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How to Find Quiet When Your Home is Full of Noise

Holy Week Series, Part I

For Christians, Holy Week is the most focused time of the year. I’ve heard this since I was a kid. The problem, if we can call it one, is that life still churns around us while we try to find solace in a seemingly ordinary week. 

But, as is often the case, we know that it is not ordinary

I’m wondering today about something quite simple- how do we find quiet underneath the noise? Underneath the churn, how do we walk differently during Holy Week?  I write these words from my basement. It’s morning and my teenagers are upstairs prepping their breakfast. They talk about the rain the night before while the coffee maker comes to life.

Noise. Beautiful noise. The ordinary sounds of a busy family. The churn. The dog rambles up the stairs, leaving me to my words. 

How do you find quiet when your home is full of noise? What you don’t do is eliminate the noise, unless of course you are a monk. That’s not the call for most of us. Rather, it’s about appreciating the facts around you and inviting the Lord into the churn. 

I get to listen to the sound of teenagers rustling around before their school day. I get to write in my journal. I get to consider how Holy Week is the most profound invitation of the year.  

Try inviting the Lord into the noise of your life this week. I suspect you’ll find him waiting for you there. 

Five Things You Can Do For Lent (and why they matter a whole lot!)
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Ash Wednesday begins on March 6, 2019 and for millions of people around the world, this means something- action. All of us want to put our faith into action and Lent is the perfect time to do this.


People will begin a 40 day sprint towards Easter and will either give things up - a sort of sacrifice- and also try out new things. It’s also a wonderful time for humility, a time to acknowledge that our prayer lives are rarely what they ought to be. As St. Josemaria Escriva said, “You don’t know how to pray? Put yourself in the presence of God, and as soon as you have said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to pray!’ you can be sure you’ve already begun.”


I figured it would be interesting to connect five actions you can take during Lent to my upcoming book, The Five Habits of Prayerful People. I wrote The Five Habits in order to provide a virtual toolbox of strategies for prayer. It’s designed for the busy person in mind.

Before we link the book with Lenten action, let’s remind ourselves why Lent matters in the first place. Lent comes from an old word meaning “lengthen”- as the days get longer, the sunlight returns and we inch ever closer to Easter. Since Easter is all about Jesus triumph over the cross through his resurrection, Christians have, for thousands of years, practiced a sort of “retreat” during Lent. This looks like, not surprisingly, a series of actions designed to help us get ready for Easter. 


Lent is a fitting time for self-denial.
— Pope Francis

If you “do Lent right”, you’re more likely to enter into the deeper mysteries of the season and as a result, draw closer to Jesus. As Pope Francis said, “Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt."

The problem of course is that we get distracted, tired or bored during Lent. The things we resolve to give up can become a distant memory if we’re not laser-focused on the task at hand.

Ok, let’s now match a strategy with each of the Five Habits:

  1. Habit of Passion and Pursuit >> Begin to enjoy five minutes of pure silence each day. Start with one minute each day for a week. Each week, add a minute to your silence. Invite God into the stillness.

  2. Habit of Presence >> Look people in the eye. When you are in public and in passing or when you are one-on-one with someone… work to give them your full attention.

  3. Habit of Preparation and Planning >> Choose the tools you’ll use during your morning quiet time. This will likely be a Bible and journal. Besides that, what else speaks to you? An icon? A crucifix? Identify and group the tools you’ll use. Place them somewhere that you’ll have your daily quiet time.

  4. Habit of Persistence and Perseverance>> Install a quote that inspires you in a place you’ll see it. This might be a quote from a saint or a Bible quote. Put the quote inside your journal or Bible. Or, have the quote framed and placed in a spot where you’ll see it often.

  5. Habit of Pondering>> Take one day off from technology each week. This is the single most powerful strategy I’ve used in the last five years. Step back from your phone and give God one day a week to break through the noise of digital stimulation.

These strategies really work. More significantly, they matter a whole lot. They contribute to a more prayerful life and collectively will help you to slow down. When we slow down, we are more present and it’s much easier to find God in everyday life. 


Quick Win: Learn the One Phrase that Will Transform Your Prayer


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Is It Selfish to Take Time To Pray?

Maybe you’ve heard of it? Exodus 90 has taken the Catholic world by storm in the past year. A program for men to practice ascetic routines, prayer and fraternity, Exodus 90 has become synonymous with “I’m serious about my faith”.

