Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation
A Prayerful Rhythm of Life
A Prayerful Rhythm of Life

The Gift of Silence 

Monday, July 1, 2024

Monastics should diligently cultivate silence at all times. 
—St. Benedict, Rule, chapter 42 

For Richard Rohr, silence is a foundation upon which we can build our lives: 

Silence is not just that which happens around words and underneath images and events. It has a life of its own. It’s a phenomenon with an almost physical identity. It is a being in itself to which we can relate. Philosophically, we would say being is that foundational quality which precedes all other attributes. When we relate to the naked being of a thing, we learn to know it at its core. Silence is somehow at the very foundation of all reality. It is that out of which all being comes and to which all things return.  

Silence precedes, undergirds, and grounds everything. We cannot just think of it as an accident, or as something unnecessary. Unless we learn how to live there, go there, abide in this different phenomenon, the rest of things—words, events, relationships, identities—become rather superficial, without depth or context. They lose meaning, so we end up searching for more events and situations which must increasingly contain ever-higher stimulation, more excitement, and more color to add vital signs to our inherently bored and boring existence. Really, the simplest and most stripped-down things ironically have the power to give us the greatest happiness—if we respect them as such. Silence is the essence of simple and stripped down.   

We need to experience silence as a living presence which is primordial and primal in itself, and then see all other things—now experienced deeply—inside of that container. Silence is not just an absence, but also a presence. Silence surrounds every “I know” event with a humble and patient “I don’t know.” It protects the autonomy and dignity of events, persons, animals, and all things.  

We must find a way to return to this place, to live in this place, to abide in this place of inner silence. Outer silence means very little if there is not a deeper inner silence. Everything else appears much clearer when it appears or emerges out of a previous silence. When I use the word appear, I mean that silence takes on reality, substance, significance, or meaning. Without silence around a thing, which is a mystery, it can be difficult to find a meaning that lasts. It’s just another event in a sequence of ever-quicker events, which we call our lives.  

Without silence, we do not really experience our experiences. We have many experiences, but they do not have the power to change us, to awaken us, to give us that joy or “peace that the world cannot give,” as Jesus says (John 14:27).  

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation, rev. ed. (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2014, 2023), 1–2, 2–3, 4–5.  

Image credit and inspiration: Jenna Keiper, windows + sky fire (detail), 2020, photo, Albuquerque. Click here to enlarge image. Like these everyday windows at sunset, it’s possible to create conditions that reflect the beauty of Spirit in our very normal, everyday lives. 

Story from Our Community:  

The Daily Meditations have saved my faith in the Christian tradition. I’ve been reading the [DMs] for six years, and they have become my companion in the rhythm of contemplation. I discovered Richard Rohr’s teachings during a time of personal turning away from the tradition, which I thought could not be reconciled. At first, the teachings satisfied my intellect and its incessant critiques. Today, my heart is the place of necessary transformation, always softening, forever including. Thank you for keeping me close to the reality of Goodness.  
—Seth D. 

Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.