Using summer as a time to practice silence
To most people, summertime is about free time — especially to those who follow a school schedule. No early mornings, no rushing to school and activities, just time to rest. That’s the idyllic picture we like to envision, but life is usually far less idyllic, isn’t it? I think one way to help focus on getting some more rest and restoration in the summer is to plan for it to happen. That seems almost counterintuitive, but when we don’t plan to rest, we may find ourselves at back-to-school time feeling just as we did in the beginning of the summer. Our children are no different. They need to learn how to rest, be still, and spend time engaging in something that is both restful and restorative. This prayer service is meant to give us a taste of how God has called us to be his own and that coming to know this truth can help restore us.
Set up the environment
Set up a small table with a crucifix, open Bible, candle, clock or hour glass.
Father God, we have reached the end of the school year. We have learned, laughed, prayed, and grown this year. Sometimes it has been difficult to do all the right things, and sometimes it has been easy. No matter what, though, we are better for having been together. Thank you for all you have given to us. Amen.
Read Deuteronomy 7:6-11 to the group. Before you begin, ask the group to listen for the words that are important to them. Read it slowly, pausing slightly between phrases. Begin with: “A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy”; read the verses and end with “The Word of the Lord. ℟ Thanks be to God.”
Ask for the words that the group thought were important. Repeat them to be sure they are heard by all. Point out that the reading is God speaking to the people of Israel, but the words are for us too. God has indeed chosen us; he loves us, is faithful to us, and wants us to keep his commandments. When we accept all that God gives us, it is easier to keep the commandments, because we do it out of love for him and as a way of thanking him for all he has given us.
Psalm prayer (from Psalm 46)
℟ Be still and know that I am God!
God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress. ℟
God is in [the earth’s] midst; it shall not be shaken; God will help it at break of day. ℟
Though nations rage and kingdoms totter, he utters his voice and the earth melts. ℟
The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob. ℟
Come and see the works of the Lord, who has done fearsome deeds on earth. ℟
Be still and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth. ℟
Practice being still
Tell the group you want them to practice something that can help them sit with God and rest with him. Have them sit comfortably with their hands on their lap and their eyes closed. Ask them to imagine that God is gazing at them with love. Tell them if distracting thoughts come into their mind, they should let them float away, like a cloud in the sky. Invite them to silently repeat a simple word or phrase — a short prayer: “Jesus,” “Come, Lord Jesus,” or “Come, Holy Spirit.” Set the timer for two minutes.
Ask them to practice that silent time with God every day this summer, making the time a bit longer every day and then maybe doing it twice a day.
LEADER: Father, hear our prayers of thanks for calling us to be your children.
℟ In your mercy, Lord, be with us.
Thank you, God, for never leaving us. ℟
Be with us, God, in everything we do, keeping us safe and close to you. ℟
Thank you, God, for all we have learned this year. (Depending on your group, you could ask for one thing learned.) ℟
Teach us to rest and be still with you. ℟
Thank you, God, for our parents, our teachers, and our friends. ℟
Add a song to your prayer, if time allows.
■ “Still” by Hillary Scott & the Scott Family
■ “Lord of My Life” by Matt Maher
Father, our school year is over, but we are never done learning about you and loving you. And you are never done loving us and calling us to you. Thank you for choosing us to be your children. We love you. Amen.
DEANNA BARTALINI, MEd and MPA, is a writer, speaker, and catechist serving on the retreat team at Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center in North Palm Beach, Florida. She is the author of Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women: Invite the Holy Spirit into Your Life. Find more at DeannaBartalini.com.
PHOTO: CHAT KAREN STUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK
This article was originally published in Catechist, April-May 2020.