In a beautiful Lenten message, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI taught us how we should approach Lent and what we should hope for, saying, “May every family and Christian community use well this time of Lent, therefore, in order to cast aside all that distracts the spirit and grow in whatever nourishes the soul, moving it to love of God and neighbor.” As we begin to think of how we will draw closer to the Lord during this time, the temptation can sometime be to use Lent as a sort of “new year’s resolution” or excuse to finally stop eating sugar. While not totally wrong, our time of Lent can be hindered by this view.
The Lord is not wanting us to think about how we are “flawed” or “broken” so we can change for the better for forty days—he is asking us to look at how we can more fully enter into a relationship with him. In our earthly relationships, we are sure to spend time with our friends, being attentive and listening. We need to do the same with the Lord. During this upcoming Lent, how can we, as Pope Benedict encouraged, cast aside our distractions so that we are able to receive the love and closeness the Lord is wanting to give to us?
 Pope Benedict XVI, “Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI for Lent 2009”, 2008.
Creating Space for Silence
A good way to start is by looking at the noise in our lives. The exterior noise that we hear (like music, car horns, or people chatting) can play into a damaging utilitarian mindset, making us feel like we are constantly going and completing tasks if we are not careful to rest. We can work on this during Lent by looking at our daily schedules and considering what we are spending our time doing. We can lessen the distraction of noise by doing things like turning off music in our cars, getting rid of social media, or removing our email notifications from our phones. Creating space in our schedules for more exterior silence will allow us to be more present to those around us, and to more easily turn to the Lord.
Lessons From the Saints
The saints are helpful instructors on the unique journey of holiness we are each called to. Many of them write about the importance of not only an exterior silence, but of an interior silence as well. Anyone who has attended a silent retreat can speak to this distinction. It is often not enough to remove ourselves from the loudness and noise of daily activity because our inner noise, or the “lunatic of the house” as Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange mentions, is also something that can disturb our peace. St. Faustina describes this saying, “In order to hear the voice of God, one has to have silence in one’s soul and to keep silence; not a gloomy silence but an interior silence; that is to say, recollected in God.”
This silence is something that must be practiced and involves surrendering our distractions, thoughts, and worries to the Lord. A good way to do this is to create a figurative box while beginning prayer. When beginning, allow yourself the space to tell the Lord about these thoughts and distractions. Do not be upset by their presence, but surrender them to the Lord and allow Him to hold them. If a distracting thought returns or comes up during prayer, ‘place it’ back in this box, giving it to the Lord.
 R. Garrigoiu-Lagrange, The Three Ages of the Interior Life.
Learning an Ancient Spiritual Practice
Once we are in this state of silence, it is easier to hear how the Lord is speaking in our life. One way to dive deeper into relationship with the Lord in this silence is through lectio divina, or divine reading. This practice of praying with scripture has been a part of the Church since at least the 6th century. When practicing lectio divina, pick a scripture passage and pray with it a series of times. The first time, lectio, involves reading the scripture through to simply understand what the scripture says. The second time, meditatio, allows us to reflect on one word or phrase that may be sticking out to us. The third step, called oratio, involves responding to the Lord in prayer. After reflecting on what stands out to us, we can speak to him, giving him ourselves. The fourth step, called contemplatio, involves us re-reading the scripture, and sitting with the Lord, allowing him to speak to us and rest with us. It may mean calling us into action, and creating a goal based on this time of prayer. In fact, many people add a fifth step, actio, to encourage just this. One beautiful way to practice lectio divina during Lent is to pray through the Gospels.
As you prepare for Lent this year, allow yourself to go into moments of ‘the desert’ with Christ, speaking to him and allowing him to speak to your life. Even if you do not ‘hear’ something concretely, he will be speaking to you through the quiet. Sometimes, he speaks in the calm of the quiet, giving you a moment of peace amidst the busyness of daily life. He desires a relationship with you, so enter into this Lent striving for an opportunity to be able to better hear his voice.