France – This silence which is not empty

02 September 2020

(ANS - Paris) - Embracing the silence, discovering meditation, learning to pray ... It is vital! But how can we awaken the search for spirituality and meaning in young people? Our world, filled with activity, noise, information and ongoing requests, arouses the fear of emptiness. The Internet and the smartphone try to overcome this fear of nothingness. Media professionals know it well: there must be no empty space or the audience will change the channel!

The young people queuing at the school canteen can't stop talking or alternatively remain glued to their MP3 player, mobile phone, their pocket video game.

The result: they no longer know how to face themselves. Silence is frightening because it raises existential questions: “Why do I live? Where am I from? Where must I go?" We are afraid of these questions because there are no ready answers. They speak to us of the very meaning of our life.

Various ways of expressing the need for interiority

The Pope, in his exhortation Christus Vivit, speaks of young people thus:

In some young people, we can see a desire for God, albeit still vague and far from knowledge of the God of revelation. In others, we can glimpse an ideal of human fraternity, which is no small thing. Many have a genuine desire to develop their talents in order to offer something to our world. In some, we see a special artistic sensitivity, or a yearning for harmony with nature. In others, perhaps, a great need to communicate. In many of them, we encounter a deep desire to live life differently. In all of this, we can find real starting points, inner resources open to a word of incentive, wisdom and encouragement. (CV, n° 84)

It is to these waiting energies, to this search for light, that education in interiority tries to respond.

The Word of God, the path of interiority

The Word of God echoes this search for meaning. This is what Fr Guy Dermond, SDB, understood well when 40 years ago he started offering moments of desert during the youth camps or on weekends with the young. The idea has always been to allow them to internalize the Word of God. In Hebrew, the word "desert" means: "The place of the word", "what is the word?" or "Who is the Word?"

Starting from a Gospel and some questions or small stories that shed light on the text, young people meditate in silence for an hour with appropriate background music in an environment carefully prepared to encourage reflection.

Then, during the next hour, they can participate in an expression workshop on the same theme (drawing, ceramics, photographic language, ...), but this always remains a time in the desert, where if necessary you can exchange a few words, but silence, however, remains the rule.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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