Brandon Vogt

6 Ways to Turn Your Commute Into a Daily Retreat

Commute

I’m a husband. I’m a dad. And I’m confident in my vocation.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not drawn to the monastic life. The rhythms of prayer and work, silence and liturgy, study and service beckon like an enchanting voice from another world. I’m sure part of it is the whole “grass is greener on the other side” phenomenon, but I think there’s something else, too. Many of us uncloistered folk yearn for the silence and spiritual depth which seem to elude our hyper-active world, riches we think are only attainable within a priory.

For a long time, I thought it was impossible for the ordinary layperson to cultivate regular times of deep, undistracted prayer. With office jobs and bills and dinner and bath times there was simply no room for that.

But then something changed. I realized that I already had space for it, I just wasn’t using it well. I already had a sacred period every day when I was alone with my thoughts and open to prayer.

My commute.

In a typical day, I spent 30-60 minutes in the car and I usually wasted it. It was filled with cell phone chats, banal news, or talk radio, and through all those things I was giving up some of the most sacred time in my day.

This is probably true for you, too. Whether in a car, a train, or a bike, your commute offers a Benedictine cell, a place cut off from the demands and noise of the world.

What if you began to see it this way? What if you decided that your commute would be your sacred space? What if you turned your car into a monastery or your train into a convent?

Here are six ways I sanctified my own commute:

1. Listen to Catholic audiobooks, talks, and podcasts.

Instead of screaming at political commentary or zoning out to music, use your commute to strengthen your faith. Download an audiobook from Audible.com (click here to get a free Catholic audiobook). You can also find plenty of free public domain titles from Librivox.org. For example, here are fifty free Chesterton audiobooks (you’re welcome.)

When it comes to Catholic talks, the go-to source is Lighthouse Catholic Media. They have hundreds of CDs and MP3s from top Catholic speakers, past and present. For just a few bucks you can listen to Fulton Sheen, Mother Teresa, Scott Hahn, Peter Kreeft, and many more.

Podcasts are also great options. I listen to several every week, including many Catholic shows. These are some of my favorites (all of them are free through iTunes):

Fr. Robert Barron’s Word on Fire podcast –Here you’ll find Scripture commentary from one of the Church’s brightest minds. Fr. Barron reflects on the upcoming Sunday Mass readings and offers plenty of insights. The best part is that he usually uploads new homilies in the middle of the week, which means you can prepare for Mass a few days early.

Catholic Answers Live – The most popular Catholic radio show in the country with a strong focus on apologetics and evangelization. Most episodes are open Q&A, with calls from Catholics, Protestants, and even atheists. If you want to become better at defending and explaining your faith this will help.

Taylor Marshall Catholic Show – The popular Catholic blogger covers many topics like the Bible, the Church Fathers, and Medieval Philosophy, but it’s not stuffy. The fun and accessible episodes provide tips on how to have a life full of meaning, hope, and encouragement.

The SaintCast – Dr. Paul Camarata is on a recording sabbatical, but his podcast is still the best way to study the saints. Here’s his own description: “With profiles of these holy heroes, interviews, and through ‘soundseeing’ tours, Paul takes the listener from the catacombs of Rome, to the Areopagus Hill in Athens, to San Giovanni Rotondo, and to churches and holy places frequented by the saints all over the world. Taking a light-hearted approach to recounting these stories, he helps bring stories of the saints alive in our daily lives.” Even though new episodes are rare, you can browse the 141 archived episodes and listen to any you choose.

2. Stream an audio Bible.

If you have trouble finding time to study Scripture, this is a great solution. Most modern audio Bibles are more than dry, monotonous reading. They use music, aural effects, and professional voice actors to draw you into the text.

My favorite version is the Truth and Life Audio New Testament. It uses the RSV-Catholic Edition, and features several award-winning actors. It’s also endorsed by the Vatican and boasts an Imprimatur. I’m listening to the Book of Acts right now and find it completely absorbing. To get a feel, listen to samples at their website and download the Gospel of Mark for free.

3. Reflect through sacred music.

Nothing soothes the soul like Gregorian chant, or stirring lyrics from Audrey Assad or Matt Maher. Melodies like this can soften your heart before the day and relieve it on the way home. I find it so much easier to pray and reflect with sacred music streaming in the background, and you may too. It provides the perfect atmosphere to center your mind and place yourself in God’s presence.

