The Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 38
In my experience, one valuable aspect of practicing verbal silence at meals is that it eliminates many of the problems that common meals provide for new or shy people. Some might not find it easy to make their way into the life of the tables we share, and this Benedictine practice clears the way for everyone's full participation in that life.
Another valuable aspect of this practice of silence at meals is that it can open the door to what Thich Nhat Hanh calls "mindful eating". He describes the mindful eating of a carrot:
You may like to smile to it before you put it in your mouth. When you chew it, you are aware that you are chewing a piece of carrot. Don't put anything else into your mouth, like your projects, your worries, your fear, just put the carrot in. And when you chew, chew only the carrot, not your projects or your ideas. You are capable of living in the present moment, in the here and the now. It is simple, but you need some training to just enjoy the piece of carrot. This is a miracle.
We will need some training, indeed. Thanks be to God for the school of our Father Benedict.