Category Archives: Prayers

Momentum, Writing, and Prayer

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I was thinking about this post on writing my novel, and I realized that incremental progress is only one of the advantages of daily writing and daily prayer.

When I write every day, I develop a momentum. The words I wrote today make the words I write tomorrow come easier and with more energy. If I miss a few days writing, I find it hard to get started again. I have to get my head back into the story, find my voice again, find out what happens next.

When I am writing daily, I am living in the story. What happens next is laid out in front of me, like the little arrows on Google Street View.

In physics, momentum is mass times velocity, or roughly equal to the heaviness of the object times its speed. In writing, the speed is how many words we are writing each day or better each week. The mass or heaviness is how important the writing is to us. The more important our writing is to us, and the more regularly we are writing it, the more momentum we’ll have, and the easier it will be to keep going.

Prayer is like that. The speed is the percentage of our time we spend in prayer. The heaviness is the intensity of the prayer. As we develop prayer momentum, prayer – which is characterized by our closeness to God and the graces he provides – becomes easier to keep going, and the graces multiply.

This, I think, is a concept for hope, because in the beginning both the writing and the prayer are hard. Sometimes they seem too hard; it seems like we try and try and only fail. We make so little progress in the beginning for the work we are doing.

But, think of the enormous aircraft carrier, or battleship.
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Sitting in the dock, so massive, it takes an enormous effort to begin the motion, but once underway, momentum keeps it going forward, and soon it is speeding across the ocean.

Or think of the rocketship. It requires huge solid fuel boosters to be able to separate itself from the Earth. But in minutes those boosters are shed, and it powers ever upward, riding its momentum.

Don’t give up. Be patient. Let your momentum build.

Teach Your Child to be a Prayer Warrior!`

Today our six-year-old son Elijah earned his Prayer Warrior trophy. He’s been looking forward to this moment all summer, working hard toward the goal, and today he accomplished it.
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What is a Prayer Warrior? When we moved to our new parish, we wanted to instill in our younger kids a more reverent attitude toward Mass and toward daily prayers. Our son Elijah is an accomplishment-oriented child. He loves competing in sports and games, and he loves earning trophies and medals. Even the medals from the summer reading program at the library are special to him. We thought that a trophy would be a suitable motivation for him to learn to really pay attention and participate at Mass, so we set up a Prayer Warrior program, taking advantage of the fact that the whole “spiritual warfare” concept would be appealing to a six-year-old boy.

We set up on the refrigerator a paper with ten blocks. Each day, if he paid attention and prayed out loud during our nightly prayers, he would get a star in the block for that week. Then on Sunday, if he had achieved six stars, and if he did a good job of sitting still and paying attention at Mass, he would earn a sticker for the block. As the weeks progressed, our expectations for his behavior at Mass and during prayers increased gradually. He knew that once he received ten stickers, we would send away for his Prayer Warrior trophy.

He did a great job, and his behavior at Mass has been transformed. It was never particularly bad behavior, not distracting to those around us, but he fidgeted and didn’t really pay attention as well as he should. Now he sits like an angel, faces forward, and participates as well as he can. It is inspiring our four-year-old as well, who can’t wait until she is old enough to be eligible for the Prayer Warrior program.

We’re thinking about extending his Prayer Warrior program further. Perhaps having medals akin to those achieved in Boy Scouts, perhaps having an “advanced level” trophy. He could achieve these levels through memorization of prayers, regular reading and/or memorization of scripture, saying the rosary on his own, and so forth. The biggest benefit is that he sees that prayer life is important to us, both our own prayer life and his prayer life. These little motivations help to instill a sense of that importance within him.

It was really easy to put together the “program”. All it took was a quick printout formatted in MSWord, and a trip to the local trophy shop for a $4 trophy. But it will be something that he remembers for a very long time.

A Different Approach to Family Prayer Time

Recently, we shook up our family evening prayers, and it’s been such a blessing that I thought I would share it.

My wife started a subscription to the Magnificat about six months ago, and that his been a great boon to her spiritual life. We were inspired a couple of months back to incorporate it into our family prayers, and it has evolved into something special. Here is what we do:

Setup
As always, family evening prayer takes place in our bedroom where there are no distractions of TV, computer, toys, telephone, or food. We have a little prayer corner with crucifix, statue of the Blessed Virgin, and a few icons as well as a Bible and Holy Water. To this we added two candles, the kind you find at the store, in tall glass containers with a picture of Christ on them.

Procession and Hymn
Yes, we have a procession! Mom, Dad, and oldest daughter sing the hymn, usually accompanied by music off of youtube (I continue to be surprised, finding music to almost every Catholic hymn on youtube). We will sing a capella if we have to. The younger three process in with the crucifix and candles.

