The first time I that read the Holy Rule of St. Benedict, I was particularly struck by the adaptability of the Rule to family life. This is not to say that a family should follow the Rule to a T. Rather, in our home life we should emulate the virtues that are needed for the particular roles in a monastery. Also, a structured routine of prayer, work, and planned relaxation is key for the formation of holiness. I have found that our whole family is happier when we have a routine, and that our routine helps us all learn the discipline required for forming virtuous habits.
One of our good college friends will soon be joining a monastery, and in discussing his future life, I asked him about the daily routine at the monastery. He described his day of waking early to pray, to eat breakfast, to pray, to work, to pray again, to pray more, to eat the afternoon meal, and then what they call “the Little Silence” (as opposed to “the Great Silence” at night). In the Rule, St. Benedict describes it in this way: “After the sixth hour, however, when they have risen from table, let them rest in their beds in complete silence; or if, perhaps, anyone desireth to read for himself, let him so read that he doth not disturb others.” (The Holy Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter XLVIII).
I stopped our friend when he got to “the Little Silence,” exclaiming that we have that in our own family routine. Everyday after lunch, the children spend an hour or so alone looking at books and quietly playing alone with toys. Those of napping age “rest in their beds in complete silence.” The goal of our own Little Silence is for the children to have time each day to learn to love books and time to learn how to be alone in silence. And it is a time for me, as the parent at home, to spend on quiet activities and spend some time alone as well. I think that any parent can appreciate the need to spend an hour or so in silence in the middle of the day.
After the Little Silence, Benedictines return to their work, pray, eat supper, wash up, pray, have recreation, and then have their Great Silence. And in our home, that is about what we do with a little less praying and a lot more of getting children to bed. The Great Silence for us begins after the last child comes out of her room for the last time.
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