Words and Thoughts

speech bubbleAs I enter into an annual silent retreat with students, I am mindful of how great is the gift of silence.  We think too much; we speak too much.  We argue about concepts of God, we use limiting words for God.  To slightly modify a famous phrase from Meister Eckhart: I pray that God would rid us of all these words and thoughts about God!

Thinking is really a pretty terrible way of encountering God.  Words are even worse.  I come around again and again to a deep intuition of Ignatius: sensing, savoring God is what we’re after.  We must taste the bread of the Eucharist.  We must feel the scabbed hands of the leper, smell the deep fresh odor of the baby’s skin, listen to the wind through the trees, be awestruck by the sight of the kingfisher.

Words and thoughts are for helping others experience God, clearing away their obstacles to God.  Too often we pat ourselves on the back for our words and thoughts, though: we give grades, degrees, honors to those who use words well.  We get used to thinking of our intellects as hammers which make everything into a nail, including God.  (That is why atheism is a modern phenomenon, because only in modernity did people start conceiving of their intellects in such a disordered way.)

Words and thoughts are gifts, artful productions.  We must consider them more as something we do in love, rather than as objects we produce.  Today, we use words and thoughts to conquer the world.  We must rather use them to serve the world, to offer them to the world in love.  When I conceive of a thought, I rejoice that God has given me a mind.  When I speak a word, I rejoice that through speaking this word I might draw another to the truth.

“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.” (Ps 51:15)


  1. Tim, I just returned from a five-day Ignatian silent retreat. It is so good just to be present with God rather than trying to define God who really defies definition because we limit our infinite God with our finite words. May God bless you with a wonderful retreat.


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