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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Prayer in the Family

Homeschooling, living a Catholic life, and praying in the family can be likened to this image:
Picture yourself at a restaurant near the Vatican, sitting at a table with a crisp white tablecloth, white plates, and the best bread you've ever seen. The waiter is busy pouring out sparkling Pellegrini water while holding a white napkin over his arm. You look over your shoulder, through the glass window you see the dome of St. Peter's basilica. You and your family have been out all day visiting the tombs of the apostles, praying in the shrines, seeing ancient ruins, marveling at ancient science of the aqueducts and listening to the voice of the successor of St.Peter. The day included a visit to the Santa Scala where you were able to kneel on the very steps Jesus Himself fell upon! And now with the day's pilgrimage behind you, you sit with your family, relax, and enjoy the fine cuisine and review the day that has passed.

Think of praying with your family as "the flavors of Rome." You want to bring Rome into your home. When and where do all of you routinely stop your activities ofthe day and get together? It is around the table. Here is the natural place to begin setting up your prayer schedule. We want to keep it pleasant and build up Catholic culture in our home. We don't want prayer to become a burden. Our aim is to have mealtime as pleasant as if we had spent the day in Rome and now we are at a restaurant. We have to be gentle to the little ones, or the ones with little faith. ("We who are strong in faith should be patient with the scruples of those whose faith is weak." Romans 15:1) A few very short prayers beginning each meal will become the foundation of your family's prayer routine.

The old definition of prayer is lifting your heart and mind to God. The prayers do not have to be long in order to bring yourself into the presence of God. Prayer is a gift. It is not a matter of will power, of talking to yourself and self improving. It is a question of giving. Giving of yourself, giving of your life. Prayer should always be an offering. Prayer is the response to what God has already offered to us. He has already given up His life for us. He loved us when we were yet far off. Prayer is a response to God's gift to us. It should reflect the offering He has made first. It doesn't take many words to offer yourself.

For example: "I'm Yours"

Excellent prayer.

It is even better when you pray it consistently.

Luke 18"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said:

'In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.' "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'

" And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. "

An explanation of the "flavors of Rome":

Visiting shrines and historical sites.and science marvels means homeschooling and
educating your children at home.

Visiting the Holy Stairs, is an image of the times we fail at what we
are trying to accomplish.

Listening to the Holy Father is what being a good Catholic is all about.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Short, Simple, Humble, Consistent

If you are a married woman, a mother, you may find that your prayer life, for the most part, will be praying with your children. The children's physical limitations become your limitations. If your oldest child is two, and his attention span is 18 seconds, that is how long your vocal prayer lasts.

"God's will is good, pleasing, and perfect."
(St. Paul to the Romans 12)

You build up the vocal prayer time according to your children's
abilities. You build their strength in prayer gradually, in short, simple, humble yet consistent ways. This is very similar to learning to play an instrument. You begin slowly with humble songs until you don't even notice that you are practicing for an hour and playing advanced pieces.

So, let's give a practical example. Here we are at the breakfast table. I have them
all together and I have their attention. Before having breakfast, we make a morning offering, renew our consecration to the Immaculate, make a Spiritual
Communion, and then each child calls upon a saint. In the beginning, I would keep these prayers printed out and thumbtacked to the kitchen wall. We began by just saying the titles of the prayers, just as I just printed them. It takes about 28 seconds to read them off. Then as this became easy, we added a few more lines of one of the prayers. Each prayer introduced one at a time. The Spiritual Communions began like this:

"Let's think of a Tabernacle, now, let's give Jesus a

Once this became easy, the first lines were introduced. Then slowly over months, we actually all
learned a Spiritual Communion. All the prayers go like this, start small and then add when it gets easy.

I call this: Build, Build, Build.

Morning Prayers

Morning Offering

Immaculate Mother of God and my Mother, Mary, I renew my total consecration to You and I offer to Your Immaculate Heart my prayers and works, joys and sacrifices of this day in cooperation with Your mission of conquering the whole world for the Kingdom of Christ.

Renew Consecration

by saying:

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to You, and for all who do not have recourse to You, especially for the enemies of the Holy Church and those recommended to You.

Spiritual Communion

My Jesus, I believe that You are really present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart…(pause)…I embrace You as One who has already come, and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You.

