Praying With a Toddler

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Catholics hear quite regularly how central our prayer life is in our daily living. It is what centers our lives and it is what helps us to focus and have a relationship with Jesus Christ. How to foster that prayer life, is the difficulty. Add to the mix motherhood and marriage, and things get really interesting. I have a two year old and that brings all kinds of challenges, and blessings, to my prayer life.

A year and a half ago I got the very unexpected call to become a Lay Dominican. What does that mean exactly? It means that while I am a wife and mother, I have been called to be part of a religious order. I live as a layman, but I also live as a Dominican in my “Domestic Church”. Being a Dominican comes with set prayer requirements. They are daily recitation of Lauds and Vespers, daily Rosary, daily Mass as much as possible (not much of a possibility at present), 15 minutes of study in Scripture or Church documents daily. Thankfully, it is not under penalty of sin, so when I mess up, I am not facing mortal sin. This is a curse and a blessing.

Some of you may be thinking that I am crazy to take on such a hefty requirement while raising a two year old. I feel that way some days, but Christ called me and I have to follow Him. My call, quite frankly, was rather dramatic and like the Heavens opened up. It is the most dramatic thing that has ever happened to me besides when I knew that I would marry my husband. The biggest struggle is working all of this prayer into my daily routine. Lauds is one of the biggest challenges, mainly because of my struggle with sloth. I don’t tend to get up earlier than everyone else, so that means that I am trying to fit it in mid-morning while my toddler is begging me to play with her non-stop. Every day I tell myself to get up at 5 am so that I can have some quiet time in prayer and every morning I hit snooze until the sun is well into the sky and it is 645 am and my daughter is up for the day. Yes, I am ashamed to say, my husband makes his breakfast most mornings while I try to make up for any sleep I lost because our toddler climbed into our bed in the middle of the night.

So how do I make my prayer life work around the craziness of my primary vocation? First, I have not mastered it, but I keep trying daily. Holiness is a lifetime endeavor. None of us become saints overnight. There are times I pray Lauds while my daughter plays at the park, or I wait until her naptime. I have to pray my Rosary in the car some days in order to fit it in. Vespers is done as I prepare dinner. There are days I lay down to go to sleep and realize that I forgot my 15 minutes of time in Scripture.

I do try to include my daughter in my prayer time when possible. My husband and I will pray the Rosary together a couple times a week. We fail at this sometimes, but are working on doing it together. Our daughter has little to know attention span, so she can make it through one or two Hail Marys before she is off and running. These are blessed moments and at least she will see me pray albeit poorly, each day.

Some days are filled with consolation and others are dry. That is the nature of the spiritual journey. I have noticed that many of theses dry days come when I have fallen into sinful patters, so off I go to Confession. Regular Confession is an integral part of the spiritual life. It helps us to see what sins are deeply imbedded in us and gives us the grace to overcome them. As a Dominican, monthly Confession is required, but even that is not enough for me most months. I NEED Confession like the air I breathe. And more than anything, I need the Holy Eucharist.

There are great challenges to putting Christ first. There are so many other things that need our attention, but the most important is our relationship with Our Lord. Pray in the shower, in the car, while playing with your kids, while doing the dishes. Just find time to commune with God in the middle of the craziness. Pray a Rosary in the car. Or like I need to, get up a bit earlier. No matter how insane our lives may get, we must center ourselves on Jesus. Oh look at the time, I need to pray Lauds…….

Liturgical New Year’s Resolutions

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Happy New Year! The Church has begun a new liturgical year. We are now into the First Week of Advent as we await the coming of our Savior. During Mass yesterday I started to think about how silly I think New Year’s Resolutions can be. They are yet another way to drive consumerism. It is the time of diet books and gym memberships. But, what about spiritual resolutions?

As Catholics, do we fully appreciate a New Year in the Church? We once again are waiting in joyful hope for Our Lord’s coming on the Feast of the Nativity. We are always waiting for Jesus’s Second Coming, but many of us do not think about it in our daily lives. That is one of the beautiful reminders we hear during Advent. Soon we will be in Lent and then the Sacred Triduum that leads us into the great Feast of Easter. The Church lives in a rhythm that follows the life of Christ. It teaches us how to fully live out our vocations.

As I sat in Mass thinking about a fresh start liturgically, it made me think about some spiritual resolutions for this coming year. Have you ever created resolutions for your spiritual life? The Year of Faith taught us to do this and Advent is a great time to start.

First, I want my husband and I to work on our prayer life as a family with our daughter. We used to be really good about a family Rosary in the evening, but the first couple of years of parenting have put that on the back burner. I now pray my daily Rosary on my own. Usually it is when I let Michaela play in the bathtub, during nap time, or walking around the yard as she plays. She sees me pray often throughout the day, but I want her to participate in prayer with Phil and me. It will also strengthen our marriage to pray together each day.

Second, I want to study more this year. I started reading Blessed John Paul II’s Crossing the Threshold of Hope. It is amazing! It has been a few years since I have read any of his books, but it reminded me of just how much I want to learn and study.

Third, I want to get a regular prayer schedule going. When I try to fit in Lauds, Vespers, a Rosary, and Scripture, I inevitably end up forgetting about one of them. I need to set different parts of my day aside for each one. Obviously Lauds should be the first thing that I do in the morning. Perhaps read Scripture with lunch. Do Vespers before my husband gets home from work, and then we can all pray a Rosary together after dinner. It is definitely something that I want to work on this year. One of the many things I love about becoming a Dominican is its regimented prayer requirements. I need order so that I can achieve discipline.

What are some things that you would like to change spiritually in your life? Think of a few resolutions for you to live out in this liturgical year and remember to take some time to appreciate the beautiful season of Advent, even though Christmas is everywhere. God bless.