“silence of the heart is much more important than silence of the mouth”

From Henri Nouwen’s The Way of The Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

These examples of silence in preaching, counseling, and organizing are meant to illustrate how silence can help to determine the practical shape of our ministry. But let us not be too literal about silence.

After all, silence of the heart is much more important than silence of the mouth. Abba Poemen said: “A man may seem to be silent, but if his heart is condemning others he is babbling ceaselessly. But there may be another who talks from morning till night and yet he is truly silent.”9 Silence is primarily a quality of the heart that leads to ever-growing charity.

Once a visitor said to a hermit, “Sorry for making you break your rule.” But the monk answered, “My rule is to practice the virtue of hospitality towards those who come to see me and send them home in peace.”10

Charity, not silence, is the purpose of the spiritual life and of ministry. About this all the Desert Fathers are unanimous.

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