Loving Him More

My pastor used to lead our youth group in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament, having us repeat after him: “Jesus, I love you. Help me to love you more.”

Help me to love you more. It’s a prayer I continue to pray.

But what does that mean? How will we know when we are loving Him more?  It won’t necessarily translate to a certain feeling when we pray. It probably won’t be a glow in our heart or feeling as we walk around, our mind constantly on Jesus. It might not even mean prayer is easier.

Rather, it’ll mean we begin growing in virtue. It will mean we begin living differently – because we want to live differently. Because it’s better to live differently.

A friend was relating this to me the other day. She has begun to stop into the church during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every day, and her prayer to Jesus is simply, “Help me to love you.” And what has she noticed? She has more patience with her grandchildren.

Loving Jesus more means more patience with our children, spouse, or coworkers. It means more perseverance in the monotonous or small tasks of our lives. It means being able to smile at someone even when we’d rather scowl. It means taking the next step in a project when we don’t feel like it. It means not just picking up our cross, but loving it.

Loving Jesus more is not a feeling, but a doing. If we ask him to help us love Him more, that will translate into the strength to live the Christian life: to love Him in our neighbors and to enter more deeply into prayer.

At times we have the warm glow of consolation in our prayer life, but other times we won’t feel anything. The measure of our prayer life is not the feeling we have when we pray, but the way we live our lives.

If we don’t pray daily, we won’t have the strength to accomplish our daily work virtuously or love our neighbor. We can’t live the Christian life without an active relationship with Him. Jesus prayed … so why do we think we don’t need to?  Or maybe we know we need to, but do we actually do it?

Saint Teresa of Avila likened the Christian without a prayer life to a crippled or paralyzed body. The body has hands and feet but cannot use them. We must speak to God daily. We can do this throughout the day, with aspirations or short prayers repeated as we work. The Jesus prayer is a tried and true way to keep your mind close to God while you go about your day.

It’s also important, however, to set aside time specifically for prayer. While we should pray while we work and offer our work as a prayer, we also have to have specific times where our minds and hearts are least trying to focus solely on Him. It might not be easy, especially if our days are full of taking care of a family or long hours at work. But it’s necessary.

And if we find ourselves caught in a routine of rote prayers, we can heed the advice of St. Josemaria: “To avoid routine in your vocal prayers try to say them with the same ardour with which a person who has just fallen in love speaks… and as if it were the last chance you had to approach Our Lord” (The Forge, 432).

We must be a people whose lives show we are in love with our Lord. So, we repeatedly ask Him, “Help me to love you more.” It’s a prayer He will answer – perhaps not in the glowing consolation of a warm feeling, but with the strength to live the Christian life.

 

This post first appeared on Integrated Catholic Life.


Have Yourself a Counter-Cultural Advent

Here we are once again, beginning my favorite season of the year: Advent.

I’ve decided that Advent is the most counter-cultural season we celebrate.  I’m not only referring to the fact that the world seems to celebrate Christmas as soon as it possibly can. Although this is true, I’m referring to the philosophy behind Advent.  The world doesn’t like to wait. And it certainly doesn’t like to delay answering its own desires.

Lent is a little counter-cultural, but not as much as Advent.  In Lent, we embrace penance and almsgiving, which our culture understands to a certain degree. Its approach to sacrifice tends to be more utilitarian—working towards a goal of losing weight, training for a marathon, or freeing oneself from an addiction—but there is still at least some understanding of the emphasis of the season.

Outwardly, it’s pretty clear that our world doesn’t understand Advent.  But celebrating Christmas the day of Thanksgiving—or the day after Halloween—is just indicative of a greater problem in our society: the inability to embrace any privation, to delay gratification, to live with some need.  Our culture is one of satiating wants, fulfilling needs, and gratifying desires.  It seems these days we believe the greatest poverty is someone who is unable to have what they want, whether it’s material or philosophical. I should be able to have, do, say, or believe anything I want… simply because I want to have it, do it, say it, or believe it.

Advent is the exact opposite.  It means putting off what I want (to celebrate, eat, drink, and be merry) on purpose.  Is it because I hate Christmas music?  I hate decorations?  I hate Christmas cookies?

Of course not.  It’s because I love those things.

