The two silences .. and Henri Nouwen

henri nouwen photo

Its a beautiful sunny day today , and after two busy Sunday services yesterday , I needed some ‘silence’ to attempt to still my inner voice. I had a lovely lunch with a friend, then attempted to file the ever increasing paperwork in my study. However i just kept on hearing a voice saying ‘be still’

My thoughts went to Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest who tragically died in 1996 and is seen as great spiritual thinker of our time. He was involved with the L’Arche community, where his prayers were rooted in the ordinary things of life. He wrote many books about living in a modern secular culture and his books reflect an honesty about his experience of God. He talks about God using us ‘as channels for God’s love and grace’. He too found it a struggle to be’ silent'(  like me, as I like to chat and listen to people’s stories)

In his book ‘With Open Hands’, Nouwen reflects on prayer and silence and confirms that  there is some connection between Prayer and Silence, but if we think about silence in our lives , it seems that it isn’t always peaceful, silence can be frightening . He also highlights that  there are two silences; one frightening, where we have the busyness of the day’s activities roaring in our head; the other peaceful…the silence which is full of sounds, the wind , the leaves rustling , our own quiet breathing , the swallowing in our throat,  hearing or feeling our heart beat.”

We are invited by God to move from our noisy world into a ‘sound – filled silence’ .” “But moving further is  to achievement of inner silence, a silence of the heart.”

 “Achieving inner silence is where feelings of love and hate.tenderness and pain ,forgiveness and greed……are separated, strengthened  or reformed by Gods grace.”


Dear God

Speak gently in my silence

When the loud outer noises of my surroundings

and the loud inner noises of my fears

keep pulling me away from you .

Help me to trust that you are still there

even when I am unable to hear you.

Give me ears to listen to your small soft voice

saying  ‘Come to me all who are overburdened and I will give you rest … for I am gentle and humble of heart’’

Let that loving voice be my guide


Excepts from ‘With Open Hands Henri Nouwen

Ava Maria Press