Some years ago I visited a convent of Carmelite nuns in Spain. They live completely within the cloister so they can devote their entire life to prayer, in a special way to intercede for priests. It’s common for each sister to receive the name of a particular priest to pray for all the time. Though I’m not a priest, I asked the Mother Superior if she could assign a nun to “adopt” me. I felt such a strong need for prayers to be able to exercise my mission and apostolate. In her goodness, the Mother Superior agreed. A few weeks later, I received a letter from a nun in her 80s. She had “adopted” me and promised to pray in a particular way for my soul. A year passed and I have to admit I forgot about this sister until I received a call from another consecrated. She had visited that same convent in Spain and told me one of the sisters asked how I was doing.
A little surprised, she answered that I was doing ok, but we were facing very challenging moments in our Movement. The nun replied “just tell her that there is a nun kneeling so she can keep standing and fighting for Christ and His Church.”
When I heard this I was moved to tears. I had been blind to the source of so many graces. A nun, lost in the middle of nowhere, was praying and sacrificing every day for me. Everyday. I had forgotten but she had not. I am sure she is still kneeling for me, and because of her I am still standing, persevering by God’s grace in my vocation, trying to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and trying to love every person that I meet in my path to transmit this same love of Christ.
And all of this happened in silence. Nobody knows or sees. But Christ sees the heart. How many things in our lives happen in silence! Things that seem to have no value can be a source of countless graces for salvation if they are done with love.
Maybe you are not preaching to multitudes of people, or even to small groups of people, maybe you feel hidden in the silence of your work, following the same routine day by day, but doing all with great love. Maybe the silence you are experiencing comes from a lack of family support. Maybe you are experiencing the silence of God in prayer, you are being tested, or purified, you might be in total darkness, tired of waiting for God to reveal Himself, to console you and to show you His love or His plan… but there is nothing but silence. Silence can seem like emptiness: the void of success, of recognition, of gratitude, of the presence of a loved one, of tangible results.
But God sees silence differently. Silence is full of His presence and power. It is precisely in this GREAT SILENCE, that GREAT THINGS HAPPEN. In silence you have the choice to love purely or grow selfish, accept or rebel. Either faith will soften your suffering or pain embitters your heart. Great things happen when we allow God to invade our lives and accept His love with humility and faith. Will we embrace the opportunity that silence brings? Through all life’s circumstances, no matter how insignificant, He is molding our hearts and meriting graces for many people that we don’t see.
Today, I want to remember another man of faith: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He now begins a more recollected life of silence and prayer. He has done great things for our beloved Church that will be always remembered. But now he has stepped into the silence. He has left the magazines and newspapers. And maybe now he will do greater things. I am certain that like my beloved nun, he will be kneeling, while another stands and fights. Perhaps because of his prayers the Church, the future Pope, all the Cardinals and every faithful catholic, will have the grace to remain standing and fighting the battles of our day with courage, certain that the gates of the netherworld will not prevail.