Patron Saints Litany

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Holy Father St. Francis, Holy Mother St.Clare, St. Maximilian, St. Louis IX, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Michael, Guardian Angels, Protector saints (from Epiphany) (the saint of the day) and any other saint that a child would like to call upon.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

"Those who trust in the Lord will not be put to shame."(Daniel 3)

To begin any new prayer routine, you need to begin by praying. You need to pray for the desire, pray for the ability, pray to be able to learn the prayers. Whenever you have the inspiration to pray more, it is a grace from God. The Carmelites say "Everything is a grace." The desire to do good, the longing for prayer is a grace. Man is basically good with a flaw. The flaw is original sin, it gives us a leaning toward evil (concupiscence). (Original sin has left us with a darkened intellect and a weakened will.) If God is leading you towards good, if you have the desire to pray, continue to let Him lead you. Be the "docile instrument" in His hands. I think when a discussion of prayer comes up, most people think of vocal prayer. Vocal prayer is basically formula prayers: the Rosary, Angelus, even the Breviary. The goal, however, is to make all prayer, mental prayer. Prayer in which we place ourselves in the presence of God, we meditate, we incorporate some supernatural truth into our lives -the prayer goes passed our lips and enters our heart. A lot of times, we intellectually know what we should do. Mental prayer is the means by which our hearts learn what to do.

I don't know is this is helpful, but for the longest time, I didn't know what mental prayer was. When I would go for spiritual advice and explain that I have no patience and no peace, I would be asked,
"Do you pray?"
"Sure, angelus, rosary, breviary, loads of prayer.
"The next question would invariably be,
"Well, do you practice mental prayer?"
"What is that?"
"Of course, when I pray my prayers my mind is always full of thoughts: Who's going to start the next fight?Let me call the electrician, somebody put a wind up toy in the light socket. The kitchen sink isn't working Who knows a plumber who will fix it? I need to make some doctor appointments."

It just seemed that when the demands of many children descended upon me, my vocal prayer was no longer mental prayer. Before children, if my peace was disturbed I'd make a point of spending more time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I would stay until the discord in my soul melted. But, this is no longer an option. A new solution needed to be found. A solution that fit my vocation. I see now that it was my daily Marian meditation that caused a change. (See the link on the side for Mary Vitamin.) Sometimes, by the time we realize we need to be more prayerful, our peace has already been shattered. We are in a state of great anxiety or we've developed a habit of giving into our passions. St. Francis deSales teaches us not to add to any of the anxiety, broken peace or passion when trying to overcome these obstacles in our interior life.Don't fret, if this is your state. Don't add any more anxiety. Don't apply any more passion in your pursuit of prayerful peace and meditation. Let God do the work and promise to God, you will do your part.Pray to pray, pray for desire, pray for ability, pray to learn, trying to cultivate peace interiorly. Begin with the lowest form of mental prayer: spiritual reading. Turn off the TV, put away any form of modern music, put down the newspapers and magazines, make sure your clothing is not revealing, stay in your home and go on retreat. Read an excellent biography of a saint throughout the day, in between your work, and try to make some free time in the night to read.(Books which I found helpful in making a "home retreat" were: St. Catherine Laboure, Mrs. Seton(Dirvin), Joan of Arc (Twain), Bl. Damian of Molokai(Roos?), Song of Bernadette, Fatima from the Beginning, (Marchi)
St. Teresa of Avila teaches how to turn vocal prayer into mental prayer:

"Represent the Lord Himself as close to you and behold how lovingly and humbly He is teaching you…If you grow accustomed to having Him at your side and He sees you do so with love…He will never fail you." (Way of Perfection)

Try to make all vocal prayer mental prayer. Make the sign of the cross as though you are St. Bernadette of whom it was said, that no one made the sign more beautifully. Every time you pray, remember you are in the presence of God (St. Francis DeSales). Think of Him next to you. Pray the breviary as though your were talking to Jesus Himself. Imagine Him next to you and you are David, crying out your need for the Savior.Pray in the presence of God. I find this easiest in the Breviary. St. Teresa of Avila said she couldn't think of one person of the Blessed Trinity without thinking of all three. A very good book, I didn't read the whole thing, but it is good: The Soul of the Apostolate. The gist is, the active apostolate is built on mental prayer. Being a wife, mother, homeschooler etc... is definitely the active apostolate. We should try to cultivate mental prayer. (St. Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle is the definitive work on mental prayer. Her experiences are extraordinary.)

C.S. Lewis wrote something like this: Whenever I feel the flame of devotion wane, I pick up my pen, a piece of paper, and study my Faith. So, spiritual reading and study are essential in the adult Christian's prayer life.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

During the School Day

#4 In the past, I tried to pray with all the children together before schooling. I found that it drained my patience too
much. Perhaps when my children are older we will be able to do this. We have prayers spread througout the day, so I
don't, per se, begin our schoolwork with prayers.
However, for me, before schooling, I privately say
some prayers for patience. A practice I have been
trying to
cultivate is to think of the seven sorrows of Our Lady
in between teaching my children. So, when I change to
a different child or a different subject, while I am
walking for a new book, run to the bathroom, go to get
a drink, stop to change a diaper, I move on to the
next sorrow. I only try to say 1 or 2 Hail Marys. The
days when I have been able to do this, at lunch time,
I am so satisfied with my morning. The schooling went
well, I did well. But, I have noticed the days when I
get to lunch and say "What have I done!" or "What am I
doing?" with a big groan, are the days when I didn't
think of Our Lady's sorrows.

Now that we have made it to lunch, a new practice this
school year, in addition to the Hail Mary for all
those entrusted to our prayers, is to review
yesterday's gospel as a means of studying Italian. At
least, this is how it started. A Sister from our
parish recommended reading the gospel as a way of
beginning to study Italian. I signed up with the Daily

I receive the Gospel in Italian via email. I print it out and read during
lunch. Before I read it, I ask the children if they
remember yesterday's gospel. We review it narration
style, and I say what words should we look for, for
example: fig tree, fox, buried his talents, fools.
Well, wouldn't you know it, something that started out
as purely academic pursuit has turned out to be of
spiritual benefit. Just calling to mind yesterday's
gospel, helps to imprint on these tender minds the
words of Jesus. This is a great practice, and it can
be done without the foreign language! However, if you
go to Mass each morning, maybe it is better to recall
the morning's Gospel reading over lunch and prepare
for tomorrow's reading at snack time.

When I put the youngest for a nap, I make a
Eucharistic meditation. I keep a book about the
Blessed Sacrament near the chair that I use to put the
littlest one to sleep. I have used St. Alphonsus di
Liguori's Little Visits to the Blessed Sacrament,
Father Manelli's Jesus Our Eucharistic Love, and also
bible passages which speak of the Bread of Life.

"Jesus called his disciples to him and said: 'My heart
is moved with pity for the crowd. By now they have
been with me three days, and have nothing to eat. I do
not wish to send them away hungry, for fear they may
collapse on the way."

Throughout your day, while on your journey, make sure
you avail yourself of this miraculous food, which the
Lord gives us because His heart is moved with pity. He
doesn't want us to collapse in our search for Him.
Make many Spiritual Communions. The simplest Spiritual
Communion is the one described at the breakfast table,
but singing Eucharistic hymns works very well, and is
also very easy: Sweet Sacrament, O Lord I am not
worthy, Tantum Ergo, O Salutaris.... singing while
thinking of the Monstrance or a particular Tabernacle
is making a Spritual Communion. We are called, as
Catholic to make our focus the Eucharist, the Bread of
Angels which sustains our souls.

One of the most helpful images for me, to help me make
many spiritual Communions in a day, is from Father
Manelli's Jesus Our Eucharistic Lord:

"Wherever I may be I will often think of Jesus in the
Blessed Sacrament. I will fix my thoughts on the holy
Tabernacle - adoring Him from where I am, calling to
Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, offering up to Him the
action I am performing. I will install one telegraph
cable from my study to the Church, another from my
bedroom, and a third from our refectory; and as often
as I can, I will send messages of love to Jesus in the
Blessed Sacrament." Sevant of God, Andrew Baltrami
(from Jesus Our Eucharistic Lord)

So, I tap my thigh where I have set up my imaginary
"telegraph tapper" so that I can send my frequent
S.O.S. to the Lord. Help! Oh No! Oh My! have all been
frequently sent.

But, this is the way the messages begin. Once you have
remembered to think of the Lord and find yourself in
His presence, it is so easy to say words of love.

When I remember to tap my thigh, I remember to tap my
heart and renew my consecration to Our Lady. Devotion
to Our Lady brings you a very deep love for the
Blessed Sacrament. The Annunciation leads directly to
the Lord's presence in the Eucharist. Our Lady leads
directly to the Lord.