Prayer Leader
Dad leads the prayers. We choose either the Magnificat evening prayer or night prayer, which are based on the prayers from the Daily Office. I start us off and pray the introduction as well as lead us through an examination of conscience.

Server
Our second son is the server. He is too young to be an altar server at Mass, but he longs to be, so this lets him live out that desire now. He takes the book from me and presents it to each reader in turn, bringing it back to me as necessary.

Readers
There are three key readings: the Palm, the Word and Mary’s Magnificat or the Canticle of Simeon. These are done by Mom, oldest son, oldest daughter, and even occasionally the younger kids with help from Dad. We have a special place in the room where the reader stands.

Intercessions
Dad leads the intercessions. After those of the Church, each person adds their own special intercessions.

Group Prayers
After the closing prayers, we prayer our group family prayers:
Our Father
Hail Mary
Glory Be
St. Michael
We will also add any others here that the younger kids have to learn for school, though that won’t be an issue till the fall.

Latin Prayers
Our summer project has been to learn our core prayers in Latin. We did the Ave Maria in June, the Pater Noster in July, and we are now working on the Gloria Patri for August. So at this point each person (even the 4-year-old) says their Latin prayer of the month as best they can. Then as a group we pray the Latin prayers we have already learned.

Collection and Announcements
Yes, we do a collection and announcements, but only on Sunday nights. Added on behest of the kids, we moved them to only once a week just to keep bedtime from getting too late. The kids are responsible for deciding what charity the collection will go to. The announcements are nice because they give the younger kids a little taste of public speaking.

Recession and Closing Hymn
And we end it with a hymn and a recession of the crucifix and candles. Then it’s off to bed!

The whole thing takes about half an hour. The blessings it has brought are:

1. All the kids are enthusiastic about prayer time. They have ideas for how to make it nicer and more holy.
2. The nightly prayers aren’t rote and they can’t be rushed.
3. Our nightly prayers are united with the nightly prayers of the Church, and the kids get a taste of the Divine Office.
4. Everybody participates and has a unique role.
5. We are praying more and better and enjoying it as a family.

So that is our new prayer tradition. I would love to hear about your family prayer traditions!

Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

O Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Heavenly beauty and splendor of the Father,
You are the most valued Heavenly treasure.
New Eve, immaculate in soul, spirit and body,
Created of the godly seed by the Spirit of God,
You are the spiritual Mother of mankind.
Pure Virgin, full of grace then and now,
Your whole being was raised Heavenly in full glory,
To be elevated above all the hosts within the Kingdom of God.
O Heavenly Mother, Queen of Heaven and earth,
I recognize the glory of your highest title,
The Immaculate Heart of Mary!
Loving Mother, dispenser of endless blessings,
You who continuously intercede on our behalf,
Please present my need before your loving Son Jesus.

O Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I know that you are now presenting my need before Jesus,
For you have never turned away those in dire need.
Mother dearest, I await your favorable answer,
Submitting myself to the Divine will of the Lord,
For all glories are His forever and ever.

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

O Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul, I adore thee. Enlighten, guide, strengthen and console me. Tell me what I ought to do and command me to do it. I promise to be submissive in everything that thou shalt ask of me and to accept all that thou permits to happen to me, only show me what is thy will.

The Seven Spiritual Weapons of St. Catherine of Bologna

Today is the feast of St. Catherine of Bologna. Here is a good summary of her seven spiritual weapons to be used against temptation. Given the amount of temptation the 21st century has to offer, I think we need these weapons!

A Family Prayer to Jesus. Mary, and Joseph

My priest sent us this prayer. I liked it so much that I thought I would pass it on.

A PRAYER
FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY

Dear Lord, bless our family.
Be so kind as to give us the unity, peace,
and mutual love that You found in Your own family
in the little town of Nazareth.

Saint Joseph, bless the head of our family.
Obtain for him the strength,
the wisdom, and the prudence
he needs to support and direct those under his care.

Mother Mary, bless the mother of our family.
Help her to be pure and kind,
gentle and self-sacrificing.
For the more she resembles you,
the better will our family be.

Lord Jesus, bless the children of our family.
Help them to be obedient and devoted to their parents.
Make them more and more like You.
Let them grow, as You did,
in wisdom and age and grace before God and man.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
make our family and home more and more like Yours,
until we are all one family,
happy and at peace in our true home with You.

Amen.

Spare a Moment Today for St. Joseph, Especially if You are a Dad

With Divine Mercy Sunday falling on May 1 this year, the optional memorial for St. Joseph the Worker is pretty much destined to be optioned out till next year, but if you can, sometime in your busy schedule, spare the foster-father of Jesus a few moments. He is a wonderful example for all who toil, but especially for those of who are dads.
Below is a prayer to St, Joseph the Worker, which I pray each time I sit down at my desk to start my work day. It really helps to keep the ups and downs of “working for a living” in perspective.

