With a thundering voice, Bill Holt, a Dominican priest in Manhattan, preaches frequently about the “thunder of silence.” Father Holt isn’t just any Catholic priest — he’s one who went viral during COVID. A video of him was posted, unbeknownst to him, of him smoking on the St. Vincent Ferrer priory steps. There he was, being himself, quite relatable, and yet with something clearly more. Something deeper; magnetic. People responded.
Father Holt doesn’t need to be preaching to radiate his love of God.
Perhaps this year, we should not worry so much about the gifts or making everything perfect — being present to others goes a long way.
I have a two-minute radio spot that airs weekdays on the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM, Channel 129. When I’m not talking about the news or the saint of the day, I often share conversations I have with Uber drivers: a man from Nigeria who is grateful for the opportunities in the United States — still; an adoptive mother of a daughter from China whose life has changed for the better because of that gift of life; a man who used to live down the block from Mother Teresa in Calcutta, before she was a household name, and who went to Sunday Mass at her convent. It is amazing the people we can encounter and the things we can learn in the midst of our daily to and fro.
You Can’t Buy Love at Macy’s
The holiday season, as it has become known, should be about love. Walking past a Macy’s “Give Love” display in Chicago the other day, I hoped everyone knows you can’t actually buy love at a Macy’s. (Didn’t the Beatles teach us this?) Perhaps this year, we should not worry so much about the gifts or making everything perfect — being present to others goes a long way. As silly as it is, that’s part of the power of the video of Father Holt hanging out on Lexington Ave.
I went to see the 2016 Martin Scorsese movie Silence when it was in theaters, with a friend who was on the road to becoming Catholic, but was not quite there yet. Based on the novel by Shusaku Endo, the main character is a Jesuit missionary priest in Japan who becomes an apostate. My friend told me that the movie was the closest encounter he had ever had with the mercy of God.
As a cradle Catholic, I might sometimes take God’s mercy for granted, because I can encounter it as often as I want in the Sacrament of Reconciliation — Confession. On his first Sunday as pope, I stood in St. Peter’s Square as Pope Francis implored: “God never tires of forgiving you! Never tire of seeking his mercy. What if we would all be instruments of mercy?”
The Thunder of Silence
We’re all exhausted. By politics. By bills. By just about everything on our phones. By things that are the most life-giving, too: needy children, a sick spouse, a dying parent. Our gift to others this holiday season should be to consider the people who annoy us the most and remember that they likely have a burden unknown to us.
And if I may make a plug, only because it might help: Just before COVID, a book I put together, A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living, was published. My prayer was that it might help draw people into the thunder of silence, to get to know God better, to get to know love better. For the rest of November, it is on a wildly discounted sale at tanboooks.com.
Find something that can quiet your soul, so you can be present and not anxiously scrolling in the midst of holly and ivy and all the rest. Find rest, however impossible it may seem. Everyone in your life will be better for it. If enough of us rise to the occasion, even our politics may one day be better for it, too.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living. She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commission in New York, and is on the board of the University of Mary She can be contacted at [email protected]