St. Peter Julian Eymard speaks of Our Lady as the
Greatest Adorer. She had the privilege to adore Our
Lord before the world knew of Him, in Her womb. She
also continually adored Him, His entire earthly life,
at the Cross, at the grave, and as She waited,
suffering, for the Resurrection. She never slipped or
wavered, not even an inch in Her adoration. Many times
when remembering my Vow and tapping my heart to
remember Her, I end up tapping a message to Our Lord
in the Blessed Sacrament. I have told my children what
my tapping means. Example is the best teacher.

We have a half hour of adoration a week. We share the
hour with some friends. While at church, I ask the
children to check their telegraph wires, make sure
they are in good shape before we go home.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Rosary stands in a league of its own.

When I kneel
before Our Lady of Fatima as her daughter, I see in
front of me Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. Our Lady is
speaking to them: Pray the Rosary every day. But, if I call myself Our Lady's daughter, I can't pretend that She is not speaking to me as well. I can't
look over my shoulder as if She is speaking to someone
else. No, She is speaking to me and to my children as

The Fatima children were very young.
Our Lady asked them to pray the Rosary. I don't ask my
youngest children to pray the whole Rosary, but, you
know what, after all these years of determined Rosary
praying, it is my youngest children, 4 &
2 years old who love to pray the rosary, who love to lead, and more
or less, pray the Rosary. I have to struggle with the
little boys, but, they hear me belt out the Rosary and
I repeat day after day "This isn't my command, but the
request of the Queen of Heaven."

I have another image from the Lord of the Rings which
illustrates the point of praying the Rosary every day.
In Moria, just before Gandalf is dragged into the pit,
he slams his staff down before that monster and says:
YOU SHALL NOT PASS! We have to be like that. The day
should not pass without praying the Rosary. We have to
figure out the way to get this done. For me, I had
this experience a few years ago. I just decided to
pray the rosary with EWTN at 3:30. That's what I was
going to do, to get it done. Well, then it happened,
that my only child at the time, would be hungry. So, before 3:30 EWTN, we
had a snack, so she would be able to make it through
the Rosary (I think she was about 3 years old at this
time.) Well, after "Build, Build, Build" happened
after several years. We have tea time, with a few of the
Mercy Chaplet prayers, a Marian examination of conscience and the gospel reading from the daily Mass.

Here's another image:

Dinner time rolls around and your kids come to you and
"Hey Mom - What's for dinner?"
"Oh, I am sorry. I had too much laundry to do today.
And you know how long your schooling took today."
"Oh, but couldn't you just boil some spaghetti and put
butter on it?"
"Well, actually, I can't even boil water today. The
baby's been sick and throwing up. I have to continue
to hold her. I can't get near the stove."
"Oh Mom! We'll be so hungry if we eat NOTHING. We were
looking in the panty and found some Cheeze Its.
Couldn't we just have Cheeze Its tonight?"
"Well, I guess because of the day its been, its all
right, just for tonight."
"Hip, Hip, Hurray!"

Please forgive the digression into processed foods,
but, I think the Cheeze It dinner, gets across
the idea of how important it is to say the Rosary
every day. Sometimes, once and awhile, the "cheeze it
rosary" is better than nothing. Do we want a steady
diet of "cheeze it rosaries"? No. But, sometimes
"something is better than nothing."

Monday, February 06, 2006

Marian Examination of Conscience

A Marian examination is very fitting for children. It
is good for adults, of course, but for children, who
are so close to their baptismal purity, who are
homeschooled, where public TV, modern music, bad
movies, foul language, and immodest clothing are at
the lowest levels, well, why not have the children
looking up at the Model of Christian
Perfection? The children are closer to Her virtue,
than we adults, with our emotional and moral baggage.
The Marian virtues (angelic sweetness) are so gentle
compared to the Ten Commandments (do not commit
adultery), you can see how well this fits children.

We make our exam around the tea/snack table. I ask the
children to look over their day. We still have the
rest of the day to do better. Let's see if we behaved
as the Blessed Virgin Mary. Did we practice:

Profound humility
Living faith
Burning charity
Universal mortification
Heroic patience
Angelic sweetness
Divine wisdom
Continuous prayer
Blind obedience
Divine purity
Seraphic poverty
Perfect joy
Resplendent modesty
Beautiful honesty
Radiant tranquility
Invincible hope
Tender piety

Did we think of Our Lady today? Did we offer our work
to Her?

Now, think of one thing you did which was not like Our
Lady and think how She would have behaved in that

Now, let's make an act of contrition.

