I am reading a a book by Sarah Sands, a former editor of the London Evening Standard and editor of the Today programme on Radio 4 for three years till 2020.
The title is “The Interior Silence” 10 lessons from Monastic life. After visiting the magnificent ruins of Rievaulx Abbey she began to appreciate the importance of monasteries in the life of society especially in our attitude to the sick. She then read Leigh Fermoy’s book, “A Time to Keep Silence” published in 1957. It was an account of his sojourn to three monasteries. He was depressed and anxious and yearned for peace and stillness. He wrote that through his visits he discovered a capacity for solitude and for recollection and clarity of spirit that accompanied the silent monastic life.
In the preface to her book Sarah writes, “There is a wisdom in the monasteries which answers the affliction of our times. Renouncing the world, the monks and nuns have acquired a hidden knowledge of how to live. They labour, they learn and the master what is described as “the interior silence”. She asked herself the question: “Is the virtue of interior silence something that can prevail in an era of peak technological distraction?”
In the book she describes her visits to various Monastic places she visits. I love the lovely description of her visit to the Cistercian Abbey of Norte-Dame de Senanque where she experiences a deep silence. In the epilogue she talks about her visit to Tyburn Convent at Hyde park, where she meets Mother Marilla. Mother Marilla believes that the distinguishing torment of modern life is noise. Everybody talking, nobody listening. “The mind is so distracted by noise.” Sarah ends her book by saying “Silence is an anagram of listen” It is how I shall try to love my life, as the monks have taught me. Attentive to the interior silence.”
All I have written above was sparked off by the line in today’s Gospel; ‘the sheep that belong to me listen to my voice;”