Father Tirso

Silence. If we are to be honest with ourselves, it bothers a good number of us. For those of us who have every tried to sit in silence for at least one full minute, several things might happen. For one, we might become easily distracted by any noise after about five seconds. We might find ourselves becoming so antsy that we find it hard to sit still let alone remain quiet. Then, our minds might wander and begin to worry about the things we have to do. Yet, as much as we might fear silence or avoid it, silence is extremely key in our relationship with God because it is in silence that God speaks to us.

We might think, though, that we do not have enough time to be in silent prayer. However, it is not because we lack the time to be in silence. Rather, it is because we do not allow ourselves the luxury of being in silence. Silence does not necessarily mean the absence of noise. It can simply mean the undisturbed act of focusing our attention to the God who comes to us in the quiet of our hearts. This type of silence has a calming effect. At our most peaceful state, we will actually begin to hear more clearly and more powerfully the voice of God speaking to us, letting us know what He desires of us. We need those moments of silence in order to cultivate that ability to discern the will of God in our lives. This is what I would like us to concentrate on during this season of Lent as a parish wide practice.

For this very reason, the Liturgy Board and I have decided that during the season of Lent, we will have moments of profound silence both at the start and at the end of our Sunday liturgies. We have chosen these two moments for specific reasons.

First, the instructions to the Mass actually call for a period of profound silence prior to the start of Mass. It allows us to prepare ourselves interiorly by putting ourselves in the mindset needed to begin to listen to the voice of God. The way we will do this is through the chime of the handbells. Members of the music ministry will lead the opening procession by the soft chime of the handbells. Once the ministers reach the front of the sanctuary, the music ministers will lead us in a simple sung refrain. This will take the place of the opening hymn.

Secondly, we will have another moment of profound silence at the very end of the Mass. Rather than conclude Mass with a closing hymn, the ministers will exit the sanctuary in another moment of profound silence which may be accompanied once again by the soft chime of the handbells. The Liturgy Board and I decided on this moment as well because silence is oftentimes needed at the very end of our time of prayer.

As we may have noticed, though, here at the parish there has been the tendency to applaud at the conclusion of the final hymn. Although we know that it is a sign of gratitude, applauding at the end of Mass can lead to the wrong understanding that we came to Mass to be entertained. It then makes the ministers and the choir into the “actors” in the play while the people in the congregation would be the “audience.” In the Mass, there are no actors and audience. Whether we are in the sanctuary, the choir area, or even in the pews, we are all ministers exercising a specific ministry in order to help everyone to pray and hear the voice of God. Applauding sometimes causes a confusion in understanding why we came together in the Eucharist in the first place.

We would like the parish as a whole to refrain from that during the season of Lent in order to give ourselves the moment to interiorize the message that God just gave to each of us during the celebration of the Eucharist. The silence may seem jarring and may even be uncomfortable but it is a moment that we can spend in reflection which then allows us the ability to discern what God just wanted to tell us.

Again, we are not discouraging the conversation and camaraderie that parishioners oftentimes engage in after Mass. We are just asking that we observe a moment of profound silence immediately before and after the Mass. Hopefully, we will journey through Lent to Easter much more aware of the fact that we come to Mass primarily to hear the Word of God and then go into the world living out the Word that has been spoken to us.

Fr. Tirso S. Villaverde, Jr.

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