Greetings from the Institute

Dear Institute Members,

The season of Lent has now begun, a season during which the Church encourages and challenges us to grow spiritually, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We take up certain penances, some of them as a community (like fasting and abstinence on Good Friday) and some of them individually.

As you consider your spiritual practices during Lent—perhaps fasting from something you enjoy, adopting a new habit of prayer, doing some spiritual reading, and so on—let me encourage you to consider, as well, the environment in which you do it.

Do you have enough silence in your life? In my work as a teacher, I’ve found that most people are far more immersed in (and affected by) noise and distraction than they realize, and that this noise and distraction is a serious hindrance to their prayer lives, to their relationship with Our Lord (and other people), and to the living out of their vocation as Christians. As the poet T.S. Eliot put it, so often we are “distracted from distraction by distraction.”

I invite you, then, to read two articles: “The Dopamine Fast” by Robert Mixa, and my own article “Trading Noise for Silence, and How to Use It.” The former will help you see the importance of reducing distraction and addiction to electronic devices, and the latter will give you a specific practice to engage with silence—and to recognize your own need to step out of the distraction cycle, and center yourself on Christ.

I’ve done this exercise with students many times over the years, and I can promise you that it won’t be easy. In fact, it may be difficult, even distressing—yes, indeed, just sitting in silence for twenty minutes can be a shock to one’s system. But I can also promise you that it is a salutary shock and perfect for Lent. Give it a try, and God bless you!

Dr. Holly Ordway

Cardinal Francis George Fellow of Faith and Culture