Meditating on the first two decades of the sorrowful mysteries this morning, I had a series of successive thoughts that built upon each other that I thought I would share here.
I saw an image of our Lord, standing before me, wearing a white robe (like a long tunic shirt, but down to His feet), and across His shoulder down to His waist, He had instead of a belt, what I can only describe as a sash draped across, made out of roses.
I came to understand that this sash was a gift from Our Blessed Mother, who like any loving mother, gives good gifts to her children. The sash was fashioned out of the faithful Rosaries of her children, which she wove into a garment for her Son.
I also had the impression that this was not a decorative sash meant solely for adornment, it was like a military honor, gracing Our Lord in the symbol of victory before the final battles have been fought. For He has already won. I’d like to think (but don’t know if this is true), that the rose sash is perhaps the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, preceding His return.
For the past couple of years, it’s become something of an annual tradition for me to share about my ongoing efforts to craft and keep a rule of life. Since our lives are always changing, it makes sense that this is something that gets adapted as we face different transitions and obstacles to overcome. If you would be interested in looking at past years, you can find them here (2019, 2018) as well as my initial post on how to create a rule of life (here). Today, I wanted to share about how that’s been going so far in 2020, which has definitely been impacted by recent events.
I begin my mornings “in the usual way” (as Fr. Timothy Gallagher might say), with a prayer of gratitude in my own words, thanking God for the present day and all that is to be in it, good and bad, and ask for His help, that by my actions, He might be glorified, and my soul further sanctified. This transitions into my morning offering prayer (the Brown Scapular prayer). Usually after this, unless I’ve taken a brief break, I’ve transitioned to my favorite chair where I keep some of my Bible resources and begin other prayers.
This is a new change from last year, but over the past couple of weeks, I’ve begun by reading a bible verse of the day, and offering a prayer for the holy souls in Purgatory. Following this, I now pray a morning Rosary (5 decades) with the closing prayers. I am working on trying to memorize things as I go, like how to pray the “Apostle’s Creed”, or the “Hail, Holy Queen”, from memory. It’s a work in progress. When the rosary is finished, at the advice of a confessor, I have been praying the “Litany of Humility”, and because this felt incomplete, I wrap it up with the “Fatima Prayer” and an “Our Father”.
Most of my good intentions for prayers during the course of the day were completely abandoned unfortunately. That isn’t to say that I don’t pray during the day. I do. But they aren’t structured prayers like these typically. With intercessory prayers, they tend to be whenever it’s needed — either at the point I am reminded of a person or situation to pray for, or, if I’ve decided to pray for everyone at once, then at that point.
Lately, with the stay-at home orders, there’s been a lot more time for Adoration, which has been something I’ve been trying to do on a weekly basis, or as frequently as is offered and my schedule allows. With the churches closed for the physical sacraments, these fleeting opportunities are ones I cherish. And our regular activities being suspended, it’s been a creative exercise in finding ways to still keep a sense of normalcy with everything going on.
For example, it’s been two months (here at least) since we’ve been able to participate in mass in person. I am very grateful for the live-streaming masses available from pretty much everywhere, but it’s just not the same. I also found the opportunity to go to Confession once during that time, which has been of great help (even with the social distancing requirements in place). And this isn’t a sacrament, but, additionally, my Bible study group has switched to using an online video conferencing system during this time, so that’s been an amazing way to keep in touch with spiritual friends and still discuss the Word of God together.
All of my best-laid plans for evening prayer have gone more or less out the window. I still have a few bedtime prayers I say, as a way to end the day with the Lord. One of the things I’d been exploring was doing an evening examen, and that hasn’t happened at all. With the stay-at-home orders in place for the past two months, it’s really disrupted the daily rhythm of my life, and I find I’m going to bed later, and sleeping in longer, and not necessarily an improved change overall.
It’s been a time for introspection, prayer, and for processing a lot of emotions right now, and if I’m being quite honest here, I suspect that perhaps I’m not entirely alone in this. For those of you reading in a similar frame of mind, I’d like to encourage you to try and keep your heart tender to God speaking, and to be willing to act in obedience on His Word.
God has not abandoned us.
The Church will triumph in the end.
All evil is subject to God, who is still in control, and the mysteries of how He works are beyond our comprehension.
In the times past that I’ve had the most self-discipline when it came to an active prayer life, if I’m honest, it was because I kept a prayer journal. My cheap spiral-bound notebooks (lay-flat binding is a ‘must-have’ feature for me) became a home for daily check-ins as I recorded whether I’d remembered to prayed, what Bible passages I’d read, and record a few paragraphs, sometimes pages even, of conversations with God.
