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Taking time for silence during Lent

Last week, we began the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday.

When I was growing up, my mother encouraged me and my five siblings to spend Ash Wednesday in silence.

Whether she wanted us to learn the discipline or she simply needed some peace and quiet is up for debate! But I have always tried to spend Ash Wednesday in silence as much as I am able.

Spending time in silence is not only a good Ash Wednesday and Lenten practice, it is a necessary one for our spiritual growth. Father James Martin, SJ, reminds us that “… some measure of silence, even imperfect silence, is important because it helps us focus on what we’re praying about.” (From Give Us This Day, February edition).

Father Martin suggests that the way to cultivating the practice of silence is to consciously choose it.

Finding silence

Silence is difficult. We are surrounded each day with more stimuli than we are conscious of: radio, TV, phones, Internet, children, spouses, our work environment, traffic, lawnmowers, sirens, etc. Inner silence can be as difficult – or more so – than ignoring external distractions.

It takes a deliberate effort to find a time and space for total silence. Sometimes, it is all we can do to find 10 minutes of silence, but it is a start!

Making a commitment to the practice is the beginning and the benefits will soon lead to an increased desire.

It can be very hard to turn off our busy minds, to quiet our thought processes and turn our hearts and minds to God. When our minds begin to wander in our silent times, we must gently bring them back to God and to our prayer. It is a wonderful opportunity to be drawn back, not a stumbling block to our progress!

Lent may be the perfect time to begin the practice of seeking silence in our prayer time. Just as Jesus went to the wilderness to seek solitude and silence, we can journey to our own wilderness.

Just as Jesus went off to find quiet time away from the crowds to pray and renew his spirit, we can do the same. Our spirits need renewal too!

Lent can be the perfect time to begin – or to perfect – our time of silence prayer.

“Oh, how good a thing is silence.” – Saint Mother Theodore Guerin

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Nancy Olson

Nancy Olson

A native of Champaign, Ill., Nancy Olson became a Providence Associate with the Sisters of Providence in 2018.

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  1. Avatar Deb Griffey on February 24, 2024 at 6:37 am

    I began the Buddhist suggestion of giving my ‘monkey mind’ something to do so I could become more focused in my silence. I concentrate on my breathing.

    Thank you for this, Nancy. Silence is important.

  2. Avatar Paula Modaff, SP on February 24, 2024 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks, Nancy. Your article in the PA newsletter resonated with me when I read it earlier this week. I am grateful to have the opportunity to reflect on it a second time. As Deb Griffey noted, focusing on one’s breath is one way of deepening the silence. It helps me especially to remember that each breath is a gift of the Holy–as we breath in unison.

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