The Fate of 'Talkative Souls,' the Value of Silence

This week, I received a question that seems rather strange at first - even humorous - but it actually opens up an important aspect of St. Faustina's teachings on the spiritual life.

A reader named Nancy wrote the following: "Notebook 1, paragraph 118 of the Diary (says that) souls were in hell because they did not practice silence. How can this be? How does anyone have a chance (to make it to heaven) if you can go to hell for being talkative?"

Well, Nancy, I think you may be taking St. Faustina's remark about the souls of religious being in hell for breaking the vow of silence a bit "out of context." Prior to that, in the same entry of the Diary, entry 118, she writes of what she calls the importance of "inner silence," for without it we cannot hear God's voice, His inner inspirations and guidance. Surely, any soul, in the religious life or otherwise, who refuses to listen to God in the depths of the heart, is headed down the road to everlasting self-destruction.

This is what St. Faustina means by those souls who are in hell for "not having kept silence." Again, please read the whole entry, and I think you will see what I mean.

In fact, your question actually highlights something that St. Faustina believed to be very important - and all too often neglected these days by those who lead busy lives filled with commotion. I am referring, of course, for the necessity to keep times of external silence, in order to foster deeper inner silence, deeper listening to the call and promptings of God within our hearts.

Ponder for a moment these entries from St. Faustina's Diary:

Entry 1008: March 1, 1937. The Lord gave me to know how displeased He is with a talkative soul. I find no rest in such a soul. The constant din tires Me, and in the midst of it the soul cannot discern My voice.

Entry 552: The Holy Spirit does not speak to a soul that is distracted and garrulous. He speaks by His quiet inspirations to a soul that is recollected, to a soul that knows how to keep silence.

Entry 118: In order to hear the voice of God, one has to have silence in one's soul and to keep silence; not a gloomy silence but an interior silence; that is to say, recollected in God.

Entry 477: Silence is a sword in the spiritual struggle. A talkative soul will never attain sanctity. The sword of silence will cut off everything that would like to cling to the soul. We are sensitive to words and quickly want to answer back, without taking any regard as to whether it is God's will that we should speak. A silent soul is strong; no adversities will harm it if it perseveres in silence. The silent soul is capable of attaining close union with God. It lives almost always under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God works in a silent soul without hindrance.

Saint Faustina sees talkativeness as the biggest hindrance to interior silence and listening to God. Importantly, her advice in the Diary should not be considered as only her opinion, but rather an essential part of Christian asceticism.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in entry #2628, tells us:

Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator. It exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us and the almighty power of the Savior who sets us free from evil. Adoration is homage of the spirit to the "King of Glory," respectful silence in the presence of the "ever greater" God. Adoration of the thrice-holy and sovereign God of love blends with humility and gives assurance to our supplications.

Or this from entry # 2717:

Contemplative prayer is silence, the "symbol of the world to come" or "silent love." Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the "outer" man, the Father speaks to us His incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.

But in our day and age, we have new, exterior threats to cultivating interior silence that St. Faustina did not face: the constant blare of the TV set and the radio, the constant din of traffic noise, air conditioners, refrigerators, and a host of other machines that surround our lives.

That is one reason why taking regular retreats at Catholic retreat centers away from all the worldly "racket" can help us quiet down and open our hearts to God. It may not be practical for us when we are at home to turn off all our household machines, and there may be little we can do about the traffic noise outside, but at least we can turn off the clamor of the TV set and the radio as much as possible, and resolve to speak less and listen more.

Why not try this as an extra way of preparing our hearts for Holy Week, Easter, and Mercy Sunday this year? Our Lord might just have something to say to us in the depths of our hearts that He has been longing to share with us, if only we were willing to listen.

Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy.

Got a question? E-mail to me at [email protected].

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