Do I sin by silence?

In The Beautiful Mystery, Inspector Gamache is called to an isolated monastery to find who murdered one of the monks. The monks have taken a vow of silence, though occasionally they are allowed to speak and they sing beautifully. Few people know the monastery exists, or even that their order–the Gilbertines–still exists.

Given the isolation, the murderer is obviously one of their twenty-four members. Given the vow of silence, Gamache finds the monks reluctant to answer questions or aid the investigation.

Over dinner, the old abbot rises and addresses the monks:

“Our order has been tested over the centuries. And this is another test. Do we really believe in God? Do we believe all the things we say and sing? Or has it become a faith of convenience? Has it, in splendid isolation, grown weak? When challenged we simply do whatever is easiest. Do we sin by silence? If we have real faith then we must have the courage to speak up. We must not protect the killer.”

–Louise Penny, The Beautiful Mystery, page 97

I’m not investigating a mystery, nor am I a monk. But I find this passage challenging and as applicable to myself as much as the isolated Gilbertines.

Do I believe all the things I say I do?

Do I do whatever is easiest?


Do I sin by silence?


11 thoughts on “Do I sin by silence?

  1. What a great set of questions to get from that passage, Laura. Sins of omission can hurt others quite a bit. In Nehemiah 6 when Nehemiah prayed for strengthened hands, I think he meant more than just physical strength. I think he was asking God to give the Israelites the resolve to act.


    1. I say Amen to that, Tim. It is so easy to go on automatic pilot and avoid evaluating ones motives and actions in light of scripture and then more importantly, asking God for help to change.


    2. Good observation. Sometimes it’s harder to have the RESOLVE to act than knowing what the right action is. Sometimes it’s obvious what we need to do, but we lack the courage to do it. We (I) am too easily discouraged, just like the Israelites were.


  2. Thank you Laura, you always give me something to think about and you have made me want to read these mysteries. Hopefully, I can, after I finish the three books I started about three months ago. 🙂
    “a faith of convenience,” sums up perfectly what I have been trying to articulate for a few weeks now. Christianity should be more about sacrificing for the good of others than a badge to flash to prove I am in the “in” crowd. If that makes any sense. I think that is where I am headed in my faith and of course that means opening my mouth at times and saying what I think even if I know it will cost something to say it. Isn’t it great that God can give insight through novels? This whole writing experience has given me a greater appreciation for the written word in all of its forms. I am especially grateful for those of you that willingly share your ideas freely with others. It really is helpful.


    1. It makes sense to me! So many of us (me!) find it convenient to have a Christian faith (especially where I live, where it would be culturally harder to be a non-Christian than a Christian), and I lack the desire to have my faith “cost” me anything. Sometimes I wonder if I’d be a Christian if I knew I’d face jail, torture, or death.

      I really enjoy Penny’s novels; she takes the mystery genre to a higher level. Be forewarned, some characters use the f-bomb or live not-so-squeaky-clean lifestyles. The violence isn’t gratuitous, though, and rarely graphic, any sex takes place off the page, and any crude language used is in keeping with the character and his/her personal issues. Some Christians wouldn’t enjoy her work because of these elements, but I still do, obviously.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The novel did sound fascinating, Laura! I meant to write that last night, but when I’m on that bloody elliptical, I get cryptic! 😉 But I do read every word. 🙂 And I enjoyed that post – it made me go “oooooooh” out loud at the end. I’ve stayed at a beautiful monastery twice for the weekend (writing retreats with Madeleine L’Engle) but of course I barely had contact with the residents. They made “killer” chocolate chip cookies every day which they put out *everywhere* for us to gobble. I gained 10 pounds in 2 days. Thankfully no murders took place.


      2. One fun thing about Penny’s novels is the food! The characters live in Quebec, and there’s a ton of French influence, which translates into some fantastic descriptions of mouth-watering food. In one Penny mystery I read, one inspector tells another, “We’d better solve the mystery soon or we’ll all gain weight!”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. this is a great post – also Sin by Silence” is a harrowing documentary from director Olivia Klaus chronicling a group of women who started “Convicted Women Against Abuse (CWAA)” in 1989 while incarcerated at the California Institution for Women for murdering their spouses/partners.


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