During this year's message for World Communication's Day*, Pope Benedict spoke of the need for a balance between silence and word: "When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning."
Recently, a friend was describing her children's frustrations with the way their own peers conduct themselves on facebook, the popular social medium of the day. Gossiping around the well or over the backyard fence has now been taken to a global and instantaneous level. Where are the checks and balances allowing for caution, calm, discretion, and self-control for these young people? When do they experience true silence? Will they ever find peace if they don’t learn to take time out from the world to go IN looking for God?
It is especially fitting the Holy Father's message for World Communications Day is delivered on the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers and journalists. St. Francis lived during the years just following the Reformation. Besides being a Bishop and Doctor of the Church, he is known for two important books, An Introduction to the Devout Life, a work intended to lead "Philothea", the soul living in the world, into the paths of devotion, that is to say, of true and solid piety. Everyone should strive to become pious, and "it is an error--even a heresy--to hold that holiness is incompatible with any state of life". The second work, Treatise on the Love of God, an authoritative piece, reflects perfectly the mind and heart of Francis de Sales as a great genius and saint and leads the reader in twelve progressive chapters through the history, theory, practice, and eventual conformity to the Will of God.
I can just imagine St. Francis deploring much of the noise which passes for communication in the modern world. Let us join him and the Holy Father in silent prayer today that our society may learn true communication through a balance between silence and word.
Perhaps this Lent may we consider a fast from unnecessary sound and excessive entertainment... Less word allowing for more WORD.
*World Communications Day, the only worldwide celebration called for by the Second Vatican Council (Inter mirifica, 1963), is celebrated in most countries, on the recommendation of the bishops of the world, on the Sunday before Pentecost. The announcement of the theme is made on September 29, the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel, who has been designated as the patron of those who work in radio. The Holy Father's message for World Communications Day is traditionally published in conjunction with the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers (January 24), to allow bishops' conferences and diocesan offices sufficient time to prepare audiovisual and other materials for national and local celebrations.