Fr. James Martin, SJ: Silence as the Bridge to Christ, the Self and the “Other” (Episode 13)

Fr. James Martin, SJ is the author of numerous books as well as an editor at America magazine. A Jesuit priest, Fr. James has emerged as one of the leading voices for Ignatian spirituality — and Catholicism in general — for our time. He has also become a lightning rod for some segments of the Catholic world — his gentle call for greater dialogue between the Catholic Church and LGBT Catholics has led to social media attacks along with calls for boycotts and cancellations of Fr. Martin’s speaking engagements. Yet he himself remains undeterred, seeking to be a voice for hope and reconciliation in our troubled world.

“We’ve developed this culture of noise and distraction so much, that when people are alone with their thoughts or alone with silence, it’s frightening.” — James Martin, SJ

The Encountering Silence team met Fr. James Martin when he presided at a Mass for a Pax Romana meeting in New York last December that the three of us attended. Several weeks later the four of us gathered via Skype for a rich conversation exploring  the connections between silence, Ignatian spirituality, prayer, spiritual direction, meditation, interspirituality and interfaith dialogue, and how writing (and revising) his book Building a Bridge has made a difference in his own ministry. Fr. James also muses on the essential connections between silence, relationship, and God — and how silence and prayer can help us to overcome fear of “the other.”

Our phones — a friend of mine the other day called them “weapons of mass distraction.” — James Martin, SJ

Incidentally, when we recorded this episode, the release date for the paperback edition of Building a Bridge was scheduled for March 13, 2018. Subsequently, the publisher moved up the release date one week — so the book is available now.

God enjoyed silence when God was on the earth with us.
— Fr. James Martin, SJ

The verse from Ecclesiastes that Carl mentions is Ecclesiastes 3:11: “God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart…” (New International Version)

In terms of prayer and silence, I participate in it ultimately to be in a deeper relationship with God… I meet God in silence, and God speaks to me in silence… God always speaks to me in silence, I just need to be paying attention. — Fr. James Martin, SJ

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

Episode 13: Silence as the Bridge to Christ, the Self and the “Other”: A Conversation with Father James Martin, SJ
Hosted by: 
Kevin Johnson
Carl McColman and Cassidy Hall
Guest: Father James Martin, SJ
Date Recorded: 
January 29, 2018
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Carl McColman
Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.


  1. As an artist working most Winter days in-studio, the mind, even a creatively-at-work-mind can go numb, or just get board of listening to even the best music and there are only so many Moth and This American Life (hey, I’m Canadian) podcasts I can intake in one go. So, I messaged my good friend Tim to ask him for a podcast and didn’t have to tell him I was looking for something along the lines of the contemplative/prayer/silence/faith-journey as our ongoing conversation is all about all of that. He sent me the link to this episode of this new-to-me podcast. What a gift. My challenge now is to rest with this for a bit and not go binge listening the back catalouge.

    P.S. Love the bell with invitation to a 30 second silence at the half-way point in the podcast. Yes, yes I did stop to center for thirty seconds.

    1. Owen:

      Thank you for your kind words! I am so happy that you found us and that Tim knows of us. We are trying to find like minded individuals who want to know about this topic. I invite you to go back at your pace and to hear the other episodes. You can listen to any of them and in any order but I will tell you the pilot and first three episodes unpacks our personal stories and why this podcast and the directions we hope to head. These show notes always link to resources that people may wish to check out and to support their own journeys into silence.

      Please let other like minded people in your life know about us. We are trying to create a community and talk and learn from people. If you feel like supporting us, the easiest way is to rate us on iTunes and give reviews. It will bump us up in rankings and more eyes will see our page and will hear the conversation.

      So happy to have started this conversation with you.

      In solidarity and silence,

    2. Thanks so much for listening, Owen.
      Your works are beautiful.
      It means so much that you would take the time to listen. But, more than that. It means so much that you would take the time to pause in the silence with us.
      May your creative winter thaw.
      Blessings to you and your work.

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