Perfecting the Art of Listening

Perfecting the Art of Listening

Not long ago, we had a small change in our prayer routine at St. Paul’s Monastery. Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, we had kept the doors of our chapel propped open, so that all could come and go without touching the doors.

We still keep the doors open throughout the day, but we have returned to our earlier practice of closing the doors during Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours.

With the doors closed, the silences during prayer are remarkably more silent than with them open. This has helped me reflect on the experience of silence in communal prayer.

At its worst, silence can itself be disruptive—highlighting by contrast any small distraction that may interrupt it. But at its best, it gives us an opportunity to listen carefully, and attend to what we hear “with the ear of the heart.”

A few ideas on what to do with that listening and attending: Listen to what God has just said. Silence is defined by the presence of sound, followed by its absence.

What is God saying to you in the words that preceded the silence? Listen to your own self. What do you need to offer as a response to what you have heard in the word proclaimed?

Listen to the community. In some ways, this is the same as the first idea, but it’s also more than that. Whatever God is saying is being said by these people, in this place, in these voices, at this time.

In the silence, recognize the dignity we have been given, that we give voice to God’s words for one another. Let the silence you share with those around you deepen the unity of our prayer as members of the Body of Christ.


Steve Kasperick-Postellon has served as Director of Liturgy and Music for St. Paul's Monastery since August 2022.