Also, just a personal preference, but film soundtracks also affect me the same way. My current favorite is the work of Hans Zimmer. He’s the genius composer behind Inception, Batman Begins, The Lion King, Gladiator, and Pearl Harbor. When I crank up his music during my commute, my soul soars to epic new worlds.

4. Pray the Rosary.

Now this one’s a little tricky. Fingering the beads while driving is tough, though I’ve yet to see a car crash attributed to Our Mother. Like many people I keep a Rosary draped over my rear-view mirror. It’s a constant reminder to pray and I typically pull it down for a decade or two. You can pray the Rosary quietly, out loud, or, if you would like accompaniment, there are several guided Rosary CD’s which feature beautiful music and helpful reflections.

5. Embrace silence.

This might seem to contradict the first four recommendations, but the key is to alternate each strategy. Some days you need to feed your mind with podcasts. Others you can lose yourself in song. But other times you need nothing but quiet.

In our world, silence is rare. It’s tough to find amidst screaming kids, chatting co-workers, and blaring televisions. Your car, however, is a sanctuary—the one place where you can roll up the windows and block out the world. Deep down we all know how valuable this silence is, especially in the spiritual life. As Mother Teresa says, “God is the friend of silence.” Remember it was the quiet, contemplative Mary whom Jesus praised—not the busy, audible Martha. As an added bonus, your creativity will flourish. Most of my best ideas have come during a silent commute. If you’re a writer, blogger, speaker, or creative, sit quietly for thirty minutes and your mind will bubble over with ideas.

6. Talk to Jesus.

This might sound crazy, but instead of silent prayer I often talk to the Lord as if he was sitting in the seat next to me. It’s really helped the relational aspect of my faith. If you’re like me you pray plenty of formal and elegant prayers through Mass and other devotionals. And these are good. We need kingly language when speaking with royalty.

But Christ is not just Lord; he’s also Brother and Friend. Your commute is the perfect time to build this type of intimacy. When I drive to work, I confess what I’m worried about and I tell the Lord all that excites me. On the way home, I review the day with him, asking forgiveness where it’s needed and giving thanks everywhere else. In other words, your commute is perfectly suited for a daily “examination of conscience.” If you have trouble squeezing it in before bedtime, try it on the way home.

These are just six ways I create my portable monastery, but you probably have more. However you do it, though, don’t waste your commute. Take control and transform it. Turn it from a boring drive into a monastic cell, a place to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).

It may have four wheels instead of four walls but it can be just as sacred.

Do you have any car-time spiritual practices? Share your ideas in the comments!

 

  • Myrtle Pereira

    There is an app on itunes called Holy Rosary. It works offline and it is an audio version. Nobody needs to see that you are praying and you just plug in your earphones and press play. The perfect way to use your daily commute time to ask for Mother Mary’s blessings.

  • isabel

    When I was working in the city, I took the train to work so I used that time to pray the Rosary. I stopped, though, because I wanted to pray the Rosary with my family. So, I used my train ride to say ALL my “thank yous” to the Lord. I thought saying “thank you” to Him at the start of the day is better than saying it before turning in at night because most of the time I’m already half-asleep as I am always terribly tired.

    • theresa mc cormack

      hello Brandon, I am retired and to help me get out and about,I go to Mass daily,and travel to various Churches around Manchester UK. this allows me to pass a few words or smiles with a number of people sometimes we ask eachother to pray for our intentions.the bus journey takes 30 mins each way so I read my R.C. books or pray on my rosary ring T

  • Jeffrey

    When I was in high school, I started praying the brievary (Liturgy of the Hours) in Grade 10, so I decided to use the morning commute on the school bus to recite morning prayer. I did that almost every day in Grade 10 and 11, but then in Grade 12 started to drive to school and so, unfortunately, recitation of morning prayer from the brievary came to a screeching halt. It was great though, and anyone who is commuting but not driving themselves, should try it! Also, while I prayed the brievary, my friend would be in the seat either beside me or behind me and he would pray the rosary every morning.

  • Melody Mook

    I know what you mean! For ten years I commuted daily on the NY subways. It’s usually pretty quiet, nobody talks to anyone,
    so it would have been a perfect time for prayer, which I’m sure I did occasionally but not on a regular basis. Now I’m retired and besides my usual prayers (morning and bedtime), I follow the rosary with Mother Angelica on EWTN every evening which keeps me from getting lazy and skipping it, haha.

