How do you get the family to pray together with TV, Internet, phones and a baby in the house?

With the exception of the baby, all of the sources of noise you mentioned can be turned off. Here’s where that gift of free will comes in. How much media and resultant noise and distraction do you want invading your home? How much daily conversation, spaces for peace and quiet, and prayer time do you want to be part of your family’s life? You have a choice on this one.

First, the TV. People get in the habit of leaving the television on, even when no one is watching a specific program. Does your family have some criteria for TV viewing? Do you discuss choices about appropriate programs and do you limit the amount of your lives spent in front of the screen?

TV is great for unwinding after a busy day, but it has the tendency to draw us into a passivity that results in hours of our life being spent watching other people’s drama. This includes too much news!

We’ve welcomed computers into our homes, and with them have come the pluses and great minuses of the Internet. Discretion is needed, which St. Hildegard of Bingen, doctor of the church, tells us is the highest of virtues.

More and more children’s homework involves use of the Internet. Hadn’t we better set up a schedule regarding true research versus browsing to see what the friends are up to on social networking sites? This suggestion for limited Internet usage includes adults.

Ah, our phones! It seems we’ve added another appendage to our bodies. Suddenly we can’t go from room to room without them. The incessant beeps, vibrations and loud, pretty much tasteless jingly tunes keep us constantly at their beck and call.

Here’s an idea: get an attractive basket that sits on an open shelf in the hall closet. Turn off and deposit all phones into the basket as people come to the dinner table. Shut the closet door.

Begin your meal with a prayer of thanksgiving for all the blessings of home, family, jobs, yes, even for school. Call to mind the needs of others who have asked for your prayers. Thank the Lord for the food before you, even if it’s leftovers. Then, with TV, Internet and phones off, talk about your day: the joys and the challenges. Include all family members, even the youngest.

Get up and clear and wash the dishes while reciting the rosary. As my mom always reminded us, it takes only 15 minutes. Now take another 30 minutes and go walk around the block as a family. Bundle the baby in her stroller and take the dog. Do this in all seasons and weather to appreciate God’s creativity expressed in nature. It’s pretty awesome.

Listen to the birds chirping; be on the lookout for signs of spring. When it’s dark and clear, notice the stars. Watch for the full moon and enjoy the seasonal decorations in the neighborhood.

Admire gardens, get ideas for your new front porch, and bring along a bag to pick up litter. Greet the people you encounter, those you know and those passing through. These simple practices can deepen the quality of your family life. You have a choice on this one.

(Christ is a consultant in ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The married mother of four young adult children, she gives talks and workshops, leads retreats and is a spiritual director. Christ self-publishes materials for parishes, and is the author of “Journeying with Mark,” “Journeying with Luke” and “Journeying with Matthew.” Published by Paulist Press, the books are intended to be used by families in the car on the way to Mass.)