If you’re a busy mom trying to keep up with the constant demands and frenetic schedules of modern family life, chances are your personal prayer life sounds like a series of desperate shouts in the dark: “God help me — please!”
Think back to the last time you said all your daily prayers and devotions in perfect solitude, calm and recollection.
If that time was recently, you’re a member of a fortunate minority. If you can’t remember the last time this happened, know that you’re one of the many Catholic mothers who struggle to keep order in their prayer lives. Our hearts desire that calm and recollection — but our calendars can sometimes make it nearly impossible.
What’s an overextended Catholic mom to do?
For starters, most moms need to stop thinking about squeezing in more time for prayer.
Likely, that won’t happen, and you’ll just end up getting discouraged. There are only so many hours in a day, and yours are already spoken for. Instead, attach prayers or devotions to items already on your schedule, things you do routinely.
For example, your morning offering can be said over a cup of coffee. Pray the rosary or chaplet of divine mercy at times during the day when your hands are busy but your mind is not, such as while you’re running errands or doing chores. If the kids are old enough to read, have them take turns reading the Bible as you travel or work together. Say the Angelus when you sit down to lunch and pray spontaneously as you’re preparing dinner. Say the evening consecration as you lay out clothes for the next day or tuck the kids into bed.
“Most of my prayer is said on my feet rather than on my
knees,” says Linda Strandt, a mother of seven
children ranging in age from 5 to 16 in
This may seem like a very distracted way to pray, but Strandt doesn’t see it that way. She finds it a helpful way to connect with God throughout the day while still meeting the needs of her family.
“I used to stop everything, sit down and tell myself that it was time to pray. But then, as I was sitting there, my mind would wander to everything that had to be done. So I began offering up my work for people I knew who needed prayers, and that really worked for me. Now my prayer is more verbalizing in my mind — talking to Jesus, sharing my thoughts and telling him about my needs and the needs of others in my life — than praying out loud on my knees.”
Some moms make frequent use of short, vocal prayers, a long-standing but often forgotten Catholic tradition. A tremendous amount of grace and strength can be drawn from murmuring something as simple as “Jesus, I trust in you” or “Blessed be God” in a time of need or thanksgiving.
“Sometimes, when everything seems out of control — in the
midst of all the noise and kids fighting — all I can say is ‘Hail, Mary!’” says
Karen Regner of
Getting with God
During those times when you’re frazzled and words escape you, focus on the atmosphere rather than the prayer itself. Playing or singing Christian music, especially the Catholic hymns that are part of our sacred liturgy, can put you in tune with the divine. In addition, there is a vast variety of cassettes and CDs with recordings of the rosary and other devotions — available at Catholic bookstores and online — that will put you in the frame of mind for prayer as you tend to other things.
Lighting a candle, doing just a few paragraphs of spiritual reading or even giving a prolonged glance to a holy picture or statue can bring peace to your heart and help you to refocus on God.
For some of us, spontaneous prayers and devotions just aren’t enough to fill our spiritual cravings. Your weekly planner may tell you that Mass, confession and Eucharistic adoration are a long shot, at best. There’s hope even if things are that bad.
Linda Strandt found hope on a September day when everything seemed wrong and everyone was out of sorts. Exasperated, she dropped everything and exclaimed, “That’s it!” Then she told the kids to get into the van and drove to the nearest church offering confession. After that, everything felt right again, and they looked forward to the next time they could go to confession together.
“The best thing I ever did was to look up the times for Mass, confession and adoration at churches that are on the routes that I regularly do my errands,” she says. “It takes 20 minutes to segue over and sneak in for confession on my way home with the groceries. Adoration can be slotted in between band practice. Mass can be slipped in before or after other appointments. If it’s right on the way, it can fit into the flow of my day.”
Whatever spiritual exercises you decide to fit into your
routine, start small but stay regular. That’s what Maureen Donnelly of
“If you do one decade of the rosary every day instead of saying five one day and skipping days, it will be much better,” she points out. “The rhythm is much more important than the amount. Once you get into a rhythm, you’ll start to breeze along. Prayer should be habitual, like brushing your teeth. The children will come to expect it rather than being pushed into it. Pretty soon you’ll find them waiting for you with their rosaries in hand.”
Donnelly remembers a time when things seemed about to go “over the edge.” With three special-needs children, that can happen often. Because she has weaved prayer into her daily habits, reaching out in a moment of madness came naturally.
“I grabbed my rosary and told the kids, ‘Let’s all sit down and say the rosary. My soul is parched!’ Making prayer a part of everyday life really lessens the struggle,” she adds.
Fitting prayer into a busy schedule requires patience, creativity and open-mindedness. Prayer is much more than rattling off rote formulas on our knees: It’s a lifelong process of growing deeper in our relationship with God. Whatever methods you use to keep prayer a part of your schedule, remember that what’s in your heart may be much more important than what comes out of your mouth.
“Very often, people think of prayer as ‘saying prayers’ and forget that prayer is a mutual relationship of both speaking and listening,” says Jesuit Father Jim Kubicki, national director of the Apostleship of Prayer. “And so ‘good prayer’ is whatever helps us grow in our relationship with God, whatever puts us in touch with God, whatever helps us be open to what God wants to say to us or do for us.”
Marge Fenelon writes from