"The expectation that silence will always bring us peace and tranquility is, we all know, a false assumption. Silence and its empty spaces can make us fearful. Supposing we have chosen to be silent and there is a felt absence of God, of peace and a distaste for what we are doing. We feel restless and out of sorts or possibly depressed and our thoughts move distractedly from one painful situation to another. Our imaginations run wild and any value that we may attribute to ourselves or to our status becomes meaningless. Stark reality is challenging.

"We all have issues that need to be addressed and it is often in silence that our sadness and anger, resentment and anxiety come to the fore. Wave upon wave of memories and past regrets can haunt us. This is an uncomfortable and lonely place to inhabit and we may wonder why we have invested so much of our precious free time in ways that feel so counterproductive to the real peace and sense of consolation that we all desire. Be patient — the space between painful memory and the present moment will eventually dissipate and fade. Pain need not turn to anger. This space permits us to make choices, stand back and sort our feelings out. With perseverance our self-awareness will increase and empower us to make better choices. This is a mark of our desire to find inner reconciliation.

"Silence, within its many dimensions, can have personal negative connotations. We can all create situations within our everyday environment when we choose to be unresponsive to people. This will be at least hurtful and perhaps destructive to the person who is at the other end of 'our silent attack'. By staying silent, or by ignoring, we manipulate, take control and create hostility. Power games played out like this hurt and take their toll on relationships. These are two of the most psychologically cruel and damaging ways in which we can reduce another to invisibility or to becoming a non-person.

"There are times, as well, when we may have to speak up for the sake of social conscience or political justice. For example, are we prepared to be inclusive, to give voice to political action? Or will we refuse and stay silent to save our social or political position? To be aware of the harm that we can cause through lack of courage and personal integrity will force us to think and give us greater insight into caritas.

"Within such negative silence, God can feel truly absent. However, our memories of God's presence in the past can act, even in these difficult moments, as a powerful reminder that at some point there is the promise of future hope. Without a prior sense of God's presence there would not now be a sense of God's absence. And in the ever-changing seasons of the heart consolation will not be far away."