Recently, Pope Francis has been emphasizing the importance of prayer and silence during his homilies at morning Masses and in his public addresses. He has stressed that in the face of controversy and division, silence and prayer are an appropriate response. Such a response is the manner in which Jesus many times faced disruption and anger. The Pope used the example of Jesus quietly passing through the crowd when the people were outraged at His words and drove Him out of town to the brow of the hill in order to cast Him over. He also used the ultimate example of the silence of the Lord on Good Friday when the crowd shouted for Him to be crucified. Pope Francis has explained that Jesus’ response, in the face of rage was not easy, but it was always dignified, humble and in service to the truth since "the truth is mild, the truth is silent, the truth is not noisy." Pope Francis has exhorted that Jesus’ response teaches His followers that they should also respond with prayerful quiet in the face of a refusal to seek the truth. Then the appropriate response will come forth in truth.
The Pope's counsel is a very good one for all of us today. There are so many disturbing and contentious matters occurring within the world, our nation, and the Church. Most of them evoke a justified anger and a pressing need to take steps to correct and reform. This certainly was the case with Jesus whose anger caused Him to overturn the tables of the money changers in the temple and then to drive the changers away. However, we also live in a time when rage overcomes justified anger and can cause a great deal of destruction, obstructing the truth, which only makes matters worse. Ambition that seeks power and authority is often fueled by a political correctness which causes many to make decisions before being informed as best as possible on the matter. This always happens by not taking time in quiet prayer to reflect on the whole picture, no matter what the situation may be. So many times, issues are not governed by truth based on facts, but on decisions made in advance so that facts and ultimately the truth are distorted. Instant communications, blogs and biased media reports make the noise ever more distracting. Pope Francis observed that even in the family there are times when division occurs because of misinformed "discussions on politics, sports, money." Again, he recommended silence and prayer in these cases.
Another emphasis of Pope Francis, all during his papacy, has been on the power of the devil to cause disruption by fooling in regard to the truth. He emphasizes how the devil always acts quietly, behind the scenes, making evil look good and fooling people into choosing their own ambition for power over the power of God which is love. This was the case at the very beginning of creation with Adam and Eve who gave into the devil's temptation to see themselves as the center and to not live in love as God had created them in His very image and likeness. It was also the sin of the angels who rebelled against God, even before His creation of humankind and the world, because they would no longer be the center and would be called upon to love in the same manner as God. This was the case of the fall of Satan. The Pope has recently emphasized how Satan uses rage to fuel division and distort truth in order to bring about disunity and destruction. He said, "As the father of lies, the accuser, the devil acted to destroy the unity of the family, the people." The Pope stated that the proper response is to speak one’s piece and to keep quiet.
It is well for us during this month of October to keep Mary before us as a model of persevering silence and prayer. Mary's life was one of profound silence and yet one that spoke the most in terms of living the Gospel because of her example. Mary spoke very little in the Gospels. She said yes to the angel’s invitation to be the Mother of the Messiah. She spoke at the wedding Feast of Cana so that the Lord would perform His first miracle. Her most profound words were that of her prayer, the Magnificat, as she visited her cousin, Elizabeth, and praised God who chose her because of her nothingness. Mary’s prayerful silence at the foot of the Cross is a reminder of her ability to heal because of her quiet listening to Jesus. In one of his Wednesday catechesis on Mary, St. John Paul II reminded us of the ambition of the apostles who wanted roles of prestige and argued among themselves as to who was the greatest. Their ambition led to the ultimate Passion of Christ. St. John Paul II reminded us that Mary never sought honor or the advantages of a privileged position. She lived what her Magnificat proclaimed. He stated, "Mary's example enables the Church better to appreciate the value of silence. ... It is this silence as the acceptance of the Word, this ability to meditate on the mystery of Christ, that Mary passes onto believers. In a noisy world filled with messages of all kinds, her witness enables us to appreciate a spiritually rich silence and fosters a contemplative spirit."
Pope Francis has asked us to pray the Rosary during this month of October so that Mary can protect us during the "spiritual turbulence" which the Church is currently undergoing due to the "faults, the errors and the abuses committed in the present and in the past" and that she may help us to be committed to "combating without any hesitation, so that evil may not prevail." He stated that prayer "is the weapon against the great accuser who 'goes around the world seeking to accuse.' Only prayer can defeat him." The Pope urged that the Church must pray to Mary to make it all the more conscious of its failures and sins. He recommended the simple prayer to Our Lady, "We fly to thy protection, O Holy Mother of God. Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and Blessed Virgin." The Pope also recommended the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. Prayer and silence are healing remedies for all of us at a time when we need to do what is right for our Church, for our country, for our world and for our families.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
October 12, 2018