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Pray Without Ceasing… I think I get it…

Pray without ceasingI have heard many a reference to Paul’s advice in 1 Thessalonians (5:17) to “pray without ceasing.” I have often thought, as perhaps you have too as new Catholics, how in the world can I do that? After all, I’m running my own business, being a wife, mothering two active boys, grocery shopping… you get the drift of excuses, right? I can barely work in my rosary, praying at night and perhaps a lunchtime prayer.

But I think I figured it out, and it’s all tied up with redemptive suffering, which I’ve talked about in previous posts. Light Bulb moment: We can offer up our entire lives as a prayer to God!

Every morning now, I say a prayer to Mary offering her all my sacrifices, sufferings and good works for the day for her to distribute as needed since she’s the one charged with distributing her Son’s graces. I am working hard to make “little” sacrifices as I can during my day in line with St. Therese of Lisieux‘s “little way.”

Maybe that’s forgoing the cookie I want to eat (by the way, I am NOT so good at this one), accepting a humiliation from someone’s comment, reading that last story to my kids even though my eyes want to close with exhaustion, etc. Moms out there, you know there are a million little “sufferings” we can offer up each day.

Instead of just doing them, though, “offer them up” as a prayer to Almighty God. Let them work for your benefit or for another’s. Put them to good use!

And any good works you do that day — perhaps stopping to help someone or just offering a smile, earning a plenary indulgence, folding the laundry with care and love, or all small acts of charity — put those to work too.

I think perhaps this is what St. Paul means when he says “Pray without ceasing.” It would be impossible as humans, especially those of us living in the lay world, to verbally pray constantly. But who says prayer needs to be verbal? Let’s let our actions — our professional work, our family activities, our household duties, our kindness — all of it serve as a prayer to God.

By dedicating these things to God, you’re also likely to be more aware of what you’re doing and less inclined to sin. It’s a win-win!

What do you think? How do you pray without ceasing?

Forget a Massage! Catholicism as Stress Relief

As I entered into motherhood coupled with running my own business nearly 10 years ago, stress definitely became a part of my life! I’ve tried all sorts of ways to relieve stress: more time to myself, massages, trips, delegating, you name it… but the best stress reliever of all surprised me: Catholicism!

I’ve noticed that since I’ve attended Mass regularly beginning in January and slowly made spirituality more of a focus and priority in my life, my ability to weather stress has greatly increased. As soon as the priest offers the first blessing “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” a wave of calm and utter peaces washes over me. I thirst for that moment and it’s one of the reasons I’ve been attending daily Mass whenever I can.
While this has not been the most stressful year of my life, I’ve certainly endured plenty of hair-pulling events involving my work and my family and through it all I’ve never felt so free of stress.And what do you know? It seems that “peaceful, easy feeling” (to quote the Eagles J) carries with you outside of Mass too!

I’m able to tolerate those who previously got under my skin with the attitude of finding Christ within them, I can lay my work up to God and know that what he is taking away is for a reason and something better serving him will replace it.

When I do find moments of stress and anxiety sneaking in, I remember the Biblical words “Be not afraid” and “Do not be anxious about tomorrow.” It’s in His hands and those are pretty good hands to be in.

Also, even just bringing to mind or gazing on the face of Mary is enough to bring about a great sense of peace. I find her to be a most comforting presence and I pray the Hail Mary during great distress.

I almost feel no longer afraid of what’s to come even if it’s difficult because I know now it’s all for the greater good. And I’ve been willing to accept without (or at least with much fewer!) tears the changes He has wrought in my life.

So if you’re stressed out and looking for a way to find inner peace, I’m here to tell you where to find it. Try giving Mass a chance. Be open, listen to the words, smile at those around you and pay attention to how you feel.

Have you found less stress in your life since finding Catholicism?

My Favorite Catholic Prayers

Catholic RosaryAs a Catholic Newbie, I thought I’d share with you some of my most favorite Catholic prayers I have come across since embarking on this journey toward becoming Catholic.

