Sanctity’s Mother Tongue

Every month the pope lists two prayer intentions for Christians to focus on for that given time. Here is what Pope Francis has given us for September:

Value of Silence. That people today, often overwhelmed by noise, may rediscover the value of silence and listen to the voice of God and their brothers and sisters.
Persecuted Christians. That Christians suffering persecution in many parts of the world may by their witness be prophets of Christ’s love.

Mother Cecilia

Former mother superiors of the Ursuline communities have also written and spoken to their communities about the virtue of silence. Mother Cecilia Koehler, superior of the Ursuline Sisters of Paola from 1944 to 1956, wrote a small meditation booklet titled Sanctity’s Mother Tongue: An Examination of Silence and Use of the Gift of Speech. This booklet contains 31 meditations to be read as a daily examination of conscience regarding silence and speech in the community. Mother Cecilia writes in her introduction, “We live in very noisy and distracted times. For the religious who sees the goal of one’s vocation as a close and loving union with the Divine Spouse, this life of ever increasing speed, of radio and video, in a world where everything seems to be designed to keep the mind from reflection even of the simplest kind – all this with the pressure of work that is never done, forms an almost insurmountable barrier to the attainment of his ideals. But let us not lose heart.

“Our Holy Rule, like that of all religious orders and congregations from time immemorial, provides us with a faithful guardian on our way in the regulations laid down for the observance of silence and the use of speech. These injunctions are based on the example of Christ, Our Lady, and Saint Joseph, and, if practiced with love and fidelity, will lead us to the highest pinnacle of our goal.”

Here is Mother Cecilia’s meditation for Day Three, titled “Soul Mirrors.”

We cannot arrive at perfect love of God without humility. Humility is the fruit of self-knowledge. But of all knowledge, self-knowledge is the most difficult. Besides fervent prayer and the devout use of the sacraments, we have to resort to every kind of strategy to catch a glimpse of our own “ego” – our own “self.” To see this ego is almost as impossible as looking into our own eyes; we need a mirror for that purpose.Sanctity's Mother Tongue

There are mirrors also in the study of “self” if we will have the courage and the patience to look into them. We can study our likes and dislikes, note what things we admire or criticize, the things that give us joy or make us sad. But one of the best of these “mirrors” is what the early writers called “murmuring” or the bad habit of grumbling and complaining.

Let me study what things cause a disagreeable reaction in me, or go against the grain.

Am I a chronic complainer? Am I easily dissatisfied? Do I habitually look for the flaws and express them to others?

Do I enter generously into the joys of others or do I put a damper on them by my adverse views?

Let me look straight into this mirror and face the facts, and then have a little private session with myself before God.

Heavenly Spirit, let me act on all occasions with patience, charity, and JOY!