Radio Show

Exploring Silence in Personal Prayer and the Mass With Fr. Boniface Hicks

As the world loudly clamors for our attention, Father Dave welcomes Father Boniface Hicks, OSB to discuss the role of silence in our faith. Father Boniface’s new book is called, “The Hidden Power of Silence in the Mass: A Guide for Encountering Christ in the Liturgy.

Father Boniface examines why many people avoid silence. “I think there are a lot of people who run from silence,” he says. “It’s interesting for all of us to ask the question, ‘what is it that’s uncomfortable about silence?’ I think there’s a variety of answers for a variety of people, but one thing is that basically stuff starts to come up inside of us; we start to think things, wonder things, and feel things. Sometimes we don’t know what to do with all those things.”

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“We stuff [our discomfort] down under activity, but as we really develop the interior freedom that should be our heritage in Christ and should be one of the real fruits of being Christian, we are able to grow in a level of interior freedom and inner peace. We can be in silence and not be afraid of the things that come up,” he continues.

Father Dave notes that silence can also be misconstrued as the only absence of something. Father Boniface responds, “I like phrases like Mother Teresa used: Let yourself be filled with silence. It gives a sense of [silence] being a substance. I think we do have to distinguish between different kinds of silences. There’s ambiguity about silence in our human experience that sometimes silence is an absence. Sometimes silence is a passive aggression, [such as] the silent treatment. Sometimes, silence can scream in certain ways.”

He continues by noting what type of silence is beneficial for our spiritual lives. “There is a kind of silence of emptying out. We have a lot of stuff going on in us and just to make room for another person, we need to be able to set things aside. I think we’ve all encountered the person who’s doing 15 things and you are trying to tug on their sleeve somehow to get some attention,” Father Boniface says. “That’s the first thing we have to do in the Mass is make room for an encounter with the Lord.”

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Father Boniface walks through the parts of the Mass and highlights different opportunities for silence. “The interesting thing is that the congregation is actually in silence quite a bit [during Mass.] It doesn’t mean that there’s no sound, but the congregation is not saying things. So what are you supposed to be doing when you’re not saying things?” His book offers reflections and different tactics to try and help those who may struggle with staying present in silence.

“I think the Mass devolves, on the one hand, into entertainment, and on the other hand, into a lecture; it’s neither. It should not be simply devoid of something uplifting, like entertainment, or something meaningful, like a lecture. It’s really symbolic actions that are putting us in touch with eternity,” he says. “Silence is one of those symbolic actions that as we allow the noise of this world to come to its end, we can come into the presence of God.”