Fr. Neubert in My Ideal, recommends when making an
examination of conscience, don't just list your faults
and sins and keep your eyes down, but rather, lift
your head up to the examples of Mary and Jesus. See
what they would have done in your place. It brings you
into contact with heaven to make the exam this way. It
refreshes your soul. Here's an analogy:

Let's say you turn to your backyard and say "Boy,
there's a lot of weeds out there and overgrown
brambles too. It would look a lot better if I cleaned
up the mess and created some beautiful flower beds and
put in some lovely flowering trees." So, you go out
there with a spoon from the kitchen drawer and start
working. After a few days, I think you would find
yourself frustrated, disappointed, and beleaguered.

Now, what if instead, you call in a professional
landscaping team? A team with a lot of experience and
personnel. The design architect looks at your yard and
designs a beautiful plan. The landscaping company has
all the machinery to make the plan a reality:
Backhoes, edgers, bucket trucks, you name it. In their
employ is the most competent foreman who directs the
legion of workers who come to get the job done right
and promptly. Of course, you provide your input.
You've lived with your garden for some time. You know
where the sun rises and sets, you know where a tree
would be helpful, where some flowers would be nice.
You know where the really big rocks are and the
troubling drainage. You point this out to the team and
they take over.

This is an analogy for taking your examination of
conscience up to God and not just remaining in
yourself. In yourself, you just have a kitchen spoon.
On the other hand, the professional landscaping
company is the Heavenly Court. The architect is your
Heavenly Mother. She has a plan for you to get to
heaven, just as we mothers have an educational plan
for our children. She is truly a Mother, the Mother to
all of us, to each of us as individuals. She truly has
a plan for you - an excellent one, a beautiful one.
The power machines represent God's power. His power is
all encompassing. Any work which needs to be done, He
can do it. The legions of workers are the Saints in
the Communion of Saints and the Angels in their
Choirs. The foreman is St. Joseph.

For the Adults:

Marian Examination of Conscience

(Excerpts from the Marian Seraphic Pathways, the
legislative text of the “Mission of the Immaculate
Mediatrix”, a public association of the faithful under
the direction of the religious Institute of the
Franciscans of the Immaculate.)

“Let us keep well in mind, unlimited consecration to
the Immaculate sanctifies in a manner more rapid and
perfect if lived…in a commitment to serious, constant,
daily examination…. ONLY this ascetical Marianization
leads to full conformity to Jesus.” (p 47 #49 SP)

“After examining at the end of the day and finding one
had never or hardly ever, thought and worked in terms
of unlimited consecration to the Immaculate, MEANS
be called a day of grace.” (#41)

Did I think and work as a “docile instrument” and as a
“thing and property” of the Immaculate in giving
totally of my time and energy to her? (#40)

Did I give up the right ever to dispose of myself in
anything and for anything. Time and space, wakefulness
and repose, joy and sorrows, present and future…Is all
Hers only? (#36)

Did I remember that the “Marian character is not an
act of devotion made or recited in a determined moment
but is a soul found in each part of our body and
presiding over our every thought, word and deed?” (SP

Did I think and work for Mary, with Mary and in Mary,
by renouncing thoughts and works of a purely natural
bent, or carried out according to my “own” way of
seeing and doing? (#40)

Did I think and work today in light of:
What would the Immaculate think? What would the
Immaculate do in this precise moment and situation?

The Virtues of Our Lady

• Did I wake lazily?
• Did I spend my time in useless chatter in place of
• Did I spend my time reading newspapers or watching
TV instead of meditation and remaining recollected?
• Did I go here and there without necessity?
• Did I lose hours of time instead of involving myself
in apostolic activity? (#45)
• Did I approach my day as a “sacrificial offering” in
intimate union with the Immaculate?
• Did I use my spare time to further my study of the
Madonna so that the mystery of Mary Immaculate could
be incorporated into my interior life and in my
• Am I faithful in attendance at our periodic MIM
formation meetings?
• Is my mortification and penance generous?
• Have I guarded my senses, mortified my will and my
natural instincts in order to be transfigured into the
• Have I mortified my pride and ambition and desire to
comfort myself in order that I might practice
humility, poverty, patience and dedication to others?
• Have I practiced the penance of fasting and
abstinence, of silence and obscurity, of prayer
• Have I renounced vanities, entertainments, trips,
worldly spectacles, superfluous vacations, after the
example of the Immaculate?
• Have I realized in myself “the being” of the
Immaculate that is all grace and the “work” of the
Mediatrix that is all salvation for others?
• Have I offered sacrifices without reserve to be
transfigured into the Mediatrix who saves souls?
• Have I worked at the apostolate with fervent and
untiring commitment giving all my energy and capacity
for work to Her?
• So long as there would be a soul to save, one
consecrated by the Marian Vow should not allow himself
peace or pause for repose: We rest in Paradise! As St.
Maximilian was accustomed to reply to whoever exhorted
him to reduce his incessant, apostolic work.
• Is this my attitude?
• Am I untiring in my approach to prayer and constant
good example, vigils and fasts?
• Am I involved in an apostolate of word and of
organized action either on one’s own initiative, or in
an M.I.M Cenacle?
• Have I been concerned, daily, about the apostolate
of the environment – family, school, factory offices?
• Have I been systematic in my efforts to find all
methods and ways of introducing the Immaculate and
radiating Her by word and works, by dedication and
self sacrifice?
• Have I distributed the Miraculous Medal and Marian
• Have I turned conversations into occasions for
efficient and enlightened Marian catechesis?
• Have I organized prayer meetings, retreats,
pilgrimages to Marian or other sanctuaries?
• Do I have the means for the direct apostolate of the

