Carving out time for quiet is nearly impossible in our society all abuzz with chatter and I’ve found it to be especially difficult in our family of ten.
Even when I catch a rare moment where the house is all asleep, I almost don’t know how to behave in the serenity of quiet. My mind races with the details of our busy household. Winding down from my day for some deep breaths and time with my Lord is a real challenge.
As it is with many things, however, I’m finding practice makes….well, a little closer to perfect.
My husband and I have both found profound value and deep spiritual renewal in the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius and when the opportunity presents itself (usually annually for my husband because he’s very disciplined) we will step away for a silent retreat.
We feel very strongly the desire to instill in our children the ability to be silent and to embrace silence and contemplation. Several years ago, we felt called to establish silent dinner times in our home during the Lenten season.
Our eight chatterbox children are currently between the ages of two and sixteen, so we needed to begin by defining silence in a way that was realistic for our family dynamic. Toddlers can mimic the behavior of their parents and siblings and put forth their best effort, but will it ever be completely silent? Not really, but we’ll do our best and not sweat it when things go amiss.
God sees our effort and it’s quite remarkable how small children can rise to the occasion when the whole family is involved.
Some meals, we simply eat in silence without talking. Other times, we will play a recording in the background. Quiet music works, but we’ve also used our pastor’s recorded homilies, saint stories, and short family-appropriate videos by Father Mike Schmitz. On Fridays, we will often meditate on an audio recitation of the Stations of the Cross or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
We’ve found it sacrificial in that we have to wait to bombard Daddy with the news of the day, but mostly it’s just edifying to be still as a family and contemplate the mercies of the day and oftentimes our quiet reflection propels us into inspiring conversation with our older children.
Once we had muddled faithfully through our first Lent of silent suppers, I wondered whether the tradition would repeat itself.
The next year, as our family began to formulate our Lenten commitments, every one of our children wanted to continue the tradition and it has become a regular annual blessing in our home.
If you’re wondering if this could work in your home, consider starting simply by trying it just on Fridays as we remember the Passion of Our Lord. Then perhaps consider adding an extra day or two as Lent continues on.
Be gentle with yourselves and keep your expectations reasonable.
When we can offer a little bit to Our Lord, He always pours out His graces.