by: Fr. Nicholas A. Marziani, Jr., D.Min ~ Pastor Emeritus, St. James Church

I recently came across an interesting quote, don’t remember the source, but it went something like this: “Words are mesmerizing – even when they have nothing to say.”

That really caught my attention, as it speaks most eloquently of our noise-saturated age. A lot of ink is spilled, and even more saliently, too much audio blather assaults our ears on a virtual 24-7-365 basis in this so-called modern age.

Previous generations were formed and motivated to heroic heights by meaningful, inspirational speech such as propelled the “Greatest Generation” to successfully resist totalitarianism abroad.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke those historic words, “A day that will live in infamy” in urging Congress to action in the wake of Pearl Harbor, everybody knew exactly what the man was saying and why.

When religious leaders of many stripes, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke against social ills in our own country it was impossible to not be impressed by the rhetorical power of his words, even if you disagreed with him.

Not so much today, not by a long shot. An entire generation is coming of age that simply imbibes “whatever” (a too often used phrase itself) vibrates their eardrums and stimulates the nerve tissues that transmit mindless impressions into their brains.

My parents’ generation may well remember the harangues whereby Adolph Hitler held in thrall the German populace of the 1930s and 40s, bypassing all good sense and inducing them to madness and mayhem as a nation.

As his propagandist Joseph Goebbels put it, “lie enough to the people and they’ll come to believe it!”

The Bible eloquently observes: “God is in heaven, and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” Huh. Gee, you mean maybe the Almighty has something to say that our endless and often senseless preoccupation with our own words obscures? Ah, yea! Trappist monks – like the fellows who maintain monasteries up in Conyers, Georgia and Monck’s Corner (yup) South Carolina – have a secret to share with the rest of us.

Simply put, “ZIP IT and LISTEN!” I was recently criticized by another Christian for highlighting the beautiful discipline of praying what is known as the Daily Office, a treasure trove of scripture readings and prayers, because they, in his opinion, “didn’t come from the heart, and were merely ‘performance-oriented’.” Like, whoa! Au contraire. Praying so-called “canned prayers” that derive from a higher source form us to greatness, if we have the guts to first enter a certain kind of holy silence that enables us to truly hear in the first place. And everybody knows – or should know – that you can’t really hold a conversation with someone unless you’re first willing to listen to them. Something to think about this hot summer.