Wednesday, July 9, 2014

//A M A M A 'S S C H O O L O F P R A Y E R //

When do you become a master of something. What does it take to get to the point where you can say, "I'm really good, in fact, I don't think I could be any better." I'm of the opinion this never happens. 

The closest I've ever been to being really good at something was when I was doing my undergraduate degree in piano performance. I practiced 3 hours a day, 7 days a week. I saw the fruit of all that practice as my skill developed. But the more I practiced and the more I advanced only showed me how much MORE work I would need to put in to be a truly great pianist. 

I don't think world renowned musicians like Yo-yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, or Emanuel Ax ever think, "I've arrived! I'm the best! I don't need to practice any more." 

Or think about doctors. I don't think they finish med school and say, "Finally, I'm done learning about medicine!"

Or athletes...... 

Ok. I don't actually know enough about sports to draw a sports analogy, but I think you get what I'm saying.

 And now I'm going to connect it to the Christian life- specifically prayer.  I hope that one day I will be able to honestly say that my prayer life needs no further improvement. But I don't really expect that to happen.  I think a prayer life is one of those things that requires a lifetime of practice, and can always get better, and if fed, will grow to no limits. 

This past year as I adjusted to being a mother my prayer life, along with other spiritual practices, had almost come to a stand still. Yes, we'd pray before meals, and yes, we'd pray for Johnny before bed. We had some times of crisis (Johnny's hospitalizations) that drove us to our knees in prayer. But daily personal prayer, reading and contemplating scripture, seeking the council of the Holy Spirit, that's what I have been lacking. 

I realized I needed to restart my prayer life after going to confession for the first time in over two months. My priest first told me that as a mother my strength is being constantly drawn upon and that I need "refill" with the healing graces of confession at least once a month, but every other week would be better. He also pointed out to me that I have been confessing the same things for quite a while. I already knew this, but I think I had accepted that those are the things that I will always struggle with, and thanks be to God I can bring them to confession. Actually, I was just being lazy and not trying to grow and change in between visits to the confessional. I was not feeding myself during the week. I was drying out, my spirit becoming malnourished and withered.

So this summer I've been (trying) to take action. I've been practicing prayer, emphasis on practicing. I'm figuring out how to have a spiritual life and be a mom at the same time. And this is what it looks like so far:

1. I have a rule for myself: no social media until I have done some sort of morning prayer. Sometimes I do this before I get out of bed, usually it happens while Johnny is in his highchair eating breakfast. I have the iBreviary app on my phone and often use their simple form of morning prayer. Sometimes I just say a daily offering, or something else to give the day, and myself,  to the Lord.

2. I try to do the daily readings. If I'm pressed for time I just read the gospel for the day. It nice to know I'm reading the same scriptures that are being read at every Mass in the entire world today. It keeps me connected to the Church, even though I can't attend daily Mass. (Another goal for another time.) It also gives me a context for the Sunday readings each week.

After I read I spend a few moments reflecting. I do this with a pen a paper, because that just helps me think better. I write down any prayer intentions for the day, people who have been on my heart. And I make a resolution for the day based on the gospel reading. The resolution is my faith in action.  I've just heard the Word, now I'm going to act on it. Sometimes it's concrete; instead of watching TV during Johnny's nap I'm going to do some spiritual reading, or write the fruits of the Spirit on a note card and put them on my bathroom mirror. Other times it's more abstract, like be patient when Johnny is difficult- much easy to write in a journal than to actually do. It's not always easy to think of a resolution, and it's not always easy to carry it out. But this is the part of my daily devotions that I have most enjoyed and that has born the most fruit. Try it!

In case you are asking how I do this with a 13 month old at home, the answer is: while he's in his highchair, occupied with food. And really, it takes me about 10 minutes.

3. I have an alarm set on my phone for 3:00 pm everyday- the hour of Divine Mercy. Tradition holds that 3:00 is the hour of Jesus' death on the cross. Many Catholics stop at that hour to remember Christ's passion, say a short prayer, and draw from the vast ocean of mercy that He made available to us while on the cross. It's quick, it's easy, thanks to my smartphone I don't even have to remember it, and it's a nice way to bring some peace into those afternoon hours, when things start to get crazy in baby-land.

4. I do an examination of conscience before I go to bed. This is the hardest one for me. By the time I get into bed I am so tired and the last thing I want to do is look back on the day to figure out where I screwed up. But when I examine my life today it helps me do better tomorrow. I am aware of my weaknesses, I ask forgiveness of the Lord, and sometimes Alex. (probably not enough of Alex.) I go to sleep in peace.

This is what I do. It's not perfect. Some days I don't do everything. Some days I don't do anything! But I've got a plan, and the more I do it, the easier it becomes. I'm practicing prayer. I'm opening my heart to Jesus, and He is so eager to come in at satisfy me.

What about you? How do you make prayer happen in the everyday? What works? What doesn't?

My little children, your hearts, are small, 
but prayer stretches them and makes them capable of loving God. 
--Saint John Vianney


  1. Love this. Found your blog courtesy of Nell, and this post really spoke to me. I feel like I'm always struggling with keeping up disciplines of prayer in the midst of life as a mom, and I love your idea about writing as a prayer and response to the day's readings. Lately I've been trying to do morning prayer first thing before reading anything else in the morning, and the days I do are always better! Thanks for the spark of inspiration to try again today.

  2. You are so welcome! Thanks for reading. I am actually an avid follower of your blog and have really enjoyed your Spiritual Practices With a Newborn series, so lovey!! Nice to blog meet you!

  3. You must be a kind people because you share your knowledge through articles. I like to read them. They are really good for everyone. Can you upload more articles? I believe that many people like me wait for your next posts.

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