As a theologian, I take an interest in the vows that some people in religious service make since I find them to be quite fascinating. I was especially intrigued by the nuns after hearing someone say that they take a vow of silence. Since I did not understand what nuns take this vow and why they do it, I decided to conduct more research. I read a lot of historical books and even visited a Catholic Church. While there, I talked to the priest and a couple of nuns about this vow. Last month, as I was teaching my college students about the vow of silence, one of them asked me which nuns take this vow. Another wanted to know how long the vow of silence lasts. Since I had previously done a lot of research on this, I have all the right answers. So, what nuns take a vow of silence?
Though most nuns dedicate themselves to a life of silent prayer, there is no specific religious order that takes a vow of silence. However, nuns have specific times in the day when they don’t speak to one another. For instance, they observe silence during prayers or work.
In this article, I invite you to join me as we delve into the topic of the vow of silence. Keep reading to find out what the vow of silence is about, the purpose of this vow, and when nuns observe silence.
What is the vow of silence?
A vow of silence is an oath to refrain from speaking for a certain period. Some religious people have been practicing silence throughout history for different reasons and consider it a virtue. Monastic tradition and Catholics are the major groups that practice this. Though this vow is common among religious groups, some secular organizations also practice it to bring awareness to certain social issues like child poverty.
Why do some nuns take a vow of silence?
They believe that it deepens their relationship with God. According to them, when an individual refrains from talking, they look inward and think about their personal beliefs and the nature of their faith. One focuses on their spiritual development instead of getting distracted by conversations that are not always productive.
Additionally, nuns believe that sometimes God communicates in moments of stillness, and practicing silence helps one connect more with Him. They argue that if a person keeps on talking, they may miss the small voice of God (1st Kings 19:12). Therefore, according to nuns, practicing silence promotes religious contemplation.
Which orders take a vow of silence?
Though many people believe that most nuns take a vow of silence, there is no specific religious order that takes this vow. Some people assume that the Trappists nuns take a vow of silence because they live a very simple life, but this is not true.
With that said, note that some monasteries have precise times when speaking is not allowed. For instance, the Carthusians arrange a time for silence and a time for conversation. Additionally, most monasteries have precise places where expression is strictly banned. For instance, these nuns may be banned from speaking in the refectory or chapel.
Though no specific religious orders take a vow of silence, the monastic tradition greatly values silence. They talk as little as possible when it is not a recreational period. They are even taught how to walk downstairs or close doors to avoid causing unnecessary noise.
What is the purpose of the vow of silence?
The vow of silence is believed to help one understand their deepest motivations and desires. This is because when sitting in silence alone, one faces their inner questions at a more intimate level. Therefore, the vow of silence is believed to help one preserve inner peace or develop self-knowledge.
Nuns that observe silence also believe that it leads to better thoughtfulness in speech. Instead of always talking, practicing silence makes one more thoughtful of their words. Therefore one can use their words in a more positive way after being silent for a while instead of using them to hurt others. It, therefore, teaches them to have more meaningful conversations after practicing silence.
According to some people, the vow of silence is also meant to deepen listening to people around you. Others also practice the vow of silence since they believe that it helps one achieve a higher state of spiritual purity. Some nuns also practice silence to avoid sins of the tongue.
How long does the vow of silence last?
The duration of this vow varies depending on the monastery a nun is in. In most religious orders, nuns choose to remain quiet for a precise part of the day. For instance, they may decide to practice this during prayers or while working. Some pledge to remain silent for a set period of time. For instance, Catholic nuns observe the Great Silence, which begins at the canonical hour of Compline up to Lauds the next day.
Can nuns who take a vow of silence talk to each other?
When nuns practice silence during certain durations, they are not allowed to talk to each other unless it is absolutely necessary. According to the Rule of St Benedict, if nuns talk to each other after coming out from Compline, they may be severely punished.
In addition, some monasteries do not encourage nuns to talk to each other outside periods of prayer. Though verbal communication is not encouraged during periods of silence, nuns can still pray or sing hymns. Though they practice silence and are not allowed to talk to each other during specific periods, they may use sign language for essential communication.
Can nuns take the vow of silence for a day?
Since silence is a crucial part of the lives of nuns, they practice it quite often. While some choose to remain silent during specific periods, like during prayers, others have made silence part of their lives. For instance, some nuns dedicate their lives to a life of silent prayer. They rarely speak unless during recreational times before bedtime or during mass when they sing hymns.
However, note that there is no monastic order that goes 100% with no talking at all. Ecclesiastes 3:7-8 reminds us that there is a time for everything; a time to speak and a time to keep silent. Therefore, the nuns limit conversation during the day to create that balance.
What time do nuns observe their vow of silence?
The nuns practice silence during different parts of the day. We mentioned that the great vow of silence starts at the biblical hour of the night prayer known as Compline. This lasts until the first office of the following day, Morning Prayer, known as Lauds.
Additionally, most monasteries have precise scheduled hours when the nuns have to practice silence. For instance, they may be required to observe the vow of silence during other prayer periods or while working. In some orders, conversations among nuns are also forbidden in church. Some monasteries also encourage nuns to practice silence at night to avoid disturbing those who wish to engage in Bible studies.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.