A Quiet Life
There is no "vow of silence".
The nuns communicate with each other in the normal way, not by sign language but by speaking.
Yet silence is a very positive monastic value.
Places of Silence
There are places of silence, notably the Abbey Church.
When the Work of God [the liturgy] is finished, let all go out in strict silence with due reverence to God, so that a brother who may wish to pray privately may not be distracted by another’s bad behaviour.
Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 52
Times of Silence
There are times of silence, especially at night.
When they come out from Compline [the last service of the day] there must be no further leave for anyone to say anything, unless the arrival of guests demands attention, or the Abbot happens to have given an order to someone. Even in this case the utmost gravity and courteous restraint must be observed.
Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 42
In practice, the night silence lasts for 12 hours, from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
The first words of the day are at Morning Office:
O Lord, you will open my lips, and my mouth will tell of your praise.
During the day, there are places in the house where necessary conversation is allowed. There is one hour – longer on Sundays and special days – when talking is positively encouraged: Recreation.
Dame Felicitas celebrated her 80th birthday on 20th February 2000
St. Benedict’s Rule of Silence
To speak and teach are fitting for the master, but the disciple should be silent and listen.
Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 6
In practice, every nun recognises the importance of silence for a life of prayer. But each one also knows that she should try harder to refrain from unnecessary talking and noise.
At our last Chapter meeting I spoke about silence and as usual there was an immediate improvement. Then came our Annual Retreat during which the atmosphere of calm and recollection was truly remarkable.
This atmosphere is something very precious and each single one of us must play her part in preserving it. In some mysterious way it makes itself felt outside the enclosure. In fact more than one person has told me they feel it as soon as they turn into the drive.
Without it we cannot really live a life of prayer, which means we cannot fulfil our function, and if we fail to do that, how can we hope for vocations? Our contribution to the good of mankind is prayer – the most powerful of all forces. How many requests for prayer have come into the house this week. We must keep on raising up these suffering people before the eyes of God.
Mother Abbess Edith Street, November 1989