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The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise Paperback – April 15, 2017
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"This book shows Cardinal Sarah to be one of the most spiritually alert churchmen of our time."
-- Bishop Robert Barron, Creator and Host, Catholicism film series
"Cardinal Robert Sarah's profound exploration of the silence in which we hear the still, quiet voice of God, and thus come to know the truth about ourselves, is a powerful challenge to the cacophony of our times and a summons to a more Gospel-centered way of life."
-- George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies, Ethics and Public Policy Center
"Cardinal Sarah provides an incomparable help to contemporary man, so that he may practice the silence which is necessary to hear the voice of God and so to know himself and the world in their deepest truth, beauty, and goodness."
-- Cardinal Raymond Burke, Author, Hope for the World
"Noise, as C.S. Lewis' devil Screwtape famously said, is the music of hell. Cardinal Sarah offers us a richly engaging, elegantly written reflection on the importance of recovering silence in our own lives, and through silence, rediscovering the presence of God, the beauty of creation, and the nature of our mission as disciples."
--Most Rev. Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia
"Cardinal Robert Sarah has once again powerfully spoken a message desperately needing to be heard in our contemporary society. I pray that many will read this treasure chest of wisdom."
-- Most Rev. Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco
"It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this profound, uniquely beautiful book."
-- Michael D. O'Brien, Author, Father Elijah: An Apocalypse
"Africa produces the most passionate Catholics, and the happiest people, even in terrible external circumstances. Here is a book by an African cardinal about a simple but profound mine shaft to deep happiness."
-- Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Boston College
"Cardinal Sarah offers profound insights into the importance of silence, a topic that needs to be addressed in the Church today."
--Fr. Donald Calloway, Author, Champions of the Rosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon
"The jewel of contemplative life never hides for long. In this remarkable interview, Cardinal Sarah, the great contemplative prefect in Rome, provides a treasure trove of profound commentary on the sacredness of silence for the pursuit of a serious spiritual life in a world dominated by the dictatorship of noise."
—Fr. Donald Haggerty, Author, The Contemplative Hunger
"More people in the Western world are isolated, lonely, and restless, not knowing how to conquer their personal demons. This long interview on silence—not self-absorption, not absence—between Nicolas Diat and Cardinal Sarah takes us in the opposite direction to quiet, peace, and God, offering hundreds of quotations from across three thousand years.
Carthusian silence is not an option for most of us, but busy people also need to be silent and know God, who is not in the earthquake, the storm, or modern noise.
This book is not for the faint-hearted, but it helps explain why Cardinal Sarah is one of the most courageous and prophetic figures on the College of Cardinals."
— George Cardinal Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy
"In his latest book, The Power of Silence, Cardinal Sarah demonstrates a truly profound and insightful understanding of the current state of the human condition. With a clarity and directness that is refreshing, His Eminence points out how it is nearly impossible to encounter God in the "hell of noise" which characterizes our modern experience. So many of the problems and the hopelessness that envelope us are related back to the fact that modern man makes no space for God. This book is a must read for anyone interested in bringing God back into our lives and our culture."
--Most Rev. Alexander K. Sample, Archbishop of Portland
About the Author
Robert Cardinal Sarah was born in Guinea, West Africa. Made an Archbishop by Pope John Paul II and a Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI, he was named the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments by Pope Francis in 2014. He is the author of God or Nothing.
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I have dedicated my life to silence and contemplation. These are not new ideas for me, but are at the heart of who I am and who I aspire to be.
There is always more to read and discover about these precious topics, and as I began The Power of Silence, I found myself in agreement with so much of what was shared. Indeed, many of the quotations from contemplatives and philosophers are inspiring. And, it seems to me, that the world in which we live is becoming increasingly "noisy."
BUT I began picking up some red flags as I read further. Then, by the time I got a little over a hundred pages into the book, it seemed that Cardinal Sarah was beginning a personal rant about a Church that could be lovingly accepting of all peoples. I've continued further into the book, but probably won't have the heart to finish it.
