Signis World Congress 2017 Streaming Online

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Today at the Signis World Congress, we are joined by the Catholic Academy of Media Professionals  and the Catholic Press Association  Today is a bit of a freer day for me, so I am spending time talking to some of the wonderful here–brainstorming about how to use social media, sharing stories, exploring ethics for Catholic communicators, and more! Later in the day, I am looking forward to a conversation between Martin Scorsese (whose latest film, Silence, was screened at the congress this morning for those who haven’t seen it), and Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP, and Fr. Peter Malone, MSC, both legendary in the world of Signis–Sr. Rose for her work in media literacy education, and Father Peter in his reviews of countless films. I will try to share my impressions here tomorrow.

Silence is the story of a Jesuit missionary priest who goes to Japan in the 15th century, during the government’s fierce persecution of Christians. Although the story is based on a novel by Shusako Endo, the setting of the story is historical, and one of the main characters in the film is based on a real Jesuit priest. It is an amazing novel, now made into an amazing film. Silence is especially thought-provoking today, where we are experiencing a huge rise in religious persecution worldwide. I am in the middle of writing a guide for the film, which I will make available online here in the near future.

Earlier, I forgot to mention that Salt + Light TV is livestreaming much of the congress, so if you are interested in catching some of the sessions, visit: www.saltandlighttv.org, and click on the Signis logo (or click here.) 

It is such an amazing congress because of the wide diversity of people here, yet all very committed to the mission of the Church and to fostering quality media in our world. I love learning new “secrets” or “helpful hacks” that are not just shortcuts for the social media world, but also helpful practices. I hope that by the time I leave Quebec City, I will have a circle of social media specialists who can consult with each other regarding new software, trends, apps, practices, and platforms as they arise.

Silence as a Gift for Writers

Taken during a beautiful quiet moment from the woods near Campion Renewal Center in Weston, MA.

Thank you for your patience with my online silence! (Thank you also for your prayers for my retreat. It was amazing, and I hope to post more about it soon.)

Silence has been part of my life ever since I entered the convent, but the deeper silence of a retreat is unique. During the month of October, I had the wonderful experience of making the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius at Campion Renewal Center in Weston, MA. This was my first experience of silence for an entire month,* but I have made many eight-day retreats. In general, retreat silence:

  • deepens my prayer
  • enhances a spirit of recollection
  • limits distractions
  • focuses me on my relationship with God and what’s important in my life
  • helps me to listen more deeply to the Scripture passages I pray with every day
  • increases awareness of my thoughts and feelings
  • helps me discern how the Holy Spirit is working within me…
  • …and more!

One of our characteristics as writers is to constantly listen. Whether we need to be attentive to an interviewee or our own “first thoughts” or feelings about a situation, listening is key. Silence gives us the space to listen more deeply, to make connections, to become aware of our unique insights that spring from our life experience. Deeper listening, making connections, awareness, insights and life experience are some of the essential ingredients of creativity.

Returning after a month of silence to the mission and writing that I am so passionate about, I sense that my experience of silence will enrich my life, my writing, my conversations, my relationships with others. I treasure much more the silence that is already part of my life.

If we don’t have a time of silence built into our day or week, we may be surprised to find how helpful it can be to the writing life, as well as our life of faith. (The Message from the recent Synod on the New Evangelization also refers to silence as important for receiving the Word of God, and this was really true for me on retreat!)  I try to “cushion” both my prayer time and my writing time with silence, but being out in nature is another way that I seek out silence. Here are a few little ways I use to add silence to my life:

  • take a walk or go for a run (without listening to music or a podcast)
  • turn off the cell phone for an hour
  • get up a few minutes early and watch the sunrise or enjoy a quiet cup of coffee (or you can try staying up a few minutes later to stargaze)
  • take a weekly “quiet night” at home that is also TV- and/or internet-free
  • turn the radio off when driving in the car

What role does silence play in your writing life? In your life of prayer? If you have a moment, share your ideas about building in times for silence in our everyday lives. Especially if you have children, please share what you do to gain some quiet moments–what works for you?

*For those who are wondering, the silence is not absolute. During the Spiritual Exercises that I made, retreatants spoke daily to their retreat director, but avoided speaking otherwise unless necessary. Usually, the retreatant takes a couple of “breaks” during the month where they can speak more freely. I had two afternoon “breaks” during the month.

Importance of Silence

You might find it amusing or ironic that someone who focuses her life on communication would talk about the importance of silence. But I have come to believe that silence is key in all communication. 

In the next excerpt in Echoing Silence: Thomas Merton and the Vocation of Writing, Merton speaks about the importance of silence in faith: Without silence, religion becomes religious ideology, because one does not experience the “One Word” of God, which he later defines as Love. 

Rome "Incontro"Two years ago this month, I met in Rome with about 50 other Daughters of St. Paul from around the world to deepen our understanding and lifestyle of communication. It was such a privilege to participate in our first ever international meeting focused on the theme of communication. 

During the meeting, each day we divided into smaller groups and went over the material for the day in a dialogue style. One of the speakers spoke about the importance of silence in communication: the sacred space between the speaker and the receiver. That day, we were asked to present a summary of what had impressed us so far. Our group decided to begin our five-minute report with a minute of silence where we lit a candle in the darkness and processed it around the room. We wanted to remind ourselves that, as communicators of Christ, while what we say is important, we must also provide space for silence so that those with whom we are communicating can truly encounter the Word. This seems especially critical for our society today. 

For me personally, it is essential for me to take time for silence. During these days, my little community of the Daughters of Saint Paul in Toronto is re-forming: Sr. Mary Peter and I remain here, and we are blessed by the arrived of three new sisters: Sr. Helen Rita, Sr. Maureen George, and Sr. Irene. We are spending our first days together getting ourselves organized: offices set up, etc. I am fascinated to observe each sister’s communication style. Two of us are extroverts and three of us are introverts, including myself.  While I am tremendously enjoying the opportunity to get to know each sister better, I have also become aware that, if I don’t balance this intense time in community with some quiet time, I start to feel frazzled and out of touch. I have become more grateful for the moments of silence in prayer, and the quiet moments that I sneak in at the end of the day. For me to write, I need a certain kind of interior silence to hear my own thoughts, or what the Lord might be inviting me to notice or to say.

 What role does silence play in your communication, in your life, in your faith?