In Advent, we embrace a time of longing and anticipation, which includes an element of penance, since we are accepting a delay of pleasure.  Ultimately, the four weeks of Advent are waiting for the Messiah.  It means entering into the time of our ancestors, as they waited for the first coming of Christ, and embracing our own waiting of His second coming (either at our death or at the end of the world).  With both of these times of waiting, there is an understanding that this world does not satisfy, and we are waiting for the One who will.

We need to stir up this desire for Christ’s coming.  We need to put ourselves in the shoes of our ancestors, who looked with longing for the fulfillment of the prophecies.  We can become so comfortable, so complacent, or even so busy that we forget how much we need Christ.  We forget how much we long for him.  How do we stir up that desire?  By entering into this season of delayed gratification, this time of accepted privation, these four weeks of waiting.

Advent is a time to recognize the hole in our hearts.  It is a hole we accept, because we know it ultimately will not be filled in this lifetime.  During Advent, we embrace it.  C.S. Lewis, taking a page from St. Augustine, posited, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

We can ignore that hole, and we can try to fill it with other things.  Or we can recognize that this world will always be inadequate.

That is what these four(ish) weeks are all about.  Yes, you can put up your Christmas tree today, you can stuff yourself with Christmas cookies tomorrow, and you can sing Christmas carols at the top of your lungs the day after that.  Or you can wait.  You can embrace the longing, the desire to do those things, knowing that your craving will be satisfied soon enough.  And perhaps those decorations, those cookies, and those carols will be that much richer, thanks to the waiting.

Originally published on Integrated Catholic Life.

St. Thomas the Apostle

The Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle is a great celebration in India.  It is tradition that St. Thomas was the only Apostle to leave the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel, traveling to Syria and Persia and then to India, as far south as the southwest region of Kerala.   He was eventually martyred, fulfilling his declaration during Jesus’ public ministry, “Let us also go [with Jesus], that we may die with him.”

Despite Thomas’ courage and missionary spirit, he is best known as being “Doubting Thomas.”  Perhaps it’s a bit unfortunate that he is best remembered for his lack of belief in the Resurrection of Christ, since the other Apostles were also unbelieving until they saw Jesus in the flesh.  On Easter Sunday, Thomas was not with the Apostles in the Upper Room when Christ appeared to them. When he heard their testimony, he declared, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

The following Sunday, Christ appeared to them again, and this time Thomas was with them.  Jesus did not reprimand Thomas, but told him, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.”  Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  (John 20:24-28)

Thomas must have had a close relationship with Christ to be allowed such intimate contact with him.   Such a personal experience, a prying into one’s hand and side, must not be taken lightly.  Clearly, Thomas was Christ’s friend.  The Apostles had spent three years with Christ — spending time day in and day out, walking with him, confiding in him, working with him.  They had accompanied Him in his ministry.  They had learned from him.  They had left everything for him.

They were his friends.

We too are called to that intimacy with Christ.  He desires each of us to enter into that close relationship with him — and we call that relationship “prayer.” (CCC 2558)  We spend time with him.  We confide in him.  We work with him.  At times we use formal prayers.  Other times we just sit in his presence.  He reaches out to us in the sacraments and allows us to touch him —  “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.”  And as unworthy as we are, we marvel at his goodness to us and exclaim, “My Lord and My God!”

As we reflect on our struggle to preserve religious liberty, we must never forget the power of prayer.  It’s often difficult for us to remember that nothing is more effective or powerful than prayer.  We feel like we should be doing something — and often we should be!  But sitting in the silence of our room in conversation with God or waking up early to go to daily Mass before work — these are the most effective things we can do for anyone or for any petition.

Praying with others is an especially powerful experience.  Not only did Christ promise us he would be with the community in prayer — “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt 18:2o) — it can also increase our own faith to hear voices united in common prayer.

America’s hope is the recommitment of families to prayer.  When our families begin praying together again, the effects will be seen throughout this country.

Our families are busy, and we may think there is no time to speak with each other- much less to pray together.  But if we sacrifice and specifically set aside time to pray as a family, we will give our children a valuable lesson they will not quickly forget.

