In less than 10 days, I will be–God willing–boarding a TAP flight (woo hoo!) to Lisboa (that’s Lisbon in Portuguese!) on my birthday!
Talk about an awesomesauce birthday prezzie, huh?
I know. I’m overjoyed. Except, ok . . . I’m only overjoyed when I allow myself to stop thinking about the five bazillion things I have to do in anticipation of this trip, and for my job, and the blogs, and the pilgrimages, and all the projects I have going, and . . . oh, my head has been spinning for the past few weeks.
Ask my mom. I haven’t talked to her in about that long, and normally I talk to her pretty frequently. (Hi mom! I’ll call you later today!)
One thing I keep thinking about, though, as I prepare for this amazing adventure, is how I am going to keep from going absolutely crazy on my poor husband while we’re in the middle of it.
I know. You all think I’m nice. And I try to be. I do. But people who know me know that, sometimes, the Dragon Lady rears her ugly head (as my friend, Karissa, likes to call her). The name is apt. Dragon Lady is stressed and freaky and angry and yelly and loud and oh-my-gosh-I-need-to-get-away-from-her CA-RAY-ZEE. Even I am afraid of the Dragon Lady. It’s that bad.
You got it: a lack of prayer.
I don’t believe in sun signs–although mom did have the book when we were younger, and we used to love to pour over it!–but I am a Libra. I always liked being a Libra. Libra = balance. Right? The scales are our symbol, after all! Once , I was at a party in NYC, and some person–totally forget who it was–asked me what my sun sign was. And when I told her, she (or was it a he?) said: “Oh, honey!” (can you hear the accent?) “You are all about balance. When your center is at peace, the world could be falling apart around you, but you will remain calm. And when your center is not at peace, the world can be at peace, but you will be a mess.” “So . . .” I asked, “what’s my center?” “Honey,” he/she said, “that’s for you to find out!”
As much as I would like my center to be dark chocolate with a hint of peanut butter . . . mmmmm, CHOCOLATE! . . . I knew what it was as soon as I’d asked. My center is God. And God is with me the more I pray. And when I pray, the world can be falling apart around me, and I will be at peace. And when I don’t pray, well . . . DRAGON LADY.
So, now that you know just a few more of my faults, what does this all mean for you? Let’s take it back to the top: This is a blog post on prayer and pilgrimage. And I am here to tell you that no matter where you go, whether it be the Holy Land or Portugal or wherever you go on this pilgrimage we call life, you have to incorporate prayer into your day.
“The fruit of Silence is prayer.
The fruit of Prayer is faith.
The fruit of Faith is love.
The fruit of Love is service.
The fruit of Service is peace.”
“SILENCE?!” you might be thinking. “Where can I get SILENCE?!” And yeah, I totally get you. Where can we get some silence in this crazy world? There are TVs in elevators, at the gas pump, and the checkout stand. TVs in waiting rooms, even some churches who seem to have given up on trying. The radio blares, the chat shows never shut up, and we are never left in peace. The devil hates silence. He says so in Screwtape Letters.
“Music and silence — how I detest them both! . . . no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise — Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile … We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in that direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it. Research is in progress.”
–From Screwtape, the senior demon of The Screwtape Letters:
But whatever. I’m not one to just throw my hands up and let the devil win.
I’m going to try, even if I have to try again and again, every five minutes after I forget and lapse into the craziness of the day. I’m going to try to bring some silence and prayer into my day on this trip, and into my workday as these days count down. So I thought I’d share how I am going to do that.
The best way to start your day is with Morning Prayer. Of course, morning prayer is often as skipped as is breakfast, but it is just as important! If you don’t eat breakfast, your metabolism gets off to a slow start. If you don’t start your day off with prayer, your day gets off to a too fast start. How do you make time for prayer? Get up 5 minutes earlier. (Cone on! It’s five minutes!) Ok, depending on how much time you want to give to God (because really, that is what it comes down to, right?), here are some prayers I like to pray in the morning.
The Morning Offering
I love a morning offering. It makes me feel . . . useful. Like everything I do that day, God will take and make something awesome out of it, like wine out of water. It also makes me hopeful, like, maybe, today, I will actually be a good girl and not get frustrated with everyone who steps in my way. I’ve never found a morning offering I like 100%, and while I could just go and write my own, instead I pray two. Don’t ever call me an underachiever.
