During our novena to St. Norbert at the beginning of June we were able to examine some of the key themes in Our Holy Father’s life, preaching and work. Today we consider another of those themes; silence.
A talkative, over-curious, and restless person is like an oven which is open and exposed on all sides, and which keeps no heat; you will never enjoy the sweetness of a quiet prayer unless you shut your mind to all worldly desires and temporal affairs. – St. Norbert
The above quotation from the sayings of St. Norbert reminds us of the need for recollection in all our lives. He also warns us of the dangers of distraction in our prayer; distractions which are only multiplied if we concentrate on the things that are not of God.
The religious life gives us a number of opportunities for this interior and exterior recollection. As canons, our first duty is the praise of God in the Divine Offfice. Not only this liturgical action, but all our acts of prayer, as well as our daily meditation, perforate the business of the day with opportunities for silence, prayer and communion with God. In our silence at meals, and above all, the magnum silencium from after Compline until after the first Mass of the day we are able to focus our minds and our hearts on God alone.
Not only does St. Norbert teach the need for silence, but Our Holy Rule also demands it, especially in church;
In the oratory let no one do anything except the one thing for which it is made and from which its name is derived so that if anyone should wish, besides the appointed hours, to spend any of his leisure time in prayer, no hindrance may arise from those who may be doing other things there. – Rule of Our Holy Father Augustine
Silence then is not only important for the Christian life, but for the Premonstratensian life! We note its importance in the life of those first Norbertine communities in the Vita A of St. Norbert;
Those who have gathered around Norbert from the beginning gave scarcely any care or concern for corporal things. Rather, they focused all their effort on spiritual things, on following the Sacred Scriptures and Christ as their leader. Father Norbert encouraged and assured them that those who wished to remain with him could never go wrong if they put into practice the profession they made according to the gospels, the words of the apostles and the rule of St. Augustine. Hence they were not ashamed of the poverty of their clothing, nor did they offer any difficulty in obedience; they kept perpetual silence in every place and at all times. When convicted of excesses, they fell to the ground to humble themselves. They avoided harsh glances and unkind words even toward delinquents. Norbert wanted his confreres to mortify the body with fasting, and restrain the spirit in humility.
St. Norbert, who didst thyself practice and teach silence, pray for us