During the first Fortnight for Freedom, in 2012, I was on vacation with my family.  We decided to pray the Bishops’ prayer for religious liberty together at the end of the day.  My sister’s family already gathers for prayers at bedtime, so the prayer was added to the end of their nightly prayer routine.  Every night we would gather in the boys’ room (ages 7, 5, 3, and 1.5) and I would pass out the holy cards with the prayer on the back.  It was moving to pray “for our children and grandchildren”  in the presence of my seven nieces and nephews- to hear my father’s voice praying for the boy playing at his feet, to vocalize that petition while seeing their innocence and wondering what America would look like in their future.

On the last night, some circumstances arose and we decided my sister’s family would go ahead and pray their night prayers without the rest of us.  Unbeknownst to anyone else, before they started, my five-year old nephew left the room in search of me.  He finally found me and reported, “We need your cards!  Come hand out your cards!”

Did he know what we were praying for in that prayer, as he clutched the card in his hand and tried to follow the words?  Of course not. Did he know it was important?  Yes — because we had made an effort every night to gather together.

We prayed together that night.  And I think God heard Andrew’s prayers extra clearly.

Some days we may feel overwhelmed by the threats against religious liberty.  Other days we may feel complacent about them.  And other days we may feel like demanding proof that God is even alive.  But every day he is calling us to himself, asking us to come to him in prayer, and waiting for us to fall to our knees and declare, “My Lord and My God!”

Call your mother

In this month of May, I need to make a confession.

I don’t find the Rosary easy to pray.  For many years, I knew I should be saying a daily rosary, but I thought if I started the Creed as my head hit the pillow at night…. well, I could at least say I tried, even though I rarely made it to the first mystery.

There’s nothing wrong with saying the Rosary as you go to bed.  In an interview prior to becoming Pope, Benedict XVI said that’s what he does at night when he’s trying to clear his mind to fall asleep. “I would recommend the Rosary. That is a form of prayer that, besides its spiritual meaning, has the power to calm the inner self. If we hold fast here to the actual words, then we are gradually freed from the thoughts that so torment us.”

But maybe by only praying the Rosary then, I was missing out on some of the fruits.

The Rosary generally takes about 15 minutes, depending on what God wants to do in your time of meditation.  15 minutes is about 1 percent of your day.

1 percent.

That’s nothing.

Americans spend an average of 162 minutes on their mobile devices every day.  And that doesn’t include actually talking on them!  And the Rosary only takes about 15 minutes.

I couldn’t take 15 minutes?  No, I couldn’t.  I knew it was nothing, and I still found it difficult to make the time.  I wasn’t in the habit. I was lazy. I didn’t try.

So here’s some advice to help make those 15 minutes easier.

  1. Scripture.  We Catholics get a bad rap for neglecting the Word of God, but our liturgical life and private devotions are all saturated in Scripture.  The Rosary is one of the best ways to meditate on the life of Christ.  There are good Scriptural rosary booklets out there, but you can also just open the Bible and read the passage before you start the mystery.  As you pray the Hail Mary’s, close your eyes and put yourself in the scene.  Maybe you’re a shepherd at the Nativity.  What does the night feel like?  What is Joseph doing?  Is Baby Jesus sleeping?  Pick Him up and worship Him.
  2. Art. For those of us who get distracted easily, it can help to have something right in front of our faces to keep our minds where they should be.  I have a little book called the Rosary Album that has pen and ink drawings for each bead. You don’t need a special book, though – simply find classical art pieces online for each mystery.  Allow the image to help your meditation and mental prayer.
  3. Intercession.  Offering each decade for a different intention can help keep your mind on what you’re praying and why.
  4. Break it up!  Who says the Rosary has to be prayed in one sitting?  (or one kneeling?)  Maybe your schedule allows you to enter into prayer in smaller chunks of time. Or maybe you just can pray better for five minutes than you can for fifteen.  If you’re tempted to feel guilty about that, I give you another insight from an interview with Cardinal Ratzinger:

Do you have a particular way of praying the Rosary?

I do it quite simply, just as my parents used to pray.  Both of them loved the Rosary.  And the older they got, the more they loved it.  The older you get, the less you are able to make great spiritual efforts, the more you need, rather, an inner refuge, to be enfolded in the rhythm of prayer of the whole Church. And so I pray in the way I always have.

But how? Do you pray one Rosary, one set of mysteries, or all three?

No, three are too much for me; I am too much of a restless spirit; I would wander too much.  I take just one, and then often only two or three mysteries out of the five, because I can then fit in a certain interval when I want to get away from work and free myself a bit, when I want to be quiet and to clear my head.  A whole one would actually be too much for me then.

