The eleventh degree of humility is that when a monk speaks he do so gently and without laughter, humbly and seriously, in few and sensible words, and that he be not noisy in his speech. It is written, A wise man is known by the fewness of his wordsWe often forget that the purpose of every Christian is to be an instrument for God's blessing on the world. It is forgetting this that takes us away from both humility and love because we forget both who we are and who God is. The Religious have a calling to become part of a community in which the focus of their lives is the life of prayer. They are the ones whose purpose is to connect with God so that we might all connect with God.
The first duty of every Christian is to pray. St Benedict says that even our words in prayer should be few so that we can listen. The Rule begins with the word "listen", and it is clear that, in order to serve God truly, we need to listen well and hard. We cannot do that if we are yammering away to each other, and even to Him.
In order to be humble and thus know ourselves, we have to listen and to make space for the voices of others, making sure that the first voice we hear is God's. In order to become loving, we need to listen and make space for the pain of others to come to our ears, and thus present these words to God. For those of us who are not cloistered, the noise of the secular world is deafening: bright neon voices, garish slogans, and over-painted soundbites constantly vie for attention, and demand a response. St Benedict tells us that we need not give a response unless our response is focussed and comes from listening carefully. We are allowed to be silent, though the world might find that rude, or even intolerable.
Religious communities exist for the good of the Church. They strip themselves of unnecessary noise and speech in order that Christians may come and visit and find their busy secular lives challenged and their spiritual prayer lives enriched. Yet, these communities are in decline and need our prayers. We need monks, nuns, friars, and sisters to continue that consecrated life for the good of the lives of all in the Church, so that all in the Church may live out their lives as a blessing for God's good world.