I started with my husband’s Missal book from when he was a child to learn the basics. I already knew the Lord’s prayer from attending a Disciples of Christ church some when growing up, but was most excited at first to learn the “Hail Mary.” The Hail Mary is wonderful to pray during times of need, fear or just anytime you need comfort. Mary is a comforting presence.

I followed that with the “Glory Be” and then the prayers of the Rosary, including the Apostle’s Creed; Hail, Holy Queen; and Fatima Prayer.

After I got the basics down, Matthew Kelly’s “Rediscovering Catholicism” book (head over to my Catholic Resources page for more books) inspired me with some additional daily prayers:

  • I love this one in the face of temptation: “God, I know what is good and true, but I am still attracted to what is self-destructive. Give me strength, be my strength.” I repeat that last sentence a lot when tempted to sin or other non-productive behaviors.
  • To see what God wants from you today: “Lord open my eyes so that I may see.” And “What are you calling me to do and calling me to be?” Great prayers upon waking or before work.
  • When you sin: “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”
  • When in doubt: “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”
  • When you’re not sure what to pray: “Lord, teach us to pray.”
  • In fear: “Be not afraid.” (This is repeated MANY times in the Bible; we need not fear if we are following “the way”)
  • During fasting: “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

Some others I’ve come upon through reading, Mass and more:

  • In service to others: “Lord, send someone today whom I can serve.”
  • To your Guardian Angel: “Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day (or night) be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide.” A nice prayer for children.
  • One from the Benedictine tradition upon waking: “Lord open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.”

To keep myself focused on what is most important (ie NOT work), I pray the Liturgy of the Hours, a set of prayers said at specific times throughout the day, as much as I can daily. Almost always upon waking and upon going to bed, as well as 9 a.m. and noon and rarely 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. vespers (the witching hours of motherhood J). I LOVE the Liturgy of the Hours and am so glad I found my way to them. They are full of the Psalms, which are incredibly poetic, beautiful and comforting and they remind you of our greater purpose continually throughout the day.

Do you have favorite prayers that you’ve found along your journey? Please share!

Embracing Humility

HumilityAs I reorder my life to be more in line with the Catholic church and what God asks of us to become more holy and more saintly, humility is a quality I come upon again and again. All through my life, it has been incredibly important to me for others to approve of what I have done – in work, in life, as a mom, as a wife. I thrive on compliments and am dismayed when someone doesn’t like work that I’ve done.

I think this speaks to the true essence of humility. Because I am concerned what others think, that is demonstrating too much pride. If I were humble, I would not care what others think. I would be doing the work for the work’s sake, to please God in that moment.

In the “Rule of St. Benedict,” the saint who developed a guide for the operation of monastaries, Benedict says we must remember that everything good we do comes from God, not us; that’s a lesson in humility. And one that I take to heart and remember in moments of pride. In fact, he lists 7 steps to humility that may not apply completely in today’s world, but which the essence of which certainly does. It’s a great, simple read and a wonderful guide to life.

I’ve also been reading some of the writings of Mother Teresa and I felt like she really explained humility well in the book “No Greater Love” (put that on your book list to read!). She says “Do not pursue spectacular deeds. We must deliberately renounce all desires to see the fruit of our labor, doing all we can as best we can, leaving the rest in the hands of God.” Also, “Never bother about people’s opinions. Be humble and you will never be disturbed. The Lord has willed me here where I am. He will offer a solution.” Beautiful…

And more recently I came across a Biblical passage noting, “God is the only judge.” Also, a great nugget to keep in mind when worry or sadness affects you based on someone else’s opinion.

Are others out there struggling with pride? Join me on this journey to become more humble and fully embrace humility. Let’s find joy in our daily work – from sweeping and laundry, to the office and our family – and do it not so someone will comment on a job well done, but because it will please God and is good for our family, ourselves and the world.