I had to read that twice when I first came across it in God and the World. If he wanders too much … whew.  I feel slightly better about myself.

My last piece of advice? Just do it.  Set aside time and pray it. It’s only 1 percent of your day. You can start small and pray a decade every day … or the 54-day Rosary novena can be a great way to jump in full force. (There are several versions – here is one.) Not only is it a very powerful novena (I have some amazing stories), doing something for 54 days is a good way to get into a habit!

Our Lady has been asking us to pray it for peace for a long time. Now Our Lord is appearing to bishops asking the same thing. I think it’s time to listen.

prayers that terrify

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”

It’s a striking scene.  At the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry- this is, after all, just the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel – a leper comes to ask for healing.

Or does he?  He desires healing, of course, but how does he beg?  Rather than asking, he kneels in front of Jesus and states a fact. He states the truth.  “If you wish, you can make me clean.”  What faith he has – in a man he seemingly barely knows.

The story continues: Moved with pity, He stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” (Mark 1:40-41)

What if Jesus didn’t will it? I’ve talked here before about the mystery of suffering – Jesus doesn’t always alleviate suffering, even though we know it’s certainly in His power to do so.

And yet, that prayer of the leper was complete openess to Jesus’ divine Will.  Here in the Gospel, the leper shows complete surrender to whatever Jesus chooses to do.  If you will it….

How often are my prayers so open?  I generally pray for a particular intention and then throw in a “if it’s Your will…” at the end, as a sort of clause that makes me feel like I’ve done my job “being open” and now He can grant my request.

You know how I can tell when I’m actually being open?  When there’s a realization in my prayer that I could very well be praying for the opposite of what I desire.  This has happened a few times, and one of them was when I was applying to graduate school a few years ago.  I was applying to get another Masters in Theology in hopes of continuing on the Ph.D. track.  It was a difficult program that accepted very few of their hundreds of applicants. But I had a lot in my favor, and I thought I had a pretty good chance of getting accepted.  Since it was such a prestigious program, I knew that if I was accepted, there would be very little chance that I would turn it down.

So my prayer went something like this.  I want this.  I think it’s Your Will.  Let me get accepted to this program. But… if it’s not Your Will… let me get rejected.  Your will be done…

I knew I was possibly praying for the complete opposite of what I wanted.  And that was really hard.  I would pray and pray and pray … fully knowing that I could be putting all this energy and piety into something I didn’t want.  Or I didn’t think I wanted.

I wrote to a friend during that time of prayer, the weeks leading up to my application deadline, because he too was facing a big decision and possible-change-of-life that same day.

I know this is what I want, although I doubt it daily.  I’m pretty sure it’s what God wants, although I fear it isn’t sometimes.  As I pray this novena, it’s hard for me to accept that if I’m really praying for His will, I might be praying to NOT get into grad school.  And that’s a scary thought.

And same with my prayers for you.  I’m praying that God’s Will be done and that you have peace during the next few weeks and months.  It’s hard for me to pray for that, though, knowing that I might be praying that you don’t hear the answer you want to hear on Dec 14. What if God’s answer is not our answer?  It’s scary, but comforting at the same time.

We’re in a similar boat.  What lies ahead after Dec 14?   If things don’t go “well,” will we blame ourselves and feel like failures?  Or will we see that perhaps God has radically different plans for us?  It’s hard to see His hand in rejection, which is why I fear it so much.  Am I not smart enough?  don’t have a good enough resume?  wrote a horrible statement of intent?  Or does He just have a better plan?

Now, four years later, I can rest in the peace of knowing His will was done.  I didn’t get into grad school (but my dear friend did get his position).  Did I feel rejected?  Absolutely.  Were there tears shed?  Of course. But did I know that God’s Will was being done?  Yep.  He had a better plan.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say that praying for His will was easy.  Prayers of complete openness are difficult. And heart-wrenching.  I didn’t feel very warm and fuzzy inside.  But trust and surrender often lack warm fuzziness.

It wasn’t easy to pray for His will, not knowing what that will really was.  It was rather terrifying.  But perhaps I need my prayers to terrify me more often.

Day of Waiting

Holy Saturday.

This is perhaps the strangest of days in the liturgical year.   The Catholic Churches are empty.  Jesus is absent from the tabernacles.  There’s no Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  The only liturgy that is celebrated – the liturgy of the hours – even speaks of this strangeness.

