My friend Tom McDonald, who blogs over at God and the Machine at Patheos, recently interviewed me for his series on how people pray. Read a part of the interview below and then click over to Tom’s site for the rest. Enjoy!
Who are you?
In order of importance, I’m a Catholic, a husband, a father, the Content Director for Fr. Barron’s Word on Fire, and a dabbler in writing, blogging, and speaking. I hope to be a saint.
What is your vocation?
Thérèse discovered it before I did: “My vocation is love!” And more specifically, to love my family. I’m convinced the first two questions God will ask at my judgment are how well I loved my wife and how well I loved my children.
What is your prayer routine for an average day?
It’s changed many times over the years. I used to wake up early–between 4:00am and 5:00am–to pray and read Scripture for half an hour. But I just can’t do that any more. I don’t know if it’s because of kids, because of staying up later with my wife, or just because I’m getting older. But whenever I try to pray in the early mornings now, I can’t focus and usually drift asleep. So here is my typical schedule today:
- 7:00am-7:30am – Mass with family – We’ve been attending Mass together everyday for the last five years. The Mass is the beating heart of our prayer, the “source and summit’ not just of our Faith but of our devotional life. My wife and I agree that if we fail at everything else during the day but get our family to Mass, our day is a success.
- 7:40am-7:50am – Personal prayer after Mass – After I help my wife and kids into their car, I head back to the chapel and pray for 5-10 minutes, running over the day’s tasks and asking for the Lord’s help. This is often hit-and-miss–I would say I make it 3-4 times per week.
- 12:00pm-12:05pm – Angelus – I use the Angelus app, which sends a push alert and notification. For me, the Angelus offers a five minute break during the day to stop, join with others, and focus on the Lord. It’s both the shortest and most difficult part of my routine, which I’ll explain in a moment.
- 3:00pm-3:20pm – Prayer break and study – At the Word on Fire office in Chicago, they celebrate Mass every day. Since I work remotely, though, I try to take a 20 minute break each afternoon to read and reflect. I usually focus on the saint of the day. This year, I’m working through the entire revised version of Butler’s Lives of the Saints, reading all the entries for each day.
- 6:30pm-6:45pm – Rosary with family – We started slow with this routine, praying only three Hail Marys per night. After a few months, we moved to a decade. Then a few months later, two decades. We’re up to three decades now, which we’re really happy with, considering our four kids five and under. Each of our older children takes a turn leading a decade.
- 7:00pm-7:10pm – Prayer with wife – My wife and I just added this to our routine after noticing that neither of us were finding regular quiet time for uninterrupted, personal prayer. We decided the first thing we would do after putting our children down for bed is spend 10 minutes in silence, praying or reading Scripture. We’re only a week in, but so far it’s been a huge help.
How well do you achieve it, and how do you handle those moments when you don’t?
After I became Catholic in 2008, I was pretty scrupulous about keeping my routine. I came from a Protestant culture that supremely valued the “daily quiet time with Jesus.” You miss that, and you’ve missed the core of Christian life. But as the years have passed, I’ve given myself much more grace in the face of life’s vagaries.
I’m still committed to my routine, but when I fail I don’t get discouraged. I understand that the needs of my wife, or children, or work often trump the routine. A figure who understood this well was St. Frances of Rome, one of our few married saints. I spent a while researching her for my book, Saints and Social Justice, and included this quote: “Sometimes a wife must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.”
The same can be said of our prayer routines. The routines are simply means to an end: to commune with God. We can achieve that end through many means. Sometimes God uses our routine, sometimes other ways. But I’m no longer a rigorist about my routine.