Glorious St. Joseph, example for all who are engaged in toil, pray with me please to obtain the grace that I may work in the spirit of penance and so make atonement for my sins. . . that I may work conscientiously, keeping devotion to duty before my personal feelings. . . that I may work with thankfulness and joy, holding it an honor to use and develop by my labor the gifts I have received from almighty God.
Pray with me that I may obtain help to work with order, peace, moderation, and patience-and never shirk duty because of weariness or because of difficulties encountered. . . and that, before all else, I may work with a right intention and with detachment from self, keeping always in mind the hour of my death and the account I must give then for misused time, for neglected talents, and for good not done, and for any foolish pride on my success-a fault so fatal to the work of God.
All for Jesus, all through Mary, all in imitation of you, Joseph most faithful! This shall be my motto in life and death. Amen.

The Spiritual Bouquet of St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales is the author of Introduction to the Devout Life, sort of a how-to guide to applying the scriptures to every day life.

In Chapter 9″, the first of ten preparatory meditations, this Doctor of the Church writes, “At the end of your meditation linger a while, and gather, so to say, a little spiritual bouquet from the thoughts you have dwelt upon, the sweet perfume whereof may refresh you through the day.” This was a new idea to me, and it has helped to create a marked improvement in my prayer life.

What is a Spiritual Bouquet?

From what I have seen and read, there are three different kinds of spiritual bouquets: the doctrinal bouquets, given to us through the saints; prayer bouquets, made up of the standard prayers of the church; and there are personal bouquets, as described in the first quote of this article.

Spiritual Bouquets from the Saints

In the Preface to this wonderful book, St. Francis de Sales describes a girl who arranges common flowers into beautiful bouquets.

“The flower-girl Glycera was so skilled in varying the arrangement and combination of her flowers, that out of the same kinds she produced a great variety of bouquets; so that the painter Pausias, who sought to rival the diversity of her art, was brought to a standstill, for he could not vary his painting so endlessly as Glycera varied her bouquets.”

He goes on to compare this flower girl to the Holy Spirit, working through the Saints in the various ways the describe God’s revelation:

“Even so the Holy Spirit of God disposes and arranges the devout teaching which He imparts through the lips and pen of His servants with such endless variety, that, although the doctrine is ever one and the same, their treatment of it is different, according to the varying minds whence that treatment flows.”

So we see that although we have one set of flowers, the doctrine provided to us through scriptures and Holy Mother Church, these flowers can be arranged into a vast variety of bouquets. St. Francis de Sales has arranged one for us. Other bouquets – very different – are from St. John of the Cross, St. Louis de Montfort, St. Thérèse of Lisieux and a host of others who put their spiritual thoughts on paper. Other Saints arranged their bouquets through the actions of their lives – Mother Theresa, though not canonized yet, is a modern example. Still others give us devotions such as the Divine Mercy and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

As fallible and sinful men, we need these bouquets so that we can come to a more full understanding of God’s plan of salvation, and His very real love for us. What a blessing that the Holy Spirit has provided so many different ways to learn and grow in the faith!

Prayer Bouquets

An apologist on Catholic Answers forums describes spiritual bouquets this way:

“A “spiritual bouquet” is a group of prayers gathered together for a particular intention. The idea is that each prayer is like a flower and that the group is like a bouquet mystically offered as a gift to God for a particular intention. That is why, for example, you’ll sometimes see Catholics organize “spiritual bouquets” for particular purposes, such as for the intentions of the Pope in honor of his birthday. Those who participate promise a certain amount of prayers and devotions for the intention and then the list is compiled and given to the person whose intentions are being remembered in prayer.”

A good example here are the rosary campaigns we do for Forty Days for Life, where a basket is kept in the church, collecting markers for the number of rosaries prayed for the campaign. It is a beautiful way to compound the power of prayer for very specific intentions.

Personal Spiritual Bouquets

But what did St. Francis say in Chapter 9?

“At the end of your meditation linger a while, and gather, so to say, a little spiritual bouquet from the thoughts you have dwelt upon, the sweet perfume whereof may refresh you through the day.”

In this case, at the end our prayers and meditations, we think back over our prayer time, searching for those nuggets that we want to remember and contemplate over the course of the day. I find as I do this now, that the benefits of my prayer time are greatly enhanced. My prayers stay with me over the course of the day, and I am more likely to learn something.

The richness of our faith is truly inspiring! St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!

Consoling Our Sorrowful Mother

As I was praying the sorrowful mysteries – on the fifth mystery, in fact – I found myself imagining I was at the foot of the cross, next to the Blessed Mother, attempting, vainly it seemed, to console her as her Son died before us. It occurred to me that when we pray the Rosary, or any Marian prayer, we are consoling Mary in her sorrows, by showing her how much her Son is loved. And if we console His mother, are we not pleasing the son?
Just a thought.