One of the great gifts of Benedict of Nursia to all time was his insistence that work can be prayer. Many saints have repeated this lesson down through the ages. St Therese of Lisieux’s little way was to do everything to which she put her hand as well as she possibly could, as a gift to God. Mother Teresa of Calcutta made caring for the dying an act of love for the One who is Love Himself.
I never really understood this until I was a busy mother with six restless children. I had friends who took it in turns to go to Mass so that they could pray in peace. I had other friends who went occasionally, if at all, because – with children to chivvy and chase – they ‘got nothing out of it’.
It was tempting. Imagine me with the whole mob, on one of the all too many weekends that my husband was away with work.
We arrive during the first hymn, because getting them all out of the house on time, no matter how early we start, defeats me week after week. I get them settled in two pews one in front of the other, since there isn’t a pew left with seven seats. For the next 45 minutes, I try to listen, participate, and pray in between:
- stopping incipient fights
- separating unrepetant whisperers
- retrieving the toddler from the aisle
- taking those with urgent bladders out to the toilet (one after the other, because co-ordinating these things is apparently impossible)
- answering whispered questions about what is happening
- preventing the toddler from clambering under the pew in front
- finding the early readers’ places in their children’s missals
- stopping jokes in sign language
- blocking the toddler from climbing over the pew in back
- finding a clean handkerchief to wipe a runny nose
- intercepting notes
- collecting toys and books ‘accidently’ dropped out of reach
- retrieving the toddler from a sympathetic co-parishioner two pews back
– you get the picture.
Then one day, the priest gave a sermon for me. In truth, my mob appeared pretty well behaved to anyone who didn’t see the constant herding that it took – so perhaps it was just a sermon in general. But the cap for sure fitted!
He started with St Therese’s Little Way, then began to apply it to practical examples. The one that stopped me in my tracks was the mother who took her children to Mass even to the detriment of her corporate prayer life. The action of taking those children to Mass was itself a prayer, he said, an act of devotion to God; a declaration to those children, to God, and to herself, that Mass was a priority that just couldn’t be set aside.
That message I could take to heart! And ever since, when something that urgently needs doing interrupts my prayer, I make a prayer of the doing.
Prayer, then, is any action done for God; and any action done for God is a prayer.
Now THIS is Catholicism Pure & Simple!
No Byzantine dogmas to explicate, no rules to enforce, nothing to wrangle over or nitpick.
Beautifully done, Joyful. A great example of what I´d hoped this blog was about.
“Let us pray as hard as we can for the Gates of Heaven to open that God’s grace should fall upon us”, said the Rabbi.
They prayed – and prayed – and looked up to heaven: The gates remained firmly closed.
“Let us pray even harder and longer so that the gates of heaven should open and God’s Grace fall upon us”, said the Rabbi.
They prayed – and prayed – and prayed and looked up to heaven: Yet the gates remained firmly closed.
This went on for some time, until, at last, a child, who had become exceedingly bored with this seemingly endless palaver, cried out.
The congregation all turned to look disparagingly at the offender.
And then – they all looked up to Heaven: The Gates had opened. God’s Grace fell on them.
No idea what the child cried out, then?
(God listens to children.)
“I’M BORED!” (God listens to children.)
“…a child, who had become exceedingly bored with this seemingly endless palaver,…”
One must wonder if He (God, that is, not the child; although, who knows?) also reads this blog.
Must try not to be boring!
(I speak for myself here, and am surely in greater danger than anyone.)
The blessing ceremony for my brother’s new son was during the service at his parent’s Pentecostal church. First came a number of songs of worship, interspersed with sincere prayers from the pastor, enthusiastically supported by the congregation. Then the homily – which was somewhat longer than we Catholics were accustomed to.
After the first 15 minutes, our three children (all under five) began to get restless. But our non-church-going nephew from another brother was finding it even tougher than his cousins, and eventually could be restrained no longer. He stood up on his seat so he could look the preacher in the eye, and proclaimed in a loud, carrying, 4-year-old voice: “I didn’t come here to listen to this rubbish!”
“He stood up on his seat so he could look the preacher in the eye, and proclaimed in a loud, carrying, 4-year-old voice: “I didn’t come here to listen to this rubbish!”
Another child probably lost forever to the wonders of CP&S!
My beloved husband, the rat, volunteered immediately (before anyone else could) to take our two older ones and the rapscallion out into the foyer, to amuse them with toys until the service was over.