Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

The Power of Silence by Cardinal Sarah

May 6th, 2017, Promulgated by Diane Harris

The Power of Silence by Robert Cardinal Sarah

ScreenShot568Just put “Sarah” into the search bar on Cleansing Fire and you will find, among other postings, a 5-part review of Cardinal Sarah’s book God or Nothing as well as one of the early references he made to writing The Power of Silence.

Finally! Cardinal Sarah’s latest book “The Power of Silence (against the dictatorship of noise)” is available in English, translated from the French, just in time to digest as fruitful summer reading! Anyone else who is reading the book and wants to add to the discussion is especially invited to do so. In the absence of interest, I probably won’t reprise the effort regarding the “God or Nothing” series, just add these few tantalizing tidbits.


Before detailing the verses which most spoke to me (just in part of Chapter 1), verses which highlight an understanding or provoke a reform, I do want to give a context for my own particular interest in and concern about the subject, at what I suppose is a rather mundane level compared to the soaring testimony of Cardinal Sarah. And that is the “disconnect” which I experience daily, between the Reality of the Mass and Communion and the behavior which follows around me, and which I don’t effectively resist by not being distracted, and sometimes even yielding and creating the distraction myself.

The coming of Jesus each time in the consecrated hands of the priest, the great gift bestowed daily by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, entrusting Himself in Communion wholly into the unholy, to call what is so imperfect to perfection, as the Heavenly Father is perfect — how does one even begin to make thanksgiving for so great a gift? How does one then presume to receive again tomorrow, and tomorrow’s tomorrow? How does one rise from the knees minutes later and begin to greet, banter and engage in such trivial conversation, distracting commentary, and interruption to the prayers of others? How dare I ever yield to the temptation, but I do – too often. I realize this is all a testimony to my own weakness, but that doesn’t mitigate the problem.  How can silence and respect for prayer and thanksgiving transition from the exception to the norm? How can we love each other enough to not be the source of interrupting each others’ Thanksgivings?

Nicolas Diat’s Role

To at least whet an appetite or two, I will give some excerpts from the very beginning of Cardinal Sarah’s new book. Well, almost the “beginning.” The Preface isn’t by the Cardinal at all, but by his colleague Nicolas Diat, who accompanied His Eminence to visit a dying monk in a Carthusian monastery (The Grande Chartreuse), where communication with a dying monk occurred in a strictly spiritual manner.  The flowering of such silent exchange manifests a level perhaps only suspected in modern day interpersonal relationships.  What is hidden in the exquisite silence is known fully to God Himself!  But what a Preface by Diat!  His outstanding perception of Cardinal Sarah’s intimate exchange prepares us for a deep exploration of silence in the spiritual life. Diat again accompanies Cardinal Sarah through the new book, framing questions and highlighting points, facilitating and emphasizing, as a worthy compadre on a transcendent journey.

Silence and Prayer

“The Power of Silence” is organized through numbered paragraphs of thoughts (like an encyclical)Power of Silence which makes reference and retrieval that much easier.  Diat writes in his preface what he considers the most important aim of Cardinal Sarah’s book, quoting from paragraph #68:  “Silence is difficult, but it makes man able to allow himself to be led by God. Silence is born of silence. Through God the silent one, we can gain access to silence. And man is unceasingly surprised by the light that bursts forth then. Silence is more important than any other human work. For it expresses God. The true revolution comes from silence; it leads us toward God and others so as to place ourselves humbly and generously at their service.” He adds, “The Father waits for his children in their own hearts.” (#5)

Cardinal Sarah writes: “Alas, the worldly powers that seek to shape modern man must systematically do away with silence. I am not afraid to assert that the false priests of modernity, who declare a sort of war on silence, have lost the battle.” (#6)  His Eminence picks up again in paragraph #12: “Silence is not an absence. On the contrary it is the manifestation of a presence, the most intense of all presences. In modern society, silence has come into disrepute; this is the symptom of a serious, worrisome illness. The real questions of life are posed in silence.”

Quoting Fr. Marie-Eugène de l’Enfant Jésus about the most silent depths of a person’s soul, Cardinal Sarah writes: “When he has reached there, he preserves with jealous care the silence that gives him God. He defends it against any agitation, even that of his own powers.” (#1) Cardinal Sarah reinforces the necessity of studying Sacred Scripture, saying: “…when it is listened to and meditated upon in silence, divine graces are poured out…. Actually, it is through long hours of poring over Sacred Scripture, after resisting all the attacks of the Prince of this world,  that we will reach God.” Moreover, I was interested to find a comment about those who study scripture but (IMO) throw stumbling blocks in their own way by not understanding, in a quote from St. John Chrysostom:  “Do not thou then inquire; but receive what is revealed, and be not curious about what is kept secret”, adding: “Let us accept it in silence and faith.” (#7)

In paragraph #14, there is support for the need for exterior as well as interior silence: “All activity must be preceded by an intense life of prayer, contemplation, seeking and listening to God’s will. … We must resist this temptation by trying ‘to be’ before trying ‘to do.’ This is the innermost, unchangeable desire of a monk. But it happens also to be the deepest aspiration of every person who seeks the Eternal One. For man can encounter God in truth only in silence and solitude, both interior and exterior.” Further, in paragraph 18, the author quotes Thomas Merton (The Sign of Jonas): “Exterior Silence – its special necessity in our world in which there is so much noise and inane speech. As protest and reparation against the ‘sin’ of noise.… Catholics who associate themselves with that kind of noise, who enter into the Babel of tongues, become to some extent exiles from the city of God. (Mass becomes racket and confusion…All prayer becomes exterior and interior noise – soulless and hasty repetition…) Though it is true that we must know how to bear with noise, to have interior life, by exception here and there in midst of confusion…, yet to resign oneself to a situation in which a community is constantly overwhelmed by activity … is an abuse. What to do? Those who love God should attempt to preserve or create an atmosphere in which He can be found.” (Makes me feel less guilty for having actually asked a few folks to be quiet!)

