something you wish you could do. It’s a relationship that needs fixing or a bad habit you need to get under control. We all have something that we’re trying to make sense of. Something we are trying to figure out and get a handle on. The question I want to ask is, are you giving yourself the silence you need to make sense of it?
I will make you two promises:
1. In the classroom of silence you will find God
2. In the classroom of silence you will find yourself
These are life’s two greatest discoveries. But they aren’t discovered in a moment that strikes like lightning—a sudden surge of understanding and knowledge. They happen gradually, over time. You discover just a little bit here and a little bit there, and over time you start to put things together. This process of discovery is the great adventure of life, and it can’t happen without the classroom of silence.
There are a few things in life that, when we embrace them, have an incredible impact on every other aspect of our lives. Silence is one of those things. And if you aren’t sure about that, the best thing to do is to test it yourself. Take a week and spend ten minutes every day in the classroom of silence. At the end of that week, you will find yourself yearning for a need you never knew you had: the need for silence.
Our world has been filled with noise, and as a result, we can no longer hear the voice of God in our lives. It is time to enter the classroom of silence.