Being Too Busy Impedes the Spiritual Life

There is a trend in our thinking that can lead us to believe that we must be busy all of the time. This busyness can easily mask our own self-importance, fear of silence, over-extension, or be a sign of our own spiritual restlessness. American culture, and increasingly many other cultures, has a default setting of busy. From children to adolescents to adults, there is a drive in our culture to maintain a fully booked, or double-booked, schedule. There are sports, clubs, ministries, volunteer work, parties, and other commitments that fill the pages of our calendars. The problem is that in all of this busyness our priorities, both in the spiritual life and in our vocations, can become disordered. We can forget what is truly important and place emphasis on the wrong activities at the expense of those that are more important.

The items on our daily agenda that are the most important for a Catholic may not necessarily be what is most important in our culture. It is easy to fall prey to this mentality since it is all around us. Contrary to popular opinion, sports, clubs, extracurricular, and even ministries can become disordered if they are not properly ordered to God and our vocation of holiness. Here are some things to keep in mind when planning your days, weeks, and months throughout the year.

Prayer is first.

I know this can be tough to remember. I still struggle to begin my day in prayer and to pray throughout the day. There are days when I am going through the motions of bedtime prayers with my 4-year-old and my mind is elsewhere. If we do not focus on prayer from the very beginning of our day, we are likely to fall off track. The less we pray, the more we are in danger of sin and disordered inclinations. Prayer is the number one thing in our daily lives that deepens our relationship with God. If we can attend daily Mass, then our day will be fully united to Christ in the Holy Eucharist, which gives us an extra edge in the battles that will come our way. This is not possible for a lot of people, so that is why prayer is crucial. There are many ways to pray. We can spend 15 minutes in Scripture in the morning, pray Lauds from the Divine Office, do a Morning Offering, a Rosary, or any other approved form of prayer from the Catholic tradition. The type of prayer doesn’t matter nearly as much as the habit of prayer. Our days need to be prayerful, so that we can make decisions that guide our families and ourselves on the path of holiness. There is nothing more important whether it be a soccer game, homework, or Facebook. Prayer is the most important part of our day.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

When I Fall Short in My Vocation

If there is one thing that marriage and motherhood is teaching me, it is how deeply selfish I am; how attached I am to things whether it be: food, coffee, me-time, social media, TV shows, books, writing, etc.  These are all good things in and of themselves.  Writing for instance is a gift that I have been given and enjoy.  The problem is that I can have a tendency to put all of things before my daughter and husband.  When I read Elizabeth Scalia’s Strange Gods, I felt like I was reading my own story.  The idols that I have put up in my life are numerous.  I can be so engrossed in a computer screen and ignore the flesh and blood human being right in front of me.  What is wrong with me?

Well, first I am sinful, and like everyone else I have to learn to overcome sin.  Social media especially sucks us in and makes it very difficult to let go.  That is why my husband stopped using Facebook and would love if I would too.  I will say that I am just going to take 10 minutes, but it inevitably turns into an hour.  When I start to realize how much time I am devoting to such things, the guilt sets in.  Why can I not seem to stay fully present in my own life?
Second, I have been feeling pretty rundown this cycle.  Part of that is the long nights, but I discovered that my HCG shots are not doing the job.  My progesterone levels are great, but my estrogen did not rise much this month.  My hormone issues drive a lot of my moods and I was disappointed by the news.  I am hesitant to take estrogen because it can lead to a higher risk of female cancers, but I need to discuss it with my doctor when I talk to her in the coming days.  Even with my hormone issues, it is not an excuse, it is a part of my Cross.
As I carried my daughter in from the car to her crib this afternoon, I started to question myself again.  I have been too devoted to other things this week.  How has that impacted me?  First, my daughter has not gotten my full attention and has had to climb up onto my lap to remind me to play with her.  Second, my husband has not felt like I am paying attention to him.  Thirdly, my writing has suffered.  Fourth, and this should be first, my prayer life is stagnant.  When I am not living out my vocation everything suffers.
So I can sit here and beat myself up, again.  Or, I can ask Our Lord to give me the strength to overcome these sins and move forward.  This is why I love love love Confession!  I am most alive when I serve my family.  It is not glorious work, but it is for Glory.  I don’t find putting away laundry particular entertaining, but it serves my husband.  Reading to my daughter is a struggle because she does not sit still, but it is necessary for her growth.  Praying Lauds may feel mechanical, but it is preparing me for my day.
The more I am present in each moment, the less I focus on the heaviness of the world at large.  I already know there are horrendous amounts of suffering.  I already know that my religious liberty is slipping away.  I know friends are in need of prayers and I pray for them.  I do not need to dedicate huge chunks of my time to mindless scrolling on Facebook.  I do it and I don’t know why.  Yes I do, because I have not allowed God to fill me up.  I have allowed monotony and boredom to take over my life.  I have stopped looking at the little blessings in my life; like my daughter jumping in leaves or saying a new phrase.  The world becomes heavy and the darkness too much.  I lose sight of the bigger picture.
I am being brutally honest here.  I have failed in my vocation this week, and I will drag myself to Confession, again for healing and reconciliation on Saturday.  If I don’t do that, then I wallow in self-pity, which is a sin in-and-of-itself.  I need The Lord to gently remind me of my shortcomings so that he can heal them and make me stronger.  There is a part of me that would just like to sit on the couch, cry, and give-up.  Holiness is hard work and it takes a lifetime.
The problem with repetitive sin, is that it makes us give up too easily.  I did it once, so I may as well do it again.  That is why regular Confession is so important.  It helps to inoculate us against that kind of thinking.  I spent too much time on the computer turns into, I am just going to do it again.  Confession gives us the grace to overcome those battles and temptations, it does not mean we will not do it again. Confession re-focuses me on the task at hand.
I love my family, but am I giving them my all?  Our culture tells us that “I” am first, but as a follower of Christ, I know that I am last.  True freedom is in the emptying of self.  That is not easy for us sinful people, which we all are, but it is what we are called to.  I have been getting up at 530am to have some time to myself for coffee, prayer, and the news.  The time change has made that impossible.  My daughter is getting up at 5am right now.  The last two days I have stayed in bed and sulked while she watches a movie. Yes, I am an adult, most days.  My husband asked me why I did not just put her in the bed with him at 5am and then get up.  She fell back asleep for a few minutes.  I had no answer.  I was allowing my frustration to get the better of me.  Instead of focusing on my vocation of mother, I was focusing too much on what I want.
Moms and Dads need time to themselves.  That is perfectly healthy.  What I am talking about is when we put that time constantly above our families, which I do.  I am a stay-at-home mom, it is easy for me to fall into the temptation of sitting on the Internet whenever I have a free moment.  It is not what is best for me and I know it, but I do it anyway.  In fact, some days I am on the computer first and then pray Lauds.  Talk about my mixed up priorities.  I should be able to pray and drink coffee for a few minutes in the morning, but if I am honest other things are getting in the way.
I have two vocations: wife/mom and soon to be Lay Dominican, so my experiences may be slightly different from yours.  But, the point is that many of us have a tendency to put our own desires above our vocations.  Part of our vocation is learning how to prioritize in the right way.  One way I can learn to prioritize is to get things like blogging done while my daughter naps, instead of when she wants me to play with her.  Hey, I am a work in progress.
Are there areas of your life that distract you from your vocation?  Take it to Our Lord in the Confessional and ask him to help you overcome them.  Also make a point to stop by your parish once in a while and sit in silence near the Tabernacle.  It will do wonders for you.  Have a blessed day!