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. (From the Office of Readings; An Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday)

As I prayed the rosary this morning, I hesitated to do the usual Saturday mysteries – the Joyful.  What was fitting for this strange day?

Then I realized that the Joyful Mysteries were the perfect mysteries for this day of waiting, this day of silence.  As the Blessed Mother sat in silence, her heart still bleeding from the events of yesterday, surely she meditated on those joyful mysteries as well.

Her heart had been pierced again and again. But now she waited in the silence for her Son to come back to her.  Surely she knew; surely they had spoken.  Her grief and anguish on Friday were like none other-

All you who pass by… Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow…

-but there was also the knowledge of the Resurrection, the confidence that her Son would only be in the grave but a short while, and would cheat death before the end of the third day.

And so she sat and waited.  Surely her thoughts and prayers went back to the events that brought her to this moment… the Annunciation… the Visitation… the night she gave birth to this little boy…  that prophecy of Simeon, foretelling the anguish that she could not even imagine as she held that little boy in her arms… the grief in the Temple of those three days of loss, a mere taste of the sorrow felt today.  Surely those mysteries, those memories which she kept in her heart, were the fruit of her meditation today.

We join her in this day of waiting.  We know the end of the story, we know the glory of the Resurrection. But we enter into the silence, into this day in between the grief of Friday and the joy of Sunday.  We wait until night, when the darkness will be shattered by the glory of the Lord, when death will be trampled by Love.

This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night
that even now throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.

Only Say the Word

One day my mind wandered a bit during Father’s homily (my apologies to Father), and those wanderings are now going down into this blog post.  I didn’t feel as guilty as I do when my mind wanders into the realm of what am I going to eat for lunch today… it’s Monday, so that means Harris Teeter’s sub of the day is turkey… because my mind was wandering into theological realm and began wandering based on something Father said.

The Gospel that day was the story of the centurion who asks Jesus to come cure his slave, but doesn’t let Jesus come to his house because of his unworthiness to receive Jesus under his roof.  He sends friends to tell Jesus that he knows Jesus doesn’t need to come to his house — He can cure the slave with His words.

The centurion says:

“Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed.
For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come here, and he comes; and to my slave, Do this, and he does it.”

Those first lines should be recognizable; we refer to them at every Mass.  With the revised translation, we now quote him even more directly.

My mind began wandering about the performative, efficacious nature of Christ’s words.  God’s words are efficacious: they actually do what they signify.  We see this back in Genesis when God said, “Let there be light.”  And there was light.

This is important when we’re discussing the liturgy, and it’s one of the main reasons this revision of the Roman Missal was so important.  We’re not speaking any old words at the liturgy, because the liturgy isn’t just about us gathering together around a common table and singing some nice songs every Sunday morning.  The words we are speaking are important — because ultimately… they’re not ours.

Bishop Conley, auxiliary bishop of Denver, said, “In the liturgy, we are praying to God in the very words of God. And God’s Word is power. God’s Word is living and active. That means that the words we pray in the liturgy are ‘performative.’ They are not words alone, but words that have the power to do great deeds. They are words that can accomplish what they speak of.” (Check out his whole address here. It’s beautiful.)

The centurion in the Gospel refers to his own ability to command with his words, but his words aren’t efficacious.  They may have their desired effect; he may command a soldier to come to him and the soldier may come.  But do his words make it happen?  No.  The soldier could refuse to come, despite the centurion’s words.

When I teach about the liturgy, I use the example of a stop sign.  We have lots of signs all around us — but are they efficacious?  Do they actually accomplish what they signify?  A stop sign signifies that we are supposed to stop.  Does it make us stop?  Of course not.  We can blow right through that stop sign, regardless of what it might signify.

God’s words, however, are efficacious.  When the priest speaks the words of Christ: “This is my body,” what once was a piece of bread is sacramentally, substantially Christ’s body.  When he pours water over a person’s head and says, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” that person is baptized into the Trinity and his sins are washed away.  The water — an efficacious sign — doesn’t just signify the washing of sins.  His sins are actually gone. He is a child of God.

