Prayer Which God Alone Sees

In June last year, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic letter on the Liturgical Formation of the People of God.

In Latin it was entitled Desiderio desideravi — Luke 22:15 — ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this paschal meal with you’. His intention was to ‘offer some prompts or cues for reflections that can aid in the contemplation of the beauty and truth of Christian celebration’.

There was one thing he wrote toward the end of the letter which struck me. He said that silence occupies a place of vital importance in the Mass.

In our missal, moments for silence are prescribed, but I realise that as a celebrant I often fall short and don’t give these moments of silence their due.

The entire Eucharistic celebration is immersed in silence. It is good to settle into silence before we announce and sing our first hymn. Silence is present in the Penitential rite; after the invitation ‘Let us pray’; in the Liturgy of the Word (before the readings, between the readings, after the homily and in the Eucharistic prayer); after communion.

Pope Francis says:

‘Silence is a symbol of the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit who animates the entire action of the celebration of Mass. In the Penitential Rite the silence enables the Spirit to move us to sorrow for sin and the desire for conversion. It awakens a readiness to hear the Word and awakens prayer, and it disposes us to adore the Body and Blood Christ.’

When I was training for the priesthood our rector at the seminary was very keen on a time of silence after communion, especially at the early morning Mass. Some of us would become concerned when the period of silence stretched to several minutes and there was loud coughing to be heard among the student body who were afraid he might have fallen asleep.

The Pope’s final sentence in this paragraph on silence is:

‘For all these reasons we are called to enact with extreme care the symbolic gesture of silence. Through it the Spirit gives us shape, gives us form.’

I love Mother Theresa of Calcutta’s prayer:

‘The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
The fruit of service is peace.’

St Pope Paul VI, reflecting on the life of the Holy Family in Nazareth, offered these thoughts on silence.

‘May esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive in us, besieged as we are by so many uplifted voices, the general noise and uproar, in our seething and over-sensitised modern life.

‘May the silence of Nazareth teach us recollection, inwardness, the disposition to listen to good inspirations and the teachings of true masters. May it teach us the need for and the value of preparation, of study, of meditation, of personal inner life, of the prayer which God alone sees in secret.’


Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest