An Advent gift of silence

A few years ago, our family spent three days at Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon. We found ourselves drawn in by the beauty of the monks praying the Liturgy of the Hours in that magnificent church. Possibly the most pleasant was Night Prayer as the monks finished their prayers singing the Salve Regina before a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child.

An antiphon from those nights of prayer stuck with me: “Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.” I found myself longing to experience that kind of peace every night.

That peace proved elusive back in the world of homework struggles, after-hours emails and negotiating who drives which daughter where. More often than not, bedtime can feel like a crash landing where we abruptly try to shut down minds and bodies that spent the day playing the frantic game of whack-a-mole that is modern family life.

Many families, ours included, cannot fully reproduce the abbey’s Night Prayer experience. What we can do is something much simpler: a dedicated time, just before bed, where we set screens aside and spend 15 minutes in silence.

The time can be spent reading. But only books. No screens. And we ask for subject matter that points our hearts to God. We set out some potential reading material — the Bible, Mere Christianity, etc. — in case our girls didn’t bring a choice of their own. We set a timer on my phone and put it out of view. That prevents clock-watching.

I encourage meditation during this time, but through modeling rather than instruction. The idea is we provide the Holy Spirit with time, and an invitation. The keys to this strategy are simplicity — we can all spare 15 minutes (start with less if needed) — and scalability — we can add time as we go.

Advent is a natural time to start this practice. During this season of new beginnings, we remember how gently Jesus came to us as the Christ Child and look for ways to welcome him into our lives.

In our world of sensory overload, one of the greatest gifts we can offer our families is a time of silence. This Advent, start this new tradition and offer your family distraction-free time when our hearts can receive Jesus and his gift of peace.

Northwest Catholic - December 2020

Deacon Eric Paige

Deacon Eric Paige is the Archdiocese of Seattle's executive director for evangelization, formation and discipleship. Contact him at [email protected].

El Diácono Eric Paige es el Director para el Matrimonio, la Vida familiar y Formación en la Arquidiócesis de Seattle. Pueden contactarle en: [email protected]

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