Tag Archives: silence

Quaerere Deum: A look at the daily life of the Benedictine Monks of Norcia

The true Benedict option:

From the YouTube description: “In the Jubilee year 2000 the monks of Norcia breathed new life into the birthplace of St Benedict. Armed with only their faith and zeal they founded a monastic community which has been attracting men from all over the world to follow St. Benedict’s ancient Rule. Many of their friends have long wanted an insight into the inner workings of their life and so they have produced this high quality up to date film which shows the monks as they go through the daily ora et labora. The title of the film, ‘Quaerere Deum,’ means to Seek God. This is the true calling of all monks, the first and most essential quality of an authentic monastic vocation, as laid out in the Rule of our Holy Father St. Benedict.”

The Monks of Norcia website.

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“To ruin the liturgy…”

Here is Cardinal Sarah on the “reform of the reform”:

But here is my hope: God willing, when he wills and as he wells, the reform of the reform will take place in the liturgy. Despite the gnashing of teeth, it will happen, for the future of the Church is at stake. To ruin the liturgy is to ruin our relationship to God and the concrete expression of our Christian faith. (Sarah 134)

Here Cardinal Sarah sees a direct connection between the liturgy (from the Greek λειτουργία, meaning “the work of the people), to our faith. I would guess he would see the way we do liturgy today is not unlike whether the ancient Israelites followed the temple rules in their day, or instead made up new rules and tried to innovate. What would God have thought? How well would those Israelites have created a liturgy better than what God gave them? Is it likely they would have created a liturgy more suited to their souls, more in harmony with their human nature? According the the cardinal, ruining the liturgy ruins our relationship to God.

I was trained to believe none of this is true, or not very important. I was trained to view liturgy as basically inconsequential. I have come to believe otherwise. Much of my understanding derives from a better anthropology than what I once had. I also believe what we have in the Old Testament, though we are not bound to worship exactly as the Israelites did, is a picture of what a human being needs in terms of ritual, liturgy, and cult. When God gave Moses the law and instructions for the tabernacle, and then later to David and Solomon instructions for the temple, and gave them specific instructions for worship, He did so in complete accord with how He created them. God knows what a human being is and needs. We should keep that in mind when we consider how best to do liturgy today, and from what & where we draw our models and our inspiration.

An aside: There are those who would stop the “reform of the reform” because they think it’s not necessary and is grounded in a love of traditions than in more important things. Others say it does not go far enough because the Mass of Paul VI is too fundamentally broken that it should just be scrapped altogether rather than reformed. I don’t know where I stand, I’m not theologian or liturgist, but from what I know of Cardinal Sarah, I stand with him.

And from what I’ve read, I would guess the cardinal seeks reform that is more traditional than even many reforms might seek.


Sarah, Robert, Nicolas Diat, and Michael J. Miller. The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2017. Print.

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be not afraid of liturgical silence

The following is an excerpt from The Power of Silence, the latest book from Robert Cardinal Sarah.

Nicholas Diat: What would be your fondest wish concerning the place of silence in the liturgy?

Cardinal Sarah: I call Catholics to genuine conversion! Let us strive with all our heart to become in each of our Eucharistic celebrations “a pure Victim, and holy Victim, and spotless Victim”! Let us not be afraid of liturgical silence. How I would love it if pastors and the faithful would enter joyfully into this silence that is full of sacred reverence and love for the ineffable God. How I would love it if churches were houses in which the great silence prevails that announces and reveals the adored presence of God. How I would love it if Christians, in the liturgy, could experience the power of silence! (Sarah 138)


Sarah, Robert, Nicolas Diat, and Michael J. Miller. The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2017. Print.

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Cardinal Sarah on the loss of the sacred, transcendence, and the difficulty of knowing God

It is possible that the pastoral care in some parishes, and even the celebration of the Mass, actually prevent parishioners from getting close to God? Is it possible that a significant swath of Catholic culture is designed to keep Catholics from having authentic and life-changing encounters with God within that culture — needing to seek it elsewhere? Could this be one of the reasons so many have left the Church for evangelical Protestantism? For some, absolutely. Is this not why there is a kind of nervous movement among so many Catholics seeking a finer light, something burning brighter than in their local church? {Of course, one has to be careful accepting the excuses given by people who have left the Church.]

Anyway, it seems to me that noisy Masses might harm the faithful’s desires for getting close to God, and encountering the divine transcendence.

Robert Cardinal Sarah seems to offer a pointed critique related to these concerns in his latest book, The Power of Silence. If find his critique fascinating, especially because he approaches this from the topic of silence. Here are four quotes particularly relevant:

The notion of sacredness is abused, particularly in the West. In the countries that claim to be secular, emancipated from religion and from God, there is no longer any connection with the sacred. A certain secularized mentality attempts to be liberated from it. Some theologian assert that Christ, by his Incarnation, put an end to the distinction between sacred and profane. For others, God becomes so close to us that the category of the sacred is consequently outmoded. Thus, some in the Church still have not managed to detach themselves from and entirely horizontal pastoral approach centered on social work and politics. In these assertions or these behaviors, there is a lot of naïveté and perhaps genuine pride. (Sarah 119)

If we do not tremble before the divine transcendence, it is because we are damaged, all the way down to our human nature. (120)

Without radical humility that is expressed in gestures of adoration and in sacred rituals, no friendship with God is possible. (120)

Since the reform of Paul VI, and despite the intention of that great pope, sometimes in the liturgy there is an air of misplaced, noisy familiarity. Under the pretext of seeking to make access to God easy and approachable, some have wanted everything in the liturgy to be immediately intelligible. This egalitarian intention may seem commendable. But in thus reducing the sacred mystery to good ideas, we prevent the faithful from approaching thus true God. (123)


Sarah, Robert, Nicolas Diat, and Michael J. Miller. The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2017. Print.

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Into Silence with Cardinal Sarah

Robert Cardinal Sarah has been getting some attention lately because of statements he has made regarding the proper celebration of the Mass (I think the controversy is silly and Cardinal Sarah is clearly more wise than his detractors). The cardinal has also just written a book called The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, which I am reading as part of a book group. His first book, God or Nothing, our group read earlier, and both book s are excellent, though very different.

There are so many great quotes from The Power of Silence, but for now I just want to highlight this one:

How can we come to master our own interior silence? The only answer lies in asceticism, self-renunciation, and humility. If man does not mortify himself, if he stays as he is, he remains outside of God. (51)

I am also reading Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, which I am enjoying (I don’t really get most of the criticisms of this book). But I find the strategies and tactics suggested by Dreher to, basically, sit on top on Cardinal Sarah’s deeper insights, as indicated in the short quote above (but evidenced throughout his book). The cardinal’s quote points to a fundamental and, I believe, profound problem with our world today, and especially with Christianity — both Catholic and Protestant — we are addicted to noise, which is damaging us, and we no longer understand the importance of asceticism, self-renunciation, and humility in fighting that noise. The cardinal’s insights also point to the fact that we think we know what noise is, but we don’t — not at the spiritual level.

In fact, I believe if Christians followed the cardinal’s words seriously, then the kind of place, role, and actions of the Church in the world could take any number of forms, not only Dreher’s form(s), because it’s not really about carving out an alternative society so much as it’s changing one’s heart, will, passions, etc. — the rest will follow, and do so in countless ways.


Sarah, Robert, Nicolas Diat, and Michael J. Miller. The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2017. Print.

Sarah, Robert, Nicolas Diat, and Michael J. Miller. God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2015. Print.

Dreher, Rod. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. New York: Sentinel, 2017. Print.

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