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Tea Time Prayers

We have tea time, with a nice table cloth, usually clean, tea cups and tea pot filled with herbal tea. We begin with a little less than a decade of the Mercy Chaplet, led by my four year old.

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion,
Have Mercy on us, and on the whole world.

Then we make a Marian examination of conscience and review the day. I ask the children to think of one time they did not act like the Blessed Virgin Mary today and to resolve, if the same situation arises, that the next time they will act like the Blessed Virgin Mary. We all say the act of contrition:

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of Hell. But, most of all, because they offend You, my God, who art all good and deserving of my love. I firmly resolve with the help of Your grace, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.

We pass out the food and try to practice using some good table manners. Once everyone has had something to eat and the discussion seems to wane. I give the warning that I'm about to read the day's gospel: "Get whatever you need, so that you don't have to interrupt the reading."

I use the suggestions from the book
My Ideal.

1. Ask the Blessed Virgin to help you understand what
Jesus is going to teach you.
2. During reading tell Blessed Mary the reflections it
3. Keep in mind Jesus is talking to you.

(During the reading of the daily Gospel, if the reading begins
"Jesus said" I cup my ear and lean over, I ask the
little kids to do this too. Jesus is talking, whatever
He says is Absolutely True, absolutely.)

4. Read respectfully
5. Read slowly - not from curiosity
6. What needs reform in your life?
7. Make a resolution, give it to the Blessed Virgin

I just go around the table, asking the youngest or the
shyest to go first. What did you hear today? What did
Our Lady teach you today? What is your resolution
going to be? I am happy to hear anything remotely
similar to the gospel reading or the Catholic faith.
Just going around the table stimulates a discussion.
It really helps to remember and call upon it later. I
find this more effective for me, than if I were to
just read the Gospel on my own. I believe this is the
result of the sacrament of marriage. God is rewarding
my praying with my children.

And after, we pray the Rosary. Snack time is one of
the most important prayer times. There isn't a lot of
pressure on the meal preparation, so it lends itself
very well to prayer. It has also become one of the
secrets of waking up early in order to pray before the
children wake up.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


If you use your meal times as the basis of your family
prayer schedule, you have at least 3 meeting times. If
you add snack as a meal time, there are four. The
rosary would be a separate time, 5. Now, the angelus
can be prayer time 6 & 7.

I wouldn't pray the angelus before lunch, it may be a
little long for young children. I would save it for
after lunch, even if you have lunch at 12:00. We make
the angelus an "event". We used to have a bird clock,
it broke, which called out Noon by the hooting of a
great horned owl. It was very effective. You couldn't
forget when 12:00 rolled around. Now I just say, "Ring
the angelus bell!" If we are in the car, the kids say
"ding dong" (for a long time), if we are home I have
an Austrian cow bell that my 4 year old has the
privilege of ringing. One friend, actually hung a bell
over her kitchen sink, and she rings it to call the
Angelus. We say the Angelus and then add:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the
Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and
will be forever. 3x

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom His love love commits me here
enlighten, and guard,
rule and guide me. Amen

Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual
light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen

My new build, is to add a Spiritual Communion. The
Annunciation is just so important to our salvation,
that it really shouldn't be omitted.