Cardinal Sarah is, of course, entitled to his opinions, but I feel it is unfortunate that he links them with silence or contemplation. What I have learned about the practice of silence and contemplation over the years is that they are -- MUST BE -- vast. They do not bind, but open. Silence and contemplation have no agenda. Silence opens us to the Other -- both God AND Neighbor -- we are One. Silence is an important doorway into our seeing God in All. A Church (or its leaders) who feel they need to limit our acceptance of one another, cannot claim to follow in the Spirit of Jesus. "Catholic" means universal. Silence and contemplation are universal. Regarding the Eucharist, Jesus excluded no one -- not even Judas.
We are all fragile, imperfect creatures. But through the embracing love of God, and in practiced silence, we grow a bit sturdier. The Church is now, and has always been a community of the less-than-perfect. Christ welcomed sinners, did not condemn them or turn them away!
I should probably have been warned by the title of this book. "Power" has no place in silence, and silence is not "against" anything. Even some noise is necessarily included in silence. Silence DOES have an impact on all it touches, but in a gentle, accepting, embracing way. Unfortunately, I cannot possibly recommend this book to anyone.
Cardinal Sarah offers the reader a silent retreat in these pages.
Don't read The Benedict Option. Read this.
Don't stare at your smartphone. Read this.
Don't read another "4 Hour" guide to life hacking. Read this.
Sarah is a spiritual force.
Robert Cardinal Sarah has a John the Baptist-type quality to him that I find refreshing (in this age when being "judgmental" seems to be the unforgivable sin). And so, though he witnesses more often to the benefits of silence in this gem of a book, he isn't afraid to excoriate the "din" (No. 108) of noise:
"[T]he dictatorship of a world filled with idols that gorge themselves on technology and material goods, a world dominated and manipulated by the media, a world that flees God by taking refuge in noise. (No. 103) ... And this noise becomes all the more obsessive because God is absent. (No. 142) ... [M]an rejects silence even more because he wants to become God himself. In silence he cannot be a false God but can merely stand in a luminous face-to-face encounter with God. (No. 120) ... Noise surrounds us and assaults us. ... Noise is a desecration of the soul, noise is the 'silent ruin' of the interior life. (Nos. 148, 149) ... Lack of respect for silence is a form of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. (No. 136) ... Man must make a choice: God or nothing, silence or noise. (No. 111)"
Some of Cardinal Sarah's positive thoughts on silence include:
"Silence is a paradise ... Silence and solitude are a small anticipation of eternity, when we will be in God's presence permanently, irradiated by him, the great Silent One, because he is the great lover. (Nos. 120, 119) ... The silence of eternity is the consequence of God's infinite love. (No. 189) ... The silence of eternity is a silence of love. (No. 192) ... We can become true contemplatives by living in peace with God if our houses become temples of God. (No. 122) ... [L]et us allow God to introduce us into his silence and diligently learn to love and to live in this same silence. (No. 197)"
Today on the Catholic Church calendar is the Optional Memorial of the First Martyrs Of The Church Of Rome. Consider Cardinal Sarah's words in No. 198:
"Today, the silences of Christian martyrs who will be massacred by the enemies of Christ imitate and prolong those of the Son of God. The martyrs of the first centuries, like those of our sad time, all show the same silent dignity. Silence then becomes their only speech, their only testimony, their last testament. The blood of martyrs is a seed, a cry, and a silent prayer that rises up to God."
How did Jesus prepare for His mission of saving us by His Death? Cardinal Sarah says:
"It is important to stop for a moment at his stay in the desert of Judea, for forty days and forty nights, before his public life, as though to store up reserves of silence with a view to this immense mission that will lead him so far as to give his life. (No. 199) ... In order to face the Cross, which is still far off, silence and solitude are a necessity. (200)"
I've barely scratched the surface of what's in this great book. Allow me to end with a couple of more quotes of Cardinal Sarah I like:
"Today ... this pagan world besotted with idols ... boasts of the most abominable sins (122) ... Man's hatred for man is a denial of God. To kill a human being or a human embryo, knowingly, voluntarily and deliberately, is an inexcusable crime. For God said: 'Thou shalt not kill.' And this law is absolute. (317)"
By saying "inexcusable crime," I am sure Cardinal Sarah is not ruling out heartfelt repentance and sacramental forgiveness for those who have committed or been complicit in the taking of innocent human life.