Speaking on the hazards of our noisy age, the true friendships and the power of Eucharistic Adoration, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, addressed a small crowd at St. Mary’s High School Feb. 24. Titled “The Renewal of the Catholic Soul in our Age of Noise,” the bishop gave a wide-ranging lecture with a number of historical and contemporary references, often sprinkled with humor.
The event keenly struck a chord for Lent and was organized by local non-profit group Catholic Phoenix, whose mission is “to nurture the moral, intellectual, and cultural lives of Catholics in the Diocese of Phoenix.”
Bishop Conley structured his address into three main areas: issues with modern technology, true friendship and silent prayer with Eucharistic Adoration.
“The age of noise diminishes virtue and charity and imagination, replacing them with anxiety and worry and exhaustion,” said Bishop Conley.
He stressed the responsibility to be aware and engaged in the world, but a balance that emphasized concentrating on things in a singular way instead of multi-tasking.
“The Lord didn’t make us for this kind of noise, He made us for conversation, for encounter and for communion,” said Bishop Conley. “But the Lord also made us for silence, for contemplation, for quietude and stillness.”
The bishop calmly warned that without these quiet practices “anchoring our lives and our hearts,” the age of noise will transform us and develop in our hearts a reactive, uncharitable and often intemperance that is seen in the media and social media.
“The age of noise keeps grinding away at our souls,” said Bishop Conley.
He also focused on some detrimental effects of modern technology, with too much screen time for children, noting that developers of Apple products withheld them for their own kids until a certain age.
Regarding friendship, the bishop noted a “crisis of loneliness” that he sees in his pastoral ministry. He credited his own friendships as being instrumental in his conversion from the Presbyterian tradition to the Catholic faith while in college, along with a lot of reading.
“Christian friendship has the power to awaken hearts and minds to the living presence of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Conley. Quoting C.S. Lewis to define true friendship, he said that true friends stand “side by side, their eyes looking ahead.”
The deepest friendship is one with Jesus Christ who invites us to travel with Him on a quest through the mystery of His incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection.
“Christ invites us to be friends with Him by inviting us to share in His mission,” said Bishop Conley. “And that mission is the salvation of the world.”
In the last segment of his lecture, Bishop Conley drew on his 2017 Pastoral letter, called “Love Made Visible.” He referenced St. John of the Cross in that silence is the first language of the Lord.
“In the silence of Eucharistic Adoration, we learn true humility,” said Bishop Conley. “As we kneel before our creator God, we are confronted with the power and mystery of God’s love,” he continued.
He said this silence and humility lead to deep friendship and communion with God.
“Renewing our souls in the age of noise begins in silence before the Lord,” said Bishop Conley.
He also referenced Cardinal Robert Sarah who said that when we adore the Lord in silence, God’s presence fills our hearts and imaginations. The practice of being still might be difficult at first, he acknowledged, but through it we learn to communicate with God, listening and speaking.
Isak Bond, a teacher at St. Mary’s, enjoyed the storytelling in Bishop Conley’s talk, but the primary message he walked away with was one of friendship.
“I realize that I have a duty to be good friends with other members of the faculty here at St. Mary’s,” said Bond. He said he had a duty to be friends with more of his colleagues as “the “students need to see that, and they need to see it done well.”
Jessie Johnson, a fifth-grade teacher at Archway Classical Academy in Glendale, also responded to the call to friendship saying she wants to be more intentional in fostering friendships amongst her students.