Anonther friend had the great idea of setting her son's
digital watch to chime at 6:00 p.m.,as a help to
remember to say the angelus again. For awhile, I set
an alarm clock with an unusual tone, to remind me to
say the angelus at 6:00. At one point, I found it very
demanding to say 3 angelus' a day. I took this to a
priest and he very wisely suggested that I not worry
so much about the prayers but remember the great event
of the Annunciation. He asked me if I wanted to give
honor to Our Lady's yes? Did I consider that God
became Man an important belief to remember? Yes, to
all of the questions. This helped me very much to get
over a hesitation to saying 3 angelus (angeli?) a day.
This is also a very good way to start saying the
angelus with young children. To just recall the event
of St. Gabriel visiting Our Lady and Her unparalleled
openess to God's will. (When I say these things, like
3 angelus a day, it is because God has given me the
grace to be a Third Order Franciscan, with the call
comes the grace to be able to pray more.)

As a practical matter, different children have the
responsibility of leading different prayers. The
youngest leads the Mercy chaplet decade (4 yr). The
next in line leads the Angleus (6). The newest reader
reads the litany. They seem happier to engage if they
are "in charge". Also, I ask children to remind me to
say prayers. "Don't let me forget after meal prayer."
(I am terrible about this, I forget more times than

Don't give in to "perfection blues." This is not going
to be the most perfect way to say prayers. But, it can
be consistent, which is more important according to
the Lord's own parables. How do you reconcile the
chaos with the peace prayer is supposed to bring?
Well, be conformed to God's Will. Prayer is an
offering. You are offering yourself to God, with your
children, in an effort to do His Will. It isn't an
exercise in our own will. We have to be able to step
back and say, maybe God doesn't want this right now.
Or maybe God wants me to be mortified right now. In
any event, tomorrow will be better. This is another
good prayer. We are going to keep trying. We will do
better later today. Or tomorrow will be better.

The schedule is not to be a burden but an assistance.
It is to prevent:
"Well, I would like to pray to God now, I don't have
the time for the Rosary, um, what should I do?" Then
nothing happens from sheer exhaustion, confusion or
ignorance. The schedule should never make you feel tha
God is a task master.

Here is where Marian meditaion sets a firm foundation
to your prayer life. With the Immaculate as the lofty
Model, actually impossible to attain through human
means due to our fallen human nature, but absolutely
possible through the power of God. She becomes the
demanding Master (Mistress). She is demanding, not in
Her demeanor or commands, but in Her example. To
follow in Her footsteps, requires much more than the
human person is capable of, naturally, but with God,
all things are possible. So, let Her change your
heart, plow your soul and replace the barren earth
bound for death with the rich earth that She can
supply with Her action in your soul. Let Her be the
Plow, the Rake, the Gardener. Let Her bring Her
Immaculate Soil, rich with the nutrients of grace.
Once She has visited, the seed can be planted.

"To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is
like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in
a garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large
bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches."
(LK 13:18,19)

Once She has visited, and your eyes are fixed intently
on Her virtue, it sets you free to believe the Lord's

"My yoke is easy. My burden is light."

How often do we doubt this? How often do we say :"My
life is too hard for me! YOU are a slave driver?"
What kind of relationship is that with God?
Are we full of doubt?
What does St. James say about those who doubt?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Personal Prayer

Now I am seguing into personal prayer, prayer alone
without the children. This is very important. We need
to spend some time, not all the time, but some time,
in contact with God. We have to experience the Divine
patience, if we are going to show patience.

"See above all how with Him each word, each action
proceeds from love...You have not yet understood His
teaching if you have not discovered its source: the
infinite love of His Heart." (My Ideal)

With a set plan to read the Gospel each day with your
children, you have the basis for a conversation with
Jesus as part of your personal prayers. (See the book My Ideal for a detailed explanation of this type of conversation.)

"Go to your room and shut the door, and pray in
secret. Your Heavenly Father who sees all will repay
you openly."

Try to "leave the dry land and go out to
sea" as St. Teresa of Avila counsels. Close the door
and windows of your senses so that you retreat into
your soul in order to bring it to the refreshing
waters of the Trinity. In this prayer, bring the
blessed Virgin Mary with you. She will keep you
recollected, She will keep you honest, She will keep
you humble. Begin to "sail away" by making an act of
contrition and imagine the Lord. Put yourself at His
feet for the sermon on the mount. Use the scripture
reading you went over at tea time. Use the reading to
discover the deep love of the Sacred Heart. You must
find love. If you hear harsh words, than you have
missed the meaning. (My Ideal)

The mere fact that the second Person of the Blessed
Trinity became man to suffer for us is LOVE. The mere
fact that we have the gospel with His words recorded
is an act of intense love. If the Gospel has a rebuke
in it for you, listen with love. It is to those that
He loves that He chasizes and corrects. Always abandon
yourself to His love in these conversations.