Cardinal Sarah writes further in paragraph #19: “…it is absurd to speak about interior silence without exterior silence…. The life of silence must be able to precede the active life.” Continuing in paragraph #20: “The silence of everyday life is an indispensible condition for living with others…. Silence is a condition for otherness and a necessity if one is to understand himself…. Silence and peace have one and the same heartbeat…. How is even one moment of prayer life imaginable apart from silence?”

The author compares noise to a drug on which one has become dependent.  In paragraph #21 he writes: “…noise is a dangerous, deceptive medicine, a diabolic lie that helps man avoid confronting himself in his interior emptiness. The awakening will necessarily be brutal.”

Regarding Certain Current Concerns?

“Some theologians in their presumptuousness and arrogance go so far as to assert personal opinions that are difficult to reconcile with revelation, tradition, the centuries-old Magisterium of the Church, and the teaching of Christ. Thus, highly amplified by the blaring media, they go so far as to dispute God’s design.” (#31)

Concerning the prophetic words of Pope Paul VI (quoted from Jean Guitton), Cardinal Sarah writes: “There is great turmoil at this time in the world and in the Church and what is in dispute is the faith…and it may happen tomorrow that this non-Catholic thought will become the strongest within Catholicism. But it will never represent the mind of the Church. A tiny little flock has to continue in existence, however small it may be.” (#31)

His Eminence also quotes St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:2: “…We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”  Cardinal Sarah continues: “It is a serious responsibility for every bishop to be and to represent the mind of Christ. Bishops who scatter the sheep that Jesus has entrusted to them will be judged mercilessly and severely by God.” (#31)

Continuing the thought into paragraph #32, Cardinal Sarah quotes the “Epistle to the Ephesians” by the martyr, St. Ignatius of Antioch: “Do not be deceived, my brethren. Those who ruin homes will not inherit the kingdom of God. Now, if those who do this to gratify the flesh are liable to death, how much more a man who by evil doctrine ruins the faith in God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such a filthy creature will go into the unquenchable fire, as will anyone that listens to him.”


That is enough for now, to whet the appetite and to encourage others to read and share what touches them the most in Robert Cardinal Sarah’s writings. As Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Sarah fans the spark of the smoldering wicks, those who are precariously perched on the edge of losing faith, and gives us the encouragement that God does indeed dwell in the silence within, and urges us to find Him.

Belatedly, but ‘hot off the press’ from LifeSiteNews:



4 Responses to “The Power of Silence by Cardinal Sarah”

  1. annonymouse says:

    Oh how I wish Cardinal Sarah had been elected by the conclave.

    Instead anyone who reads the current Holy Father’s daily diatribe (homily) against strawmen such as those who are too rigid, those who resist change, and today – those who resist the Holy Spirit’s novelties. While strawmen all, I get the distinct impression that each is really named Burke. It’s really getting old and stale, Holiness.

    All this over whether folks divorced and remarried outside the Church without annulment may receive communion. That’s the hill this Pope has chosen to fight his battle. Thankfully, he has met the enemy which is preventing him from moving forward with other novelties he’ll claim are from the Holy Spirit.

    Heck, the priests in my parish will give anyone and everyone Communion, regardless of state in life, regardless of scandal.

    I will buy Cardinal Sarah’s book if for no other reason than to regain some hope.

    Sorry to hijack the thread, Diane. Feel free to delete.

  2. Diane Harris says:

    Not hijacked at all … exactly the kind of comment that makes us all think! It took me a while to be able to deal personally with what Pope Francis says and does, but finally was led to understand the clarity of Scripture, and the cowardice of many who present themselves as teaching the Word of God but trying not to ‘rock the boat’. That there are minds and souls in the Church like Cardinal Sarah sustains me. I am compiling some scriptures (and committing to memory) for a future “Sheltering in Place” post. Here are a few of the most vibrant:

    Luke 16:17 “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to become void.” Guess what verse comes immediately next as Christ’s illustration of what He means, and also as logically related to the end times reference? Here it is, Luke 16:18: “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

    Galatians 1:6-9: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel–not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.”

    Acts 4: 18-20: “So they [the Sanhedrin] called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.'”

    I am enormously uplifted by these biblical verses, and by Cardinal Sarah’s charitable but firm statements of belief. Let us all try to strengthen each other, as brothers and sisters in the Lord!

  3. raymondfrice says:

    Silence has always been the modus operandi of most of the contemplative religious orders in the Church. To encourage silence in order to “hear” God is one of the essential virtues of any Christian with a living faith.

  4. Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    It is refreshing and encouraging to know there are courageous cardinals like Robert Cardinal Sarah who, in love, speak and write the truth.

    Lawrence A. Franklin wrote an article regarding the Vatican’s relationship with Islam in which he referenced Cardinal Sarah a number of times.

    In one paragraph Lawrence writes, “Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, who is Vatican Prefect for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, compares Islamic fundamentalism to Nazi-Fascism and Communism. He depicts the West’s idolatry of atheistic secularism and the religious fanaticism of Islam as “twin apocalyptic beasts.” Cardinal Sarah targets what he refers to as “Islam’s pseudo-family values which legitimize polygamy, female subservience, sexual slavery, and child marriage.”

    There are a number of serious challenges to the Church’s Faith, Morality and Mission. Thanks Be To God that we who have been graced with authentic Catholic faith do not have to face any crisis alone. The Lord Jesus has raised up faithful leaders who know “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

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