After I wrote the post on silence for the Holy Rule, I received these
two posts I excerpt below from Robert Davis, a member of Oblateforum.
They moved me so deeply that I asked him if I could share them with
all of you and he kindly agreed. I doubt I shall ever read the
chapter on silence again in exactly the same way. It makes me blush
with shame to think of my own ramblings in comparison to Robert's
beautiful and poignant grasp of his enforced silence. Thanks so much,
Robert! Enjoy these excerpts, everyone! And keep Robert and his good
wife and family in your prayers!
Love and prayers,
"Actually, this particular passage from the rule has become
increasingly important to me, as the cancer I am afflicted with has
taken away most of my ability to speak, and will get the rest of that
ability before too much time has gone by.
Silence, for me, has two aspects to it: one is that it separates,
even segregates, me from the rest of the world: I cannot communicate
with the same ease, facility, and immediacy that speech once gave me,
and this emphasizes my isolation from those around me. "
"Even now my wife has to translate most of what little I can still
say to others, and it is becoming harder for her as time goes on.
This can be the source of no small frustration, even in those times
when the speech is superficial but needed to get some small but
essential things done."
"What is interesting--and redemptive--to me is that what you suggest
about offering my silence as a prayer in union with God through
Christ makes so much sense to me now--I am not certain that I
understood the possibility before. Perhaps it is one of those things
one must experience in order to see just how God can make use of even
the most personally frustrating circumstances. Since I have spent my
whole life as a teacher, communicating verbally to students and
others, it would be easy and tempting to simply feel sorry for myself
and even question God to a point far beyond good old Job--but I have
no need or wish to do either."
"William Barclay, late of Scotland, used to say that his deafness was
a great and God-given gift, because it allowed him to concentrate on
his work to an extent that might not have been possible had he been a
normal hearing person. I have always found that when I am writing, I
am working far more carefully than when I am speaking--even when my
speech was part of my professional and/or spiritual work. Thus I am
certain that God continues to have something for me to "say," and all
the "evidence" I need to know is is that I am still alive when I am
not supposed to be, and that I am reduced to a form of communication
that best suits me anyway. How can this not be a sign of
"At the same time, I am finding this isolation to be "focusing" in
the sense that it seems to free me from many if not most of the cares
of the world and gives me more space for intimacy with God. It also
forces me to think through what I want to communicate when the
occasion arises when I feel the need to communicate--I have to think
before I talk, type, sign, etc. More thinking, less immediacy, I
find, leads to kinder, gentler, less flagrant communication.
A difficult lesson in some ways, but deeply valuable--and valued--in