Speak to Him about this reading. Notice His feelings,
His brilliance, His humor, His personality, His
goodness, His Honesty, His Humility, His Greatness,
His Compassion. Sheer power is not as multifaceted as
great power with gentleness and humility. The
combination is awe inspiring. The most rapid way to
make progress in anything is to make a resolution to
do better. Finish your conversation with a resolution
and give the resolution to the Blessed Vrigin Mary.
Otherwise the resolution will be vague.

This should be the most pleasant prayer of the day. Do
not omit it. Make a plan and keep to it. This
conversation could be the secret to waking up early,
before the rest of your household in order to pray.
How many of us could wake up early, at 5 am for
arduous devotions? The most demanding of the day? But,
what if you wake up early because the Lord is waiting
to speak to you, calling you from slumber to awake to
Him? That is not arduous. A little talk based on
yesterday's gospel. You don't even have to read
anything. Just slip out of bed, go to the statue of
the Sacred Heart, kneel down in front of Him, put your
hand over His wounded foot. Begin with the sign of the
Cross and then the Act of Contrition and sail out to
meet Him in your soul.

Now that you are awake and already refreshed, it is
easier to say other morning prayers. Make the coffee,
have a biscuit, and now you have time for a morning
offering, a spiritual communion, a Marian meditation
and the breviary.

A small tip, I was given a CD alarm clock for
Christmas a few years ago. I scoffed at it as too
fancy for me and never took it out of the box, until
recently. It is the BEST! I usually have little
children in my room and I don't want to wake them up
early!! But, with soft gentle music of my choosing,
usually Bach, I can wake up early without disturbing
them. I espcially like Jesu Joy of Man's desiring. The
song itself reminds me that Jesus is waiting to talk
to me. I have also found that trying to wake up 15
minutes or 25 minutes before the kids is not early
enough. It is just close enough to their wake up time
that they wake up also. But, if I wake up about 1-2
hours before them, they don't wake up. This is not for
everyone! If you are expecting or have a newborn, you
need a lot more sleep. I couldn't do this for a long
time, but, as things calmed down, this is what I have
discovered works, at least for the present, while I
still have the grace to do it.

Another secret is to be conformed to the Will of God.
If despite your best efforts, you cannot awaken, then
abandon yourself to His Will as a child would. If you
set the alarm clock and you sleep through it, abandon
yourself to His Will. If your child is up during the
night, this is your Eucharistic Adoration. Think of
waking up to visit the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament
and attend to the needs of your child. The goal is
always to conform yourself to God's Will. If you set
the alarm clock but if you get out of bed your baby
will awaken, don't become disgruntled or petulant.
Stay in bed, conforming yourself to God's Will in
gratitude and go back to sleep. You know the
difference between laziness and conforming yourself to
God's Will. Tomorrow is another day or you can try to
catch up later in the day.

If one evening you peeked into your 5 year old
daughter's room and saw that she had neatly put out
her slippers, robe, a prayer book and her teddy bear
and she was busy fiddling with an alarm clock. She
looks up at you and says "Oh good! I don't know how to
set this, would you help me?" You walk into her room
and turn the clock on and ask her "What are you
doing?" She replies "I want to get up early to say a
few prayers before my busy day gets underway."
Wouldn't your heart be touched? Wouldn't you just
think that was the most tenderest display of piety?
There really isn't much difference in our relationship
with Our Heavenly Father. We need to be like children
if we can enter the kingdom of God. Our Heavenly
Father will smile upon our attempts to wake up early
to speak with Him in prayer. The life of a mother or a
father is very busy, demanding, and tiring. God knows
how hard you are working, but the more demands that
are placed upon you, the more you need God's strength.
Make an offering of yourself to God, prepare yourself
to wake up early. Do a few things before you go to bed
which will make it easier to wake up in the morning:
1. put your clothes near your bed, your slippers, rob,
whatever you like to have.
2. Maybe set the coffee before bed
3. Line up your prayerbook, favorite devotional
picture, spiritual reading, breviary, notebook, pen.

Do all of these as a good will offering to God, as an
act of piety, as a prayer. "O Lord, I want to spend
time with you each morning in prayer. I don't know if
I will sleep through the night, but if I do, I would
like to wake up and speak to You first."