Creating a structured system, in effect, helped me during those periods to establish a rhythm of daily life and the focus to know WHAT I was going to do, and WHEN I was going to do it. Sitting in my chair, I had my journal and a pen, the Bible (in whatever translation I was presently reading), and a few spiritual books — books of prayer, books on the lives of the saints, devotionals, a catechism.
Lest you get the wrong idea, I am not saying that it’s a clinical habit, boiled down to a list of checked boxes. Far from it. But I have found that, at least for me, having some kind of structure does help with consistency, as a kind of personal accountability.
Most recently, I have started a new journal system, using an Erin Condren Petite Planner. It’s essentially their brand’s version of a traveler’s notebook, and this has been my go-to for keeping track of whatever needs to be done on a daily basis. One of the things I’ve found helpful is to portion off a book just for perennial reference items, like recurring lists, and a booklet of prayers. These are all handwritten in, and then referred to on a daily basis, or as the applicable situation which calls for that prayer arises.
What I really like about creating your own book of prayers (within a journal), is not only are you cultivating a reference section of prayers that you’ve found to be deeply personal to you, but, you’re more likely to use them because of the time (and hand cramping, ouch!) involved in scribing them in. Also, there’s something to be said for the act of physically writing something down as an aid to helping you memorize things, so, I definitely recommend that technique — yep, just like you’re back in school.
Otherwise, what I try to do is include the current date, and have a mental idea (if it isn’t written down already) of what the focus of the prayer time for that session is, and usually, I try to keep track of any intentions that I’m aware of (people that have asked me to pray, or world situations that cause me anxiety, or things closer to home I want to talk to God about). I personally find it helpful to not only pray, but to spend time reading God’s Word, because He definitely has spoken through the scriptures. It’s also helpful to meditate on what you are reading or praying about, and really focus in on that present moment, and on God, and LISTEN.
If you’ve guessed that I write about all of those things too, you’re absolutely correct. A prayer journal can be as short or as long as you choose for it to be. But the writing down of things, especially those revelations from God, are the very stuff that builds your life. After doing journaling for a number of years, sometimes I go back to past periods of my life and re-read journal entries, and it’s amazing (sometimes heartbreaking) to see where I was then as opposed to now.
If you find this an interesting subject, I’d love to hear from you. Got a question about keeping your own prayer journal? Leave a comment. Keeping one already? I’d love to hear what you’ve found helpful. Have you written about prayer journaling on your own blog or website? Feel free to share a link — I’d love to read about it. I hope you found something helpful in today’s post. God bless you.
Recently, a few people have been contacting me about this blog, and expressing a desire to pray more, or speaking of finding enjoyment or encouragement from these notes. You’ve no idea how blessed I am to hear from you all. Thank you. Comments are always open on my blog posts — if it’s your first time commenting, there is an approval process, which means I basically just scan the comment to make sure it isn’t inappropriate by most community website standards, and it gets approved.
This is a small community but one I am grateful for, and if anything I’ve written is helpful, or that you have questions about, or that might be applicable to your own experience, I’d love to hear about it. So, please consider leaving a comment sometime, and let’s grow closer to Christ, together. Thank you again!
When Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem, looking for a place to stay, surely for anyone else, that would have been a time when fear was a temptation. Her birth was imminent; surely God would not want His own Son to be born in an open field? They were faced with an imminent situation totally outside of their control, and throwing themselves upon the mercy of strangers, but it seemed like there was no mercy to be found.
Until finally, they were told about the cavern, not even fit for men, only good enough for livestock. But that is where they found themselves, in a situation completely outside of what they would likely have ever chosen for themselves — how could THIS be the will of the Father? And yet, when they placed themselves in the Father’s care, they found they were led to exactly where they were supposed to be all along — perfectly centered within His divine plan.
There’s no way that Joseph could have foreseen the humblest of places being the birthplace of his adopted son, or that the wonder of the universe would choose such a lowly place for His birth, without any acclaim from man, but that’s exactly what He chose. There’s a wonderful verse about how if men don’t praise God, that He will cause even the rocks to cry out. Instead, His angels appeared, proclaiming the good news of Christ’s birth to shepherds, and to kings. Christ was born for the lowly and the mighty, Jewish and Gentile. And He is forever worthy of praise.
Are you finding yourself in a situation where events seem like they are progressing and are unstoppable, like a woman in labor? Are you experiencing anxiety or fear over God’s provision, and whether you can find your needs met when doors seem to keep shutting in your face? Turn to God, trust in God, and be led by God. Allow Him to guide you to that unexpected place where you will be perfectly cradled in His will for your life. From the outside appearance, it may not appear to be what you’d ever have willingly chosen for yourself, but if God is in it, then there’s nowhere else you should be right now.