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you all my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, for the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in thanksgiving for your favors and in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all our friends and family, and for the intention of our Holy Father.
I adore you, my God, and I love you with all my heart. I thank you for having created me, made me a Christian, and kept me this night. I offer you my actions of this day: grant that they may all be according to your holy will and for your greater glory. Keep me from sin and all evil. May your grace be always with me and all my dear ones. –Amen”
Then, there’s the prayer that Mother Teresa always used to pray, and which I like very much. Every time I pray it, I get a little teary-eyed. I mean, think about it: God gave me everything I value. That’s pretty awesome.
Receive, O Lord, all my liberty. Take my memory, my understanding, and my whole will. Whatever I have, whatever I possess, You have given me. I yield it to be directed by Your will. Give me only your love and Your grace and I am rich enough, nor do I ask for more.”
As we near the month of November, our minds should turn to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Does yours not? Then READ THIS BOOK. It changed the way I think and pray. This prayer is something I took from that book, and whenever someone new dies, I add them to my list.
O my God, deign to accept my every thought, word, and action as a loving petition to Thy mercy on behalf of the suffering souls in Purgatory, particularly: [state names here]
I unite to Thy sacred Passion the trials and contradictions of this day, which I purpose to bear with patience, in expiation for the sins and infidelities which retain Thy children in the purifying flames of Purgatory. Amen”
Again, that’s a great prayer to make you feel hopeful and useful. Like my sufferings here on earth might be helping the Holy Souls in Purgatory! I love the thought that, when I die, a whole bunch of them will be waiting for me, each saying, “You helped me when you did this!” Can you imagine?
This next prayer is one that forces me to stay humble, because it is one of those prayers that includes everything that I think I should be, but the traits which I am fairly certain I do not have. Every time I pray this, I think, “God, are you hearing me?” But then I think, well, I must be a little better than I was yesterday! Maybe by the time I die I’ll get it. Hopefully.
Teach me, my Lord, to be sweet and gentle in all the events of my life, in disappointments, in the thoughtlessness of others, in the insincerity of those I trusted, in the unfaithfulness of those on whom I relied. Let me forget myself so that I may enjoy the happiness of others. Let me always hide my little pains and heartaches so that I may be the only one to suffer from them. Teach me to profit by the suffering that comes across my path. Let me so use it that it may mellow me, not harden or embitter me; that it may make me patient, not irritable; that it may make me broad in my forgiveness, not narrow or proud or overbearing. May no one be less good for having come within my influence; no one less pure, less true, less kind, less noble, for having been a fellow traveler with me on our journey towards eternal life. As I meet with one cross after another, let me whisper a word of love to You. May my life be lived in the supernatural, full of power for good, and strong in its purpose of sanctity. Amen.”
This last prayer, I believe I took from the Consecration to Jesus through Mary. I remember the first time I read it, I thought, “Wow! Why don’t I just ask Jesus to have everyone kick me when they pass by?!” LOL. I thought it was a bit harsh. But the more I pray it, the more I see how much I need to pray it.
Humility is not something we often work at in our attempts to become better people. Go to any self-help section of a bookstore, and I’ll bet dollars to donuts that you won’t find much on humility. And in this me me me world, it seems like all anyone ever cares about is ME FIRST. It almost forces you to become selfish, just to survive.
But I don’t want to be like that. Jesus said that there is value in humility, and while sometimes I don’t understand it or while it seems so extremely difficult to grasp, I know it must be important. If God could humble himself to become a baby, born in a dirty manger, to be poor, to deal with ridiculously dumb human beings who were so far below his level it isn’t even funny . . . then I can try to be humble, too. Because after all, what am I compared to Him? Nothing.
Litany of Humility
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
—Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …
That others may be loved more than I,
—Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…
And that’s morning prayer! Seriously, that will take you 5-10 minutes, depending on how fast you pray. (Don’t aim for Speedy Gonzalez here…)
If you have a little more time, you might try adding some spiritual reading into your day. My favorite is the In Conversation with God series published by Scepter, the publishing arm of Opus Dei. Don’t let that scare you–I don’t know why it would. The books are full of wonderful quotes from the saints, from the Bible (of course), and from our early Church Fathers. Each day has a reading, with special days getting two, and they correspond to the Liturgical Calendar and daily readings at Mass.