  • Mike

    I generally listen to Gus Lloyd’s Seize the Day radio program on the XM/Sirius Catholic Channel, unless I have a new CD from Lighthouse Catholic Media. I have a 30 minute commute, so I use to use a Rosary App and Divine Mercy Chaplet app to recite those, but one morning in the middle of the Divine Mercy a pick-up hauling a car on a trailer passed me on the shoulder on the highway where the road was merging from two lanes to one lane. I blurted out WTF. I figured if I was in that state of mind I shouldn’t be praying as my heart probably wasn’t in it and I was just reciting the words instead of them coming from my heart.

  • Barbara

    While driving, I find that a finger rosary is a little safer and easier to use than a 5-decade rosary.

  • Joycey

    The Holy Rosary.

  • I have been a firm believer in automobile university for many years. Listened to christians audiobooks or music for most all my commutes. We spend so much time in our cars we may as well make the most of it. Just started with podcasts too..thanks for the great resources.

  • Peter Ascosi

    good stuff! I’ve decided to “embrace silence” for 1 part of my commute every day

  • I have an app called “Divine Mercy” and you can set it to say the prayers of the Divine Mercy Chaplet out loud. I used to listen to that on my commute to school.

  • Doug Ulaszek

    Excellent! So glad there are other dads out there who desire the monastic life! Thanks for the encouragement to keep that drive sacred 🙂

  • JeanCrump

    This probably falls into one of the other categories, but I also listen to an audio version of the Liturgy of the Hours.

  • Teresa

    Brandon, I felt like you were describing me when you wrote about living one vocation but still being drawn so strongly to the monastic life. That has been me for more than 30 years. For about 20 years I had a long commute also (1 hour each way) and I used it as best I could for my spiritual quiet time. It was very fruitful for me. If smart phones had existed back then, I can’t imagine how much more fruitful. One thing I do now – and would highly recommend – is using an app for praying the Liturgy of the Hours. I use the Divine Office app and it is more than excellent. I will often combine Morning Prayer and the Office of Readings in the a.m. and then on way home prayer Evening Prayer. I find it easier to squeeze these in during the commute rather than praying at home or work. Thank you for all your tips and recommendations – especially for some of the podcasts that I didn’t know about. Oh, and also, I wanted to mention that drive time is a very very good way to work on and develop compassion and love (and patience). You are in traffic – surrounded by so many other souls in their cars – the battleground is yours for the taking. 🙂

  • Great post! I pray the Rosary using an iPhone App. There are quite a few for both iPhone and Andriod – just search the App store or Google play for one that suits you best.

  • Ness Lipa

    I listened to podcasts from chnetwork.org (Deep in Scripture by Marcus Grodi) when i started having 1+-hr drives to my new work! If there was one thing that made me appreciate this commute (coming from a previous work which was just 20 minutes away), it’s definitely how it ‘fast-tracked’ my love for learning more about our faith! 🙂 thanks for sharing the links, Brandon! I’m actually running out of stuff to listen to.. 😉

  • Nancy Shuman

    This is wonderful; immensely practical! I hope it meets with your approval that I linked to it today from my blog.

  • For some time now, I have been using my “tenner” prayer beads for an aid in reciting the Jesus Prayer while commuting. There’s something about the feel of the beads that helps keep me aware and on track. I like to walk 5 to 10 kilometres each day too and usually make that a ‘prayer-walk’, especially using the Jesus Prayer or my personal adaptions of that.

  • Jane

    Mother Angelica EWTN “prodded” me to evaluate my use of time and reach your conclusion – I am wasting a lot of time that I could enrich with prayer. In addition to driving time, I love to garden. What better time to talk with God than when enjoying His creation in the garden!

    In desperate moments, I always turn to the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It instantly returns me to the arms of Jesus and his peace.

    One of my personal favorite prayers that I turn to when in the car is the Chaplet of St. Maximilian Kolbe. Using 14 beads for the prayers, I am able to pray individually for the various needs of my family and of the world. For me, It is easier to pray it to completion than the Rosary…not forgetting to mention that St. Maximilian is my own Patron Saint. More information, the actual prayer and beads for the prayer are available online.

  • BetsyRheaume

    On a more positive note, 🙂 I pray the rosary on the way to work, but I live in a rural area where I mainly have to watch for deer crossing the road and traffic isn’t an issue.

    Sometimes I listen to Catholic radio or podcasts on my iphone, but I still could make better use of my time. I considered doing the examan prayer on the way home, it’s something I’ve tried to do at bedtime but I’m usually too tired to make the effort.

  • BetsyRheaume

    When I click on the librovox link I get a message about a virus. I think it should be librivox

© 2017 Brandon Vogt

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