I was at a recent event and one of the attendees was on day 33 of Exodus 90. At one point, he broke off from the group in order to find a chapel and pray. I was impressed. It wasn’t as if he got up in front of everyone and made a scene. Rather, he used the free time in the meeting schedule to head off and pray.

When was the last time that you broke off from the pace of your day to pray?

This “breaking away” can feel very selfish. What will people say? Will anyone notice? How will it be interpreted?

A bit of context here: Jesus took time for prayer. Luke 5:16 says this about the Lord’s time management, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

We could end here and just leave it at, “If Jesus did it, I can too...” This would be reasonable.

But how about some other practical bits of advice? Here are three that come to mind:

  1. Don’t think that everyone is watching you. The man I was with at the meeting? I doubt that anyone even noticed that he was gone.  The same goes for you and me when we take a few minutes alone to pray.

  2. Many good things in life can be seen as “selfish”. Eating healthy foods is selfish and also something you should do. Working out is selfish and also something you should do. Getting 7-8 hours of rest is selfish... you get the point.

  3. Sometimes you just need to get away. As you build spiritual momentum, God will impress on you the times when you just need to get away. 

Is it selfish to pray? Sure. Does that mean that it’s something to avoid? Hardly.

Anything that’s good for us has a level of self-reference but that shouldn’t stop us from doing it. Give yourself permission to get alone with God and together, get on the same page. You’ll be glad you did.


Quick Win: Watch this Video about Morning Quiet Times


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How to Create a Prayer Corner in Your Home
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I had the pleasure of attending an event for over 15,000 college students earlier this year. While the workshops were fantastic and the vibe electric, two things stood out for me and they both had to do with spaces for prayer.


One was a large room that was transformed into an Adoration Chapel. With chairs arranged as they would be for a church (i.e. straight ahead), an altar was placed in the front of the room with the Blessed Sacrament exposed. A large crucifix was hung and a nice backdrop established. To the right and left of the altar were separate prayer areas with specially lit artwork. The idea was that you could pray in a number of different ways in this space. See my photo below to get a better feel for it.

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The second prayer space was mentioned briefly in one of the keynotes. The speaker mentioned that he had recently moved to a larger home that offered two walk-in closets. Not needing one of them, he converted it into a “chapel”, outfitted with pews that he found on Craigslist from a Baptist church. His point: if you’re serious about prayer, why not dedicate some space in your home for it?


When I got home, I realized that a tiny spot in my office might work well for a prayer “zone”. You can see the photo below, with Ace the Fierce Guard Dog opening up the Word!

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 I’ve realized three things about this prayer space:

• It’s an excellent “teacher” for my children. When they see the area, they know that it’s not an ordinary space.

• It gives me, as a visual learner, a focal point. While most of my prayer is eyes-closed, I love the items in my space and they remind me to stay focused.

• It uses an otherwise unused space. I was just going to install a bookshelf for envelopes and extra paper supplies. What I now have is an attractive area to meet with the Lord.


Here’s a homework assignment: look around at your home. Where can you establish a prayer corner? What special items can you include in your corner? Some ideas might include:

• A Bible

• An icon

• A small plant

• A crucifix

• A relic (no stealing one from your local church!)

• A holy image


Ok ready to make your prayer corner? Go for it! I bet that you’ll find, as I have, that it amplifies your prayer life and provides a wonderful example to those with whom you live.

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How to Create a More Resilient Prayer Life
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Romans 12:12 says, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

This quote is more relevant than most of us realize. As we grow in our relationship with God, it is only natural that we experience of daily prayer that has fits and starts. Being faithful in our prayer lives is critical.

It can often feel like “one step forward and two steps back”. One day, we enjoy our daily quiet time and the next feels like we’re drowning. As Fr. Ronald Rolheiser says, “Sometimes we walk on water and other times, we sink like a stone.” Can you relate?

In my book, The Five Habits of Prayerful People (coming in 2019), I talk a lot about the importance of staying with prayer. You’ve got to keep at it and try your best to avoid discouragement. Others call this resilience and in academic circles, it’s known as grit.

Gritty prayer warriors have three qualities:

  • They take the long view. They realize that, in any given week, they will have good moments of prayer and ones that feel rather ordinary.

  • They do not dwell in their sin. They recognize when they’ve messed up, name it, own it and ask for forgiveness. Then, they remember that God loves them and has already died for their sins. This brings an overwhelming sense of newness and of starting over. The emphasis is on God and not our sins.

