Pope Benedict’s Message: Silence and Word

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on February 14, 2012

in Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI

In the February 6 issue of Newsweek, the “World on a Page” section (p.8), there is a brief article about Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for World Communications Day 2012 which takes place this year on May 20. The Newsweek writer characterized the Message as an “admonition against the excesses of the Internet.” I had already read the Message and that was not my impression at all.

In his Message, entitled Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization, the Holy Father encourages us to enrich all of our communications and relationships with times of silence and contemplation. The Holy Father writes:

“In speaking of God’s grandeur, our language will always prove inadequate and must make space for silent contemplation. Out of such contemplation springs forth, with all its inner power, the urgent sense of mission, the compelling obligation “to communicate that which we have seen and heard” so that all may be in communion with God (1 Jn 1:3). Silent contemplation immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbors so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love.”

He observes that many interactions on the Internet are questions and answers. Some of the questions are about the meaning of life and reveal the restlessness of hearts for something more. The Holy Father invites us to enter into dialogue with those seeking answers and to invite them to reflection on the Word of God, to silence and prayer. He urges us to prepare for these interactions with our own times of silence and contemplation.

There are some in the Church and many in the media, who would love for the Pope and Vatican to bash social media. For those in the Church, it would justify their resistance to change and for the media, conflict always makes a good story. But that is not going to happen. This Holy Father and the ones before him have recognized the value of using every means available to proclaim the Gospel. Pope Benedict concluded his message with these words:

“Word and silence: learning to communicate is learning to listen and contemplate as well as speak. This is especially important for those engaged in the task of evangelization: both silence and word are essential elements, integral to the Church’s work of communication for the sake of a renewed proclamation of Christ in today’s world.”

If I were to have written the short article for Newsweek, I think I would have written something like this. In the Message for the 46th World Communications Day, the Holy Father invites all communicators to bring the fruits of their prayer, silence and contemplation to their interactions on the Internet. He invites them to create “a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.” Without this balance, all interactions will remain superficial and inadequate. With it, they will have a great opportunity to proclaim God’s love to the world in new and wonderful ways.

What would you have written?

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Maureen Spillane SND February 14, 2012 at 7:14 am

WOW Susan it could not have been said better. Thank you.

Dave Pipitone February 14, 2012 at 9:57 am

I would have written:

“The greatest words anyone can say, are “I love you!” Those words have been spoken by God and repeated throughout the ages in human communication, especially in the person of Jesus, the Living Word. Let us reflect with Pope Benedict’s invitation for World Communicator’s Day to hear God’s “I love you” in the silent listening of our hearts. And, let us tell of that love through all channels of media – showing that love through how we live our lives.”

Carol Ziegler February 14, 2012 at 10:08 am

Susan, your thoughtful commentary on the message of Benedict XVI provides a resource for me as we create a new Freshman course for the Class of 2016. The text can serve as a springboard for important conversations on the restlessness of the human heart. Finding ways into that difficult but important conversation are often challenging today. Even the questions presented in paragraph 3 of the message could serve as a pre-assignment for the students. Hmmmm….

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND February 14, 2012 at 10:22 am

Thanks for your comments, Maureen, Dave and Carol.

We always want love to be the message that we communicate and know that in the end love is what we all seek.

Paula Ruddy February 14, 2012 at 10:29 am

I just got a “smilebox” through email from a grandmother wishing her grandchildren and all her friends a happy Valentine’s day. I think there is a lot of pre-evangelization going on over the electronic media. I think the pope’s message, as Susan explains it, is true, but obviously he is not communicating with the world where it is. Don’t you think we are in a stage of evolution in which people have to learn to accept each other’s differences–pre-evangelization. God is in human life. What if the pope sent a huge “smilebox” to the world on Valentine’s day? He has to show that he loves the world to get them to hear him say that God loves the world. .

Marilou Strathern February 14, 2012 at 10:35 am

So well said, Sister
I don’t suppose Newsweek would be interested in hiring you..:-). What a refreshing change it would be!!! But, we need you right where you are.
Blessings….

Caroline Cerveny, SSJ-TOSF February 14, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Thank you Susan! Lately I’ve been reflecting on how in today’s digital world, it makes no difference which side of the spectrum you represent. Everyone has an opportunity to express themselves and to share their thoughts, opinions, and reflections. I so appreciate Pope Benedict’s statement – learning to communicate is learning to listen and contemplate as well as speak. This is especially important for those engaged in the task of evangelization: both silence and word are essential elements, integral to the Church’s work of communication for the sake of a renewed proclamation of Christ in today’s world

A new period of human communication is emerging in this Digital Culture. It is important for us today to engage in wholesome conversations with one another. Even when the conversation is so totally opposite my viewpoint. If we truly stop to listen to one another, we may both learn something new. Which in turn brings us to a new point in the conversation. It is the “new point” that is important! Otherwise, we are simply pushing our thoughts and reflections on one another – to believe as I do, instead of believing as “we” do!

Sr. Pat Sylvester, SND February 15, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Thanks Susan for the reflection and Benedict’s words re: internet communication and Evangelization. What a powerful vehicle the internet can be for sharing the Good News when the message (messenger) finds it’s source in the powerful Presence of God in whom we live and move and have our being. It reminds me of that famous line of St. Francis “Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words”. The powerful potential of the internet can help both “speaker” and “hearer” contemplate The Word Who brings new life, healing and hope to others and penetrates through computers, monitors and keyboards.

Sister Emmanuel February 18, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Thanks for what you wrote. It’s too bad that such widely read magazines have to twist the Holy Father’s words. Thanks for sharing this!

Marc Cardaronella February 26, 2012 at 10:53 pm

I love this, “The Holy Father invites all communicators to bring the fruits of their prayer, silence and contemplation to their interactions on the Internet.” That is exactly it!

Therese Boucher February 29, 2012 at 10:28 am

The statement about a balance “between silence, words, images and sounds” is very helpful. Some ways of striking this balance might be: –to invite people to say a phrase like “Lord, have mercy” over and over again as they contemplate an image; to close their eyes as they listen to music; or to rst their hands over the keyboard for a moment before they respond.

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