I love them because they are chock full of St. Josemaria Escriva quotes, and anyone who knows me knows I love him. He always gives me a good Spanish kick in the spiritual pantalones, if you know what I mean. And I always need it, too. The cool thing about these daily readings is that they are divided into three parts, so if I was smart with my time, I’d read one part in the morning, one part at lunchtime, and one part before going to bed. But I usually just knock ‘em all out at once. The best thing about these books is that they’re on Kindle now, so I can have them wherever I am, which I love. Granted, there are a good many people in my parish who think I’m texting before Mass when I’m actually reading my spiritual reading, but whatever. Let them think what they want.
DURING THE DAY
Ok, so you get your day started off right with some prayer and spiritual reading. But what do you do with the rest of your day? Well, this is where it depends on how you’re spending your day.
If you’re on pilgrimage, one would hope that you could try to make it to daily Mass. That is, after all, the point of pilgrimage. But if you’re on a weird pilgrimage like I’m going to make, daily Mass might be hit or miss. Same thing in normal life. If you can make it to daily Mass at lunchtime, your day will get a nice shot of God which will reinvigorate you and carry you through for the rest of the day. If you can do this, you are truly blessed.
If you can’t make it to Mass, another thing you might try is praying the hours! One of the Daughters of St. Paul whom I follow on Twitter was recommending this recently at a talk . . . And I thought it was an awesome idea!
So, most days, I sit at my desk and don’t get up unless I really, really have to. Time flies by and I lose track of it. But my computer has this awesome little thing that allows me to make a voice announce the time on the hour every hour. Since reading Sister’s tweet, I thought I would try to say a little prayer every hour–even a Hail Mary or an Our Father. As we’re out and about, we can do the same. Everyone has some type of alarm on them–be it on their watch or their phone. Use an app to remind you to pray the Angelus at noon, or to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 pm. (I use Alarmed.)
And, of course, it should go without saying that praying before every meal is another way to keep praying during the day. Give thanks for everything–that sip of water or soda. A piece of fruit. Tortilla chips. Whatever. Give thanks.
Praying the Liturgy of the Hours is something that shouldn’t be left out, either. To be honest, I always found using the books to be tremendously confusing, and never got the hang of it. It wasn’t until I discovered the Divine Office app that I really started enjoying the Liturgy of the Hours. These enterprising people create audio clips of every day’s prayers, so you can listen to them and pray along with them, which I think is great. I always found praying the Liturgy of the Hours alone to be weird. LOL. But that’s me. The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours is a great book that will explain the prayers and help you figure out how to do them best for your lifestyle. Or use the app.
AT THE END OF THE DAY
There are a few things I know that I should do at the end of every day, but which I rarely do simply because I am lazy and am still trying to be a better Christian. One of them is a the daily examination of conscience. St. Ignatius of Loyola talks about this in his Spiritual Exercises, and, of course, examining how good or bad I’ve been during the day is never a bad thing to do. I’m just usually too lazy or tired to do it. I need to make a better effort to try. Father John Bartunek provides some really awesome help in these two blog posts that explains how and why we should conduct daily examinations of conscience, so I recommend this to you.
At the end of my day, I like to pray the Rosary. Not when it’s too late, or I’ll fall asleep in the middle of it, like St. Therese used to do. It always brings me closer to God and His Blessed Mother, and it reminds me that, even though he was God’s Son, Jesus didn’t have it easy, either. He and His mother suffered a lot during their time on earth, and it gives me hope and makes me feel less lonely in my own suffering. They know what it’s like to be lonely or frustrated or angry or all of those human emotions we have. Turning to them at the end of the day and throwing roses at the Blessed Mother’s feet is never a bad idea. If you’re not big on the Rosary, I recommend you check out The Secret of the Rosary, especially as we enter the month of October, dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary because of her victory at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7th (the day before my birthday!).
So that’s how I will be attempting to spend my days in Portugal–praying for you all and for the success of The Faithful Traveler in Portugal. It’s going to be tough, even though I’m sure it will be amazing. Please pray for us out there, and know that we will be bringing you all with us as we pray to Our Blessed Mother on Fatima on October 13th, and as we encounter the amazing people of Portugal.
Adeus! (Goodbye in Portuguese!)
Oh! By the way, I will be blogging my entire trip over at my new blog at Patheos, so please be sure to follow me over there for nightly recaps on the day’s events. I’ll also be posting pics to Facebook and Instagram and will try to be funny on Twitter. I promise you and my husband to leave the Dragon Lady at home!