  • They value progress over perfection. A steady person of prayer understands the human condition and isn’t surprised when they are imperfect. 

Grittiness, not something you and I think of often but very much a quality of a mature spiritual person. St. Bonaventure said, “When we pray, the voice of the heart must be heard more than that proceeding from the mouth.”

As I continue to write about prayer, it strikes me that there are quite a few moments in our spiritual lives that invite us into deeper resilience.

These might include:

  1. Rather than beating yourself up over missing daily Mass, taking five minutes to schedule the next time you can get to Mass. This will integrate your busy schedule with your desire for communal worship.

  2. Rather than skipping your daily quiet time altogether, choose instead to have five quiet minutes of prayer. Like physical exercise, a little goes a long way.

  3. Instead of avoiding the Sacrament of Reconciliation for months at a time, practice a daily examination of conscience at the end of the day. By building this muscle of personal reflection, you’ll be much more in tune with what’s going well (and what isn’t) in your daily life. Then, when you can get to Confession, you’ll be more prepared and feel more in sync with God.

Resilience is a choice. God puts dozens of moments into every day for us to opt for a more gritty spiritual life. When will you spot your next moment to be resilient?

This Advice is For Me Too- Let Me Explain

I was on a recent trip to give a talk at a large college in the south. On the trip down, I was prepared to deliver my speech but on the inside, I wasn’t feeling particularly spiritual. In the airport, I was playing the competition game, measuring myself by everyone else, as if they all had life figured out and I was just a rookie. It didn’t feel good. Ever had one of those moments?

The following day, heading home, I stopped at my gate at the airport. To my right, I glanced out the window and saw something that arrested my morning. The sunrise, simply doing its thing, was stunning.

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I needed that moment and I’m glad that God gave me the “pause” to appreciate it. God does this all of the time, if we will just have the eyes to see.

A spiritual life that is resilient savors these moments and discovers them over and over again. Enjoy them. Look for them. Count on them. They will spill over into your prayer life and make a tremendous difference. 


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The Right Time to Jumpstart Your Prayer Life
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Prayer is a lot like working out- the more you do it, the better you feel. Besides the emotional, confidence-building aspect of regular prayer, it also contributes to your intimacy with Christ.


On the flip side, the less often you pray, the less confidence you have and, on your side at least, the farther you could be from God. I say “on your side” because God never leaves us. His love is constantly poured out on us, whether we have an active prayer life or not.


Romans 8:37-39 says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


St. Paul is clear- God’s love is constant. It’s God’s very nature to love people.


As a father, I can relate at least one some level. When I look at my four children, I want for their good. I want them to succeed. I want them to have good friendships. I want them to know the Lord.


Any honest question for those who want to pray more often but are hesitant to do so is this, “when is the right time to jumpstart my prayer?”


Two thoughts in response to this:


The fact that someone is asking the question implies some desire to know God more fully. This is excellent. To use a simile, it’s similar to inquiring about when someone ought to eat more healthily.

The “right time” doesn’t exist unless you consider every moment of every day to be “right”. Since God is pouring out His love on us each and every moment, now is the right time. Five minutes from now is the right time. Two years from now is the right time.


This is both good news and overwhelming. Since every moment is charged with opportunity for intimacy with God, it’s hard to know when to start.


My advice is not so much about timing but about paying attention to the moments in front of you. Notice your own spontaneous desires to pray. Then, do it.


Here are some examples that may help:


  • You notice a car accident on the side of the road. Emergency vehicles tend to a person behind the wheel. Say a prayer for that person.
  • You drive by a church and are ever-so-briefly reminded that God is worshiped there. Say a prayer to thank God for spaces in which people can pray.
  • You think of your elderly parents when you are in the middle of your day and aren’t sure why. Say a prayer for them, asking God’s provision for their health.


It’s simple: pay attention to the spontaneous moments in your life. As a response, pray. Trust that God puts people in your way and thoughts into your head. His inspiration, His “nudgings” are wonderful opportunities to grow in intimacy with Him.


This spontaneous-pray nowness is not a replacement for a daily quiet time. That is the backbone of a momentum-building life of prayer. Still, the spontaneous moments help us to answer the question- “when is the right time to jump start my prayer life?”


Right now. Pay attention to God’s work in your day.