This is the fifth in a series on St. Benedict for Beginners. – The Editors

"Saint Benedict of Nursia" by Fra Angelico

‘In a flood of words you will not avoid sin.’

The Trappists are the Benedictine monks who are most famous for their silence. The stricter orders still have an elaborate system of hand signs for communication.

Saint Benedict recommends silence not because conversation is sinful in itself, but because it is often superficial. Notice that it is a flood of words that he finds disagreeable. That is because more often than not a flood of words indicates a drought of thought.

As the old saying goes, ‘Quiet people are not the only ones who don’t say much.’

Silence is also recommended for the spiritual life, not because talking is sinful, but because listening is better. The silent person has learned to listen to others, but most of all he has learned to listen to the still small voice within.

It’s difficult to keep quiet, especially when we know the answer, but genuine silence is a sign of humility, and even if we are not yet humble, it doesn’t do any harm to practice the outward signs of humility.

Finally, silence can be the way to help others. Everybody likes to be listened to, and God can give even the most unqualified person a wonderful ministry if they have the gift of silently paying attention to others.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the author of “Listen My Son” – a commentary on the Rule of St Benedict for families. Visit Fr. Dwight’s website to buy a copy here.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He is author of thirteen books on the Catholic faith. Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing is available in Catholic bookshops and through his website:

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