Silent Conversation

Every summer, my family drives from Arlington, Virginia, to Tampa, Florida, to spend some days at the beach. The 16-hour road trip is always a fun adventure in itself, as are the activities we do together in the Sunshine State weather. Still, after I tell friends about the thrills of Busch Gardens amusement park or my mad putt-putt skills (or lack thereof), I always come to my favorite vacation time of all: simply enjoying the beach.

Our beach, a slice of sandy shore along the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, is always quiet. Hardly anyone comes to this gem of a spot, so we have plenty of space to fly kites, play catch, or picnic under our enormous beach umbrella. I spend hours in a beach chair reading a book, admiring a sunset, or watching my little siblings dig in the sand. Last summer, after the ups and downs of freshman year, I especially cherished those moments of refreshing my body and mind, all in the loving company of my family and the Gulf.

Weeks later, I was back on campus, zipping from class to activities to catching up with friends. Although my life at Notre Dame is vastly different from my life on family vacation, I love the tight schedule almost as much as the loose one. Here, I feel entrusted with several wonderful tasks: work to be done, lessons to be learned, friends to be made, lives to be transformed. College is a wonderful time of excitement, responsibility, uncertainty, and growth. But for me, there is one condition: some time for silence. I may not have my beach in South Bend, but I can (and in fact must) preserve a piece of its tranquility for some minutes each day. Part of this is due to my introvert-at-heart personality, but a large part of it, I think, is fundamentally human. We need to work, but we also need time to step back and sigh.

Amidst my mixture of bustle and silence, Tim Bradley asked me to be the next Editor-in-Chief of the Rover. Throughout my time as a staff writer and Managing Editor, the mission and people of the Rover have been very dear to me, for they have made my time at Notre Dame thus far very meaningful. I have realized more and more how worthwhile an endeavor this is, so I was deeply honored to receive the offer. Nevertheless, I did not expect to take on the full responsibility and opportunity that I have now, and I almost missed it.

I was set to study abroad in Toledo, Spain, next spring, so I could only commit to serving as editor for one semester. We brainstormed about plans for the year, thinking about who could fill in for me and for Stephanie (who is destined for Rome that same semester). Meanwhile, I had been having fleeting thoughts about the people and events I would be missing while abroad. I knew that studying abroad would be an amazing opportunity that I would not regret, so I dismissed my misgivings as just initial hesitancy to expand my horizons.

It was not until I was by myself in the Law School chapel that my mind changed.

As I sat there that afternoon, the thought suddenly dropped into my head: what if I didn’t go? I weighed the options and compared the possibilities, and steadily, the prospect of staying on campus filled me with excitement, nervousness, and joy. I became more and more convinced that I would actually be happier working on the Rover for the whole year. Europe is beautiful, I thought, but Notre Dame is my home.

Within two days, I talked with my parents, contacted the Study Abroad department, and cancelled my participation agreement. I was not going abroad, and I never thought a student could be so happy to share such news.

It struck me how such an important decision sprung from such a simple, quiet moment. For that reason, I wanted to dedicate my first editorial as Editor-in-Chief to the value of silence. But as I browsed for inspirational quotes about silence, the immediate results were not what I expected. Most of the top phrases from saints actually spoke out against silence. Saint Catherine of Siena’s in particular stood out: “We’ve had enough of exhortations to be silent! Cry out with a hundred thousand tongues. I see that the world is rotten because of silence.”

Surprised, I wondered where the thoughts about quiet tranquility were. I understood Catherine’s message that we must bear bold witness to the good, but I would hardly call my quiet time—at the beach or on campus—“rotten.”

Then it occurred to me that silence is not the whole story. Humans may long for peace, but we also long for interaction. Because of that, the ideal way for people to rejuvenate is to blend the silent with the social—that is, to pray, to talk with God.

Thinking back to my time in the Law School chapel, I realized that the idea to stay on campus did not come simply because I was sitting in a noiseless room, but because I was having a conversation. During that time, there was a real exchange of thoughts, emotions, and aspirations. This is not to say that I do it better than anyone but rather to remind myself that I, like everyone else, depend upon that time. We rush about campus, take on responsibilities, and bury ourselves in books, which is great in its own way—but it is comforting to remember that tabernacles are everywhere, waiting for us to visit and be reassured that we are well taken care of.

Granted, finding time to pray is hard. And when we finally do sit down to start, finding what to say can be a challenge. But just like any important thing that I make time for—like family vacation, friendships, the Rover, eating, sleeping, or working—prayer is an essential component to life, a necessity and not a luxury. As Saint Teresa of Ávila puts it, “Mental prayer is nothing else but being on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing in secret with Him.”

This friendship, like any other, grows through attentive conversation. By building this habit, we can steadily transform not only our own lives but also those of the people around us. Saint Josemaría Escrivá writes, “You go to pray; to become a bonfire, a living flame, giving light and heat.” I am very grateful for this gift of an opportunity, and I look forward to this upcoming year with the Rover as one that will spread light to many people.

Sophia Buono is a sophomore PLS major and ESS minor. While she greatly appreciates her quieter moments of the day, she also has a wild side that enjoys rock climbing, hulla-hooping, and ostrich racing. If you would like to learn more or join her in any of these activities, contact her at sbuono@nd.edu.

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