Pat Robertson understandably got himself in some hot water because of the advice he gave a woman who called him in search of consolation because of her philandering husband. Then I found out from Terry Nelson that St. Josemarie Escriva had a thing or two to say about a woman's domestic obligations versus her exercises in piety. I was with a couple on Sunday who I see once a year and we commiserated about how challenging it can be at times to manage our prayer life as well as everything else we have on our plates.
"Sometimes" the wife admitted, "I fall into bed at night and realize I didn't say any of my prayers." It seems that realization has her and her spouse evaluating their lives to see how they make more room for prayer and particularly for daily Mass.
One thing of which I am absolutely convinced is that this blog is not my vocation. Sometimes, it's a near occasion of sin because it's a handy tool for me to criticize this one or that thing. I think it is why I have struggled so much to write lately. I can't tell you how many times in a week I see or hear something and think of what a great blog post it would be, only to realize the better and more advantageous thing to do would be to pray for the person or situation.
It occurs to me that in addition to my duties as wife and mother, my vocation is prayer, prayer that is joined to penance and sacrifice. The penance and sacrifice need not be anything heroic or impressive. No one need know what was done for them on their behalf. It's only important that God knows.
The other day I was trying to remember why I never have time for this activity or that hobby anymore and I realized that what has changed for me is that I pray much more than I did back then when those activities occupied more of my time. In the scheme of things, I am convinced that for me it is what's most important and what is demanded of me.
And just what is prayer? St. Therese said:
"I do like children who do not know how to read, I say very simply to God what I wish to say, without composing beautiful sentences, and He always understands me. For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy; finally it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus."
One of my favorite memories from the childhood of my oldest took place in Washington, D.C. We had spent the weekend exploring all the Smithsonian Museums with another family and on the day we were scheduled to leave, at my four-year-old's request, we were going back to the gift shop at the Air and Space museum to pick up some souvenirs for two of her pre-school chums. I had explained to her the night before that we were just going to pick up something small and that while I admired her for wanting to be more generous, we were not going to get them the same souvenir we had gotten for her the day before. When she asked me why, I explained that she was our child but they were friends and that they wouldn't expect us to get them anything elaborate and would be happy with just being remembered. As I pushed her in her stroller the next day, "we" had a most charming conversation.
"Mom, we can't get the spaceship for Eli and Misho because they're not members of the family, right Mom, right? I got one because I'm a memory of the family, right Mom, right? But they're not members of the family, they're just friends, right Mom, right?"
I can still hear her little sing-song voice in my head, and the way she pronounced "family" exactly like her daddy. It was a simple little talk but one that touched me and which I can still her in my head as clearly as the day she spoke it.
There are many days when I imitate that now grown-up child in the way that I speak to the Lord. And because of my intimate relationship with Him, I know that He does not mind. In fact, I know that He is pleased to be part of my life and my conversation. At other times, I pray the rote prayers that I know are pleasing to Him and His Holy Mother. They were made part of my routine even before my return to the faith. What's more, He gave us the gift of Himself in the Eucharist and conversing with Him while sitting in His Presence holds infinite value for ourselves and those we hold dear.
And yet I still never feel as if it's enough, because once He has you, it never can be enough until our everlasting retreat in Heaven. St. Teresa of Avila reminded her sisters that "the Lord walks among the pots and pans." This was to reassure those who had kitchen duty that they should not worry so much about missing a spiritual exercise because of their assignment, necessary for the welfare of the community. But she was certainly not proposing that her sisters miss every devotion to tend to domestic affairs. How many times do we make excuses for not making time for the Lord, even if it's just 10 minutes a day? How many times do I want to kick myself for "fitting" Jesus in to a busy day, rather than fit the activities in around Him?
Store up these treasures for yourself and your loved ones while you can. Excluding downright negligence of our domestic and family obligations, there is no more important thing we can do.
I know it.