Cardinal Sarah: We Need Silence, to Hold to Doctrine and to Pray
Speaking to the Register, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship shares his recommendation on how the Church can best resolve the crisis of secularization she is facing, and discusses his motivations for writing his new book on silence.
“Silence isn’t just for the monastic life,” Cardinal Robert Sarah said yesterday at the launch in Rome of the German edition of his book, The Power of Silence — Against the Dictatorship of Noise. “We all need silence.”
After giving his presentation, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments briefly discussed with the Register his motivations for writing the book, and whether a loss of silence is a possible cause of the current crisis within the Church.
He also briefly shared his suggestions on how secularization within the Church — which he says causes him the most pain — can best be resolved, why Pope emeritus Benedict XVI wrote the afterword to his book, and how confident he is for a return to a more reverent liturgy, a wish he has clearly indicated over the past year.
Your Eminence, why did you write the book now, what were your reasons for writing it?
We need silence, not only regarding the liturgy but even to read a book, to listen to music. To have rest, you need silence, and silence helps one to see inside oneself. We are really in a very awkward situation: we never have silence in our lives, from the beginning to the last hours of the day. We listen to rumors, news, radio, the telephone. We need silence, anyway, to meet God and to have a very human life. Man needs to be silent.
You spoke in your speech this evening about how secularism has entered the Church. Are the roots of that basically a loss of silence, recollection and being in contact with God, not enough prayer for example?
We have seen we must talk, we must do something, we must act, but silence is an act of adoration, it is an act of goodness, so it’s not about doing something that is efficient. Silence is [in itself] very, very efficient. It gives you the opportunity to see yourself, to listen to yourself, to listen to God.
What is your view on the current crisis in the Church at the moment — the current confusion, loss of direction and so forth? How do you seeing it being resolved?
Well I say we must pray, [uphold the] family and doctrine, to be faithful to the doctrine, and to pray. God will give us the right way to walk, you know: [that] confusion is not a good way to live. If we see clearly the way, then we can walk with security. So I think we must hold firmly to the doctrine, and pray.
Benedict wrote an afterword to your book. What were his motivations for doing that?
After reading my book, he said: “It [silence] is a fountain for my spiritual life, so I propose to write a preface for the German edition.” I said: “I’m very honored, Holy Father, please do it.” It was his own initiative.
You’ve criticized aspects of the modern liturgy quite strongly over the past year or so. Do you see any change in that area, moving perhaps towards a restoration of the liturgy as you would like?
My hope is that many young priests are very much in this line. I’m very confident that in the future there will be a change and we will have many young priests willing to do that.
Maybe a return to celebrating the Mass ad orientem?
[Laughs] Well, I won’t talk about that!