Reading this on the computer? On the iPhone? You only sat down for a moment, but someone already Tweeted you. Now, a FaceBook friend request - accept or decline? But here's a blog post from some seminarian in Rome. Sounds like the phone, and out comes the earbud. Back to FaceBook, and wow, that’s a great picture…

STOP! We need a brick wall to stop our mental freight train.

Our world is full of frenzy, distraction, and gratification. Every day more Tweets, IM's, texts, FaceBooks (don’t know if that works in the plural), and calls flood into our heads.

Silence! “Why?” you ask.

The more information, the less know. The more “Friends” and “Followers”, the more lonely we become. The more we hear, the less we listen. Sometimes we’re doing a thousand things but getting nowhere. Our daily life is full of activity, but it’s not fulfilling.

How can we be happy, fulfilled, and successful? We have to go deep with ourselves and with God. How do we go deep? Start creating silence by stopping life with a brick wall.

"Easy for him to say," you think, "he lives in a seminary." But the clerical collar doesn't double as a set of earplugs.


Class is over. I have a message to send and a call to make before dashing off to give a tour at St. Peter’s Basilica. Walking out the door, I press the phone to my ear with one hand and button my overcoat with the other. On the train. Off the train. Into St. Peter’s Square.

The brick wall to stop the thought freight train comes three hours and a few thousand words later! The large steel gate slowly slides open, and back at the seminary, I step into a different world. Screeching tires, horns, sirens, and the rumble of traffic are all left behind.


Life at a desk is no less chaotic. I rush to the office hoping to finish a pending article. Ring… The phone yanks my attention away. I have less than five minutes.

Knock, knock – someone is at the door. Two minutes left, but I'm still in the middle of the conversation. A loud buzz catches us both by surprise – a bell to tell us it's time for the rosary.

The brick wall stops me, my email, and my conversation. It’s time to pray with my fellow seminarians.


Almost any visitor to the seminary comments, "It's so peaceful, so silent." The cause of the sensation is hard to nail down, but it's there.

The dictionary defines silence as the "forbearance from speech or noise". I disagree. Otherwise eight hours of sleep would be plenty of silence for anyone.

Silence is the "forbearance of speech or noise" to be alone with God and get to know ourselves and him better.

If we paid as much attention to God and ourselves in silence as we do to FaceBook, Twitter, and the phone, we'd be men and saints already!

That's what I love about the seminary. Silence reigns - not just an absence of external noise but rather an internal attitude that sustains everything I do. There is a deep attentiveness to the needs of others and to the will of God that determines everything else. It’s not the total absence of activity, but having enough brick walls to stop and remind me what’s important

I can hear it again. "You’re in the seminary. What about me?” There are many ways to live silence without joining the seminary. Here are four practical tips:

1. Answer the question.

Do you really want to live silence? You have to feel the need to take a step back and find some real answers. Not everything worth hearing will come from an MP3 player or is on the internet.

The answers to the deepest questions of your life are to be found in silence. What will make you happy? What is your vocation? Who is God?

Make a commitment to live silence.

2. Use earbuds sparingly.

Music and external noise is fine in controlled doses. But if your head is full of the latest release, you can barely hear yourself let alone God.

If you feel a compulsive urge to stick them in as soon as you hang up the phone or walk out the door, why not limit music to specific times of day? Think, reflect, and pray in the other times of silence.

3. Come up for air.

Every so often, we need to take a silent step back from everything. Work, study, food, sleep, workouts - life accelerates, but we need to stop the freight train of our mind every so often.

After class, after lunch, or 10 minutes before you go to bed, shut the laptop. Silence the phone. Close the door. Reflect and pray.

4. Brick walls, not traffic lights.

You might be asking - why a brick wall? Wouldn’t a traffic light do? If your mind is going 80 mph, a red light is only going to make you feel guilty as you speed through.

So you need to be abrupt and demanding – put up some brick walls. It's not about just turning the volume down a little, you need daily silence and personal prayer.
As we start Lent on Ash Wednesday, it's a great opportunity to look at Jesus. After St. John baptized him in the Jordan, he went into the desert. If God lived 40 days of silent reflection, 24 hours a day, we can handle five minutes.

As Mother Theresa said:

The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
The fruit of service is peace.

Copyright 2012 Br. Mark Thelen, L.C.