A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Silence Isn’t Always Golden

Posted on: March 7, 2013

When I wash dishes, I usually listen to the radio or a podcast. When I watch TV, I often make to-do lists, leaf through flyers, or knit. It’s as though not multitasking somehow feels wrong.

If I sit still for a while and it’s quiet in the house, I’m tempted to doze off, especially if I’m sitting in a recliner. (Apparently my grandfather used to say that when the feet go up, the eyelids go down, or something along those lines.)

Not surprisingly, I often find it hard to concentrate when I pray silently. And then I feel guilty because I know that I need to spend time with God to keep on the right path and grow in faith. So if you struggle to be still and pray alone in silence, as I do, how can you connect with God through prayer?

  • Clear your mental to-do list. Easier said than done, I know. I’m the kind of person who always has lists on the go (groceries or gifts to buy, chores to do, crafts to finish, etc.). Writing down your to-do list first means those precious minutes can be used to pray rather than to worry about whether you’ll remember what you need to buy or accomplish.
  • Pray with your family. In s. 2694, the Catechism tells us “The Christian family is the first place for education in prayer.” When it’s time to say grace before meals, family members can take turns; you can even buy prayer dice with a different table grace on each side. You can come together for family prayer time before your kids go to bed (or before you do, if you turn in earlier than your teenagers do) or say a decade of the rosary as a family. Kids can take turns leading the rosary or other prayers.
  • Be truly present at Mass. Being in God’s house—whether it’s a small parish church or a basilica—helps me to pray. You can bless yourself with holy water on entering and leaving the church, add your own silent prayers during the prayers of the faithful, kneel for a few moments of prayer after receiving the Eucharist, or light a votive candle and say a prayer after Mass.
  • Attend a Eucharistic adoration or the Stations of the Cross service. If your parish church doesn’t have a perpetual adoration chapel, there may be services that combine scripture or other readings with Eucharistic adoration time, offering you a chance to listen and pray. A Stations of the Cross service may include hymns as well as the readings and prayers.
  • Participate in a group that says the rosary together. Or say the rosary or a chaplet on your own at home. I find that meditating on the mysteries and passing the beads through my fingers helps keep me focussed. You can pray for various intentions—for example, by saying a rosary with pro-life meditations. There are also many chaplets, such as the chaplet of St. Anthony, the chaplet of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and the Divine Mercy chaplet. If you’re a new Catholic, you might wonder how someone could say the same prayers over and over and still find the practice meaningful. I think it’s something that you just have to try to know whether it works for you.
  • Go on a pilgrimage. You can visit a shrine in a distant country, take a tour of the Holy Land, or follow the Camino de Santiago. But going on a pilgrimage doesn’t have to mean taking a long trip; there are shrines here in Canada and in the U.S. The Catechism has this to say about pilgrimages in s. 2691:

Pilgrimages evoke our earthly journey toward heaven and are traditionally very special occasions for renewal in prayer. For pilgrims seeking living water, shrines are special places for living the forms of Christian prayer ‘in Church’.

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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