Submitted by Tara Ann Thieke

Cardinal Sarah: The Shepherd

Robert Cardinal Sarah (pronounced Sar-AH), a soft-spoken Catholic Cardinal from rural Guinea, may seem an unlikely candidate for the Nine Worthies. Leadership qualities are often associated with loudness, visibility, confident personalities, and, most unfortunately in our time, producing a recognizable “brand.” Cardinal Sarah, rarely heard speaking above a whisper, does not so much storm the television cameras as bow his head in silent prayer.  He is neither brash nor a firebrand; rather, his wisdom and holiness make him a shepherd for the people. He catches the attention through the manifestation of his radical peace, standing head and shoulders above the blurry din, calling us back to Christ.

While non-Catholics may know little about Cardinal Sarah and be hesitant to support a more sectarian choice for the Nine Worthies, there are many reasons his work and life are a beacon for all peoples. Cardinal Sarah has pinpointed “the dictatorship of noise” as a prime source of the emotional, mental, and spiritual despair in our society and in our own hearts. His 2015 book God or Nothing and 2017 book The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise have, without resorting to academic jargon or impractical abstract debate, provided a concrete lexicon for re-envisioning our lives in the midst of an electronic deluge.

If our time is characterized by technological innovations which allow us to put endless walls between ourselves and Creation, Cardinal Sarah reaches out to guide us to our true home, showing us the spiritual damage resulting from the ceaseless pursuit of material accumulation and sensory seduction. Rather, he advises us that peace is to be found through communion with God, a message very unlike the advertisers and culture-shapers who place self-gratification as the highest good. Cardinal Sarah, in his role as a shepherd of the Church, reminds us of our true nature. It is not in power. It is not in domination. It is not in “bigger, better, faster, stronger.” The shepherd knows that by entering into silence and devotion we can re-encounter the love, wisdom, and wonder which heals wounds, soothes the heart, and draws us back to God.

Cardinal Sarah, perhaps more than any other living person, is mankind’s greatest advocate for understanding the fragility and beauty of the Imago Dei; how it is besieged by forces of destruction, power-lust, and waste; how Christ desires us to return to His love. While the wisdom of picking one of the Nine Worthies from among the living is debatable, the technological revolution of the past 25 years has so drastically altered the fabric of our lives that there is prudence in picking a guide who is fully aware of the challenges we face.

Cardinal Sarah’s own words, though, are the best argument for why IDP members should select him as the shepherd figure for our Nine Worthies this October:

Mankind has never been so rich, yet it reaches astounding heights of moral and spiritual destitution because of the poverty of our interpersonal relationships and the globalization of indifference.
God or Nothing

Our eyelids remain open incessantly, and our eyes are forced to look at a sort of ongoing spectacle.  The dictatorship of image, which plunges our attention into a perpetual whirlpool, detests silence.  Man feels obliged to seek ever new realities that give him an appetite to own things; but his eyes are red, haggard, and sick.  The artificial spectacles and the screens glowing uninterruptedly try to bewitch the mind and soul.  In the brightly lit prisons of the modern world, man is separated from himself and God.  He is riveted to ephemeral things, farther and father away from what is essential.
God or Nothing

If our ‘interior cell phone’ is always busy because we are ‘having a conversation’ with other creatures, how can the Creator reach us, how can he ‘call us’?
The Power of Silence

Sin blurs man’s face. Now Christ came not only to save mankind but also to repair what sin had broken, to snatch man away from everything that disfigures him, so as to restore to human destiny all its breadth and fulfillment.
God or Nothing

Mankind must join a sort of resistance movement. What will become of our world if it does not look for intervals of silence? Interior rest and harmony can flow only from silence. Without it, life does not exist. The greatest mysteries of the world are born and unfold in silence. How does nature develop? In the greatest silence. A tree grows in silence, and springs of water flow at first in the silence of the ground. The sun that rises over the earth in its splendor and grandeur warms us in silence. What is extraordinary is always silent.
The Power of Silence

Often, like Abraham, we do not know where God is leading us. Whereas we would like a stable, perfect universe, the human path is torturous, winding, and muddy, like the one that leads to my poor village of Ourous. However, we must never forget that man is never alone.
God or Nothing

Today, in a highly technological, busy world, how can we find silence? Noise wearies us, and we get the feeling that silence has become an unreachable oasis. How many people are obliged to work in a chaos that distresses and dehumanizes them? Cities have become noisy furnaces in which even nights are not spared the assault of noise.

Without noise, postmodern man falls into a dull, insistent uneasiness. He is accustomed to permanent background noise, which sickens yet reassures him.

Without noise, man is feverish, lost. Noise gives him security, like a drug on which he has become dependent. With its festive appearance, noise is a whirlwind that avoids facing itself. Agitation becomes a tranquilizer, a sedative, a morphine pump, a sort of reverie, an incoherent dream-world. But this noise is a dangerous, deceptive medicine, a diabolic lie that helps man avoid confronting himself in his interior emptiness.”
The Power of Silence

Modern society can no longer do without the dictatorship of noise. It lulls us in an illusion of cheap democracy while snatching our freedom away with the subtle violence of the devil, that father of lies.
The Power of Silence

Sounds and emotions detach us from ourselves, whereas silence always forces man to reflect upon his own life.
The Power of Silence

The most important moments in life are the hours of prayer and adoration. They give birth to a human being, fashion our true identity; they root our existence in mystery.
God or Nothing


Do you have someone you would like to nominate for the Nine Worthies contest? If so, please email editorialboard@imagodeipolitics.org to share a few words on why this individual is a good candidate. Voting will be held in late October.