A strange silence at Canterbury Cathedral


Canterbury Cathedral in the United Kingdom has a long history. In 597 A.D, Pope St. Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine of Canterbury to evangelize the people. For centuries the cathedral has served as a sacred place in which to worship God. Yet in 2024, 3,000 people entered not as worshippers, but as revelers. For two nights people gathered to dance to contemporary pop music. This event was meant to raise money for upkeep through ticket and alcohol sales.
Yet, if you were to watch a video of this event you might notice something strange: you cannot hear any music. DJs played music transmitted wirelessly to headphones worn by the revelers throughout the cathedral. Organizers called this a “Silent Disco.” You can witness two strange effects: When singing lyrics to a song, they do so in a haphazard and disjointed way. When not singing there is a cacophony of noise in which nothing and no one can be heard clearly. The reason is simple: they cannot hear each other.
Two quintessential qualities of a sacred space are music and silence. Each in their own way unify the people, whether in the union of voices singing songs together to God, or in the union of minds listening in silence to what God has to say to all present. In this event the people could neither hear God nor each other.
Sacrilege is the misuse of sacred spaces. This event demonstrates at least two of its pernicious effects: we cannot hear God or each other precisely in those places meant just for that.