Human being or human person?
August 4, 2022
19th Sunday in OT (C)
August 4, 2022

The importance of silence during the Liturgy

By Delia Chatoor

On the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, June 29, Pope Francis published a letter entitled ‘Desiderio desideravi hoc Pascha manducare vobiscum, antequam patiar’,  I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:15).

It was addressed to the “Bishops, Priests and Deacons, to consecrated men and women and to the Lay Faithful on the Liturgical Formation of the People of God.”

The letter is geared towards a deeper and more harmonious understanding of the Liturgy which Pope Francis describes as “a dimension fundamental for the life of the Church”(§1).

Through its provisions, Pope Francis is inviting “the whole Church to rediscover, to safeguard, and to live the truth and power of the Christian celebration” in the Liturgy.

One particular reflection within the letter which peaked interest is found in Paragraph 52 wherein the Holy Father animated on the “absolute importance” of silence.

He listed the various instances in the Eucharistic celebration at which silence is pivotal: in the Penitential act, after the invitation “Let us pray”, in the Liturgy of the Word, in the Eucharistic Prayer, and after Communion.

This exhortation is not new. In 2017, Pope Francis reminded that the Mass was “the highest form of prayer and not an appropriate moment for small talk”. Silent moments throughout parts of the Mass should not be considered separate from the Liturgy but rather as occasions for us to contemplate on the mystery of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Pope Francis further described the silent parts of the Liturgy as “a symbol of the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit who animates the entire action of the celebrant”.

In our frenetic world, it may be difficult appreciating the beauty of silence. Sometimes during a conversation, there may be “silence”. In the “ole days” someone may say “an angel is passing”.

At the relevant times during the Mass, such moments could serve to demonstrate more than the presence of angels but that of the ever-powerful Spirit calling us to reflect on the messages communicated through the prayers.

Following the distribution of Holy Communion, it is common for a meditation hymn to be sung. This is greatly appreciated as the lyrics could enable us to join with all the faithful to offer thanksgiving for the Body and Blood of Chris received, and so assist us in drawing closer into “the intimacy of communion”.

There may, however, be occasions when before the Post-Communion Prayer, there could be quiet time to enable all present to bring themselves in God’s holy presence.

Paragraphs 88 and 164 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal provide support for the appropriateness of silence, noting that “the Priest and faithful [are encouraged to] pray quietly for some time.”

It is nevertheless recognised that a hymn, a Psalm or “some other canticle of praise” could be sung prior to the Post-Communion Prayer.

Pope Francis’ letter is another timely reminder of the roles to be played by us as, “Every gesture and every word contains a precise action that is always new because it meets with an always new moment in our lives” (§53).

We could, therefore, internalise the final verse of the hymn, ‘Be still, for the presence of the Lord’:

Be still for the power of the Lord

Is moving in this place.

He comes to cleanse and heal

To minister His grace.

No work too hard for Him.

In faith receive from Him.

Be still for the power of the Lord

Is moving in this place.


Delia Chatoor is a retired foreign service officer and a Lay Minister of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help, San Fernando Parish.

Photo by Arina Krasnikova