The liturgy brings us to the heavenly marriage supper of the Lamb, the eternal banquet where we enter into communion with the Holy Trinity.  Guess what?  It doesn’t just signify it on a superficial level.  It’s not that it reminds us of heaven (in many parishes, it probably doesn’t!), it’s not that it’s an expression of our community, it’s not that it’s symbol of the covenant Christ made with us at the Last Supper and on Calvary.

It’s actually accomplishing those things.  Our communion with the Holy Trinity, the marriage Supper of the Lamb, the Heavenly banquet, eternity — is present there at the Mass.  Because in the fullness of time, God spoke The Word.  Christ.  And that Word is performative.  Efficacious.  Life-changing.

At times our Sunday Mass may simply feel like an obligation.  One week we may be particularly touched by something, moved by the readings, uplifted by the music.  The next week it might all be gone.  It might be dry as a bone.   Thankfully, the liturgy is not dependent on us.  Ultimately, it is not our work.  We are participants in the work of God.  So when the feeling isn’t there, Christ still is.  When we feel broken and unworthy, He’s still working, His words ready to heal.

The Book You’ll Never Finish

I have a bit of a problem.  If there was a support group for people addicted to buying books, I would have to start attending meetings.  For now, I’ll just confess it to you.

Notice I said “buying books.”  I wish I had a better problem — an addiction to actually reading the books.  It’s not that I don’t like to read or haven’t read many of the books on my shelves, but I do find it easy to convince myself that I need a certain book and then finding it sitting on my shelf for several months before I actually crack it open.

IMG_4880

There are several different kinds of books on my shelves.  There are some I’ll probably never read cover-to-cover but that sit on my shelf for reference.  There are others that I devour and which will eventually get handed on to a friend to enjoy.  There are others I acquired free that I may never read.   There are books that I enjoyed but I probably won’t read again.

Then there is one that is rarely on my shelf.  It may be on the table next to my favorite chair, it may be in a bag, or it may be in my car.  It’s a book I’ll never finish.

The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer has already proven to be a companion of mine for many years; I anticipate that will not change.  In this thick book, Father John Bartunek has included the text of all four Gospels, broken down into sections often corresponding to the way the Church has broken down the Gospels for the liturgy.  After each section, Father Bartunek guides you through the passage to help you pray with Christ.

I have always been drawn to lectio divina, the ancient way of praying with the Scriptures so that the Word of God becomes your prayer, but I have not always done it well or done it faithfully.  The Better Part has changed that dramatically.  The first section of the book takes you through the practice of lectio divina, and the rest of the book helps you to live it out.  Benefitting from the fruits of Father’s own prayer, the book takes your prayer life and douses it with the Word.

271101_1_ftcOne day many years ago, I was going through some turmoil that was resulting in theatrical calls to my mother.  As is often the way with such drama, I don’t even recall now, six years later, what exactly was happening at the time, but I do remember my mother’s advice.  “Have you read the section from The Better Part for the Gospel from yesterday?  You should read it.”

I took her advice and took the book to the Adoration chapel.  As I devoured the section, it was as if Father – or the Holy Spirit- had written the passage just for me.  It was exactly what I needed to hear.  It was nothing new, but it refreshed insight that I needed desperately at that moment.  One sentence in particular struck me, and I went along with my day renewed.

Shortly after I left the chapel, I realized that I had already read that same section a few days earlier.  The same section,  read twice in the space of a few days… but yet the second time I had received completely new insight.

Perhaps we could chalk it up to lazy reading the first time, but I don’t think we can dismiss it that easily.  I was bringing different baggage to the passage the second time I read it, and it was prepared to handle that baggage.  Six years later, I could read that same passage and probably wouldn’t remember what line spoke to me then – I need something else now.

Because the Word of God is at the root of this book, it is a book that can accompany everyone throughout life.  It’s for the single person struggling to make his or her way alone in this world and the mother of five who barely has time to pray.  It’s written for the beginner who doesn’t know what lectio divina is and the person who could teach lectio divina.  It is not a book that you read from cover to cover, mark off your list, and put on your shelf to collect dust.  It is a resource, a tool to help you pray better during the time you set aside each day.

If you’re looking for an easy street prayer life, don’t look here – prayer lives aren’t ChiaPets… they’re not created overnight and they’re certainly not easy.  But if you’re looking for help beginning to pray or taking your prayer to the next level, you should probably start with the Word of God.  And I’d highly recommend starting that with The Better Part.