What Michelangelo Can Teach You About Virtue in Home Life

Michelangelo finished sculpting his masterpiece, the Pietá, at the young age of 24. As the story goes, when the work was unveiled to the public, the sculptor planted himself in the crowd of admirers, waiting to hear what people thought about his first great work in Rome.

pieta-gmr_6315Of course, the crowds loved it (as they still do), and were in awe of the skill of its anonymous artist. Nobody believed the young and relatively unknown Michelangelo when he told them that he was its maker.

Their disbelief ate at Michelangelo, who, one night, crept into the basilica and engraved his name on the sash across the chest of the Blessed Mother. You can imagine why Michelangelo was later regretful for his prideful action, which was now visible to everyone, stamped right across the woman who is the paragon of humility!

One thing is certain about your work of spiritual leadership in the family and living a Christ-centered life within the four walls of your own home: it’s often the least acknowledged—even though it’s the most important—work that you do.

It takes a good deal of virtue to put significant effort into a job that you often don’t receive any recognition or credit for. While you may receive accolades at work, praise for something you are doing in ministry or at the parish, applause for some feat you’ve accomplished as a hobby or personal goal—it’s likely you don’t have a lot of people house-961401_960_720patting you on the back for the nitty-gritty, baby-step work you do, day in and day out, to help love your family a little better and lead them a little closer to holiness.

But this is virtue! Dedicating oneself to spiritual leadership at home as a top priority in your life means a habitual and firm disposition to do the good—promptly, consistently, with ease and with joy—even and perhaps especially when no one can see you but God alone.

Make a commitment to growing in this kind of virtue. Here are a few simple ways to do so:

  1. Educate yourself in the virtues, and which ones you need to grow in. There are a number of particularly important virtues for family life described in this book, but right now pick at least one virtue you need to learn about and grow in, or one vice to learn about and grow out of.
  2. Practice, practice, practice! Several months ago, I felt like I was complaining too much about little things, mostly to my husband. So I set a phone reminder to ding at me when my alarm goes off at 5 a.m. every day that reads: NO COMPLAINING. That small reminder has helped tremendously. Make a simple plan right now to help you accomplish growth in virtue at home in some way.
  3. Stock up on grace. Frequent the sacraments to receive the grace you need to make strides in pursuing virtue in home life. Regular Confession and receiving the Holy Eucharist often have a remarkable way of turning ordinary folks like you and me into saints someday.

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A Parent Who Prays – Now Available!

Perhaps there is no greater gift we can give our children than the gift of our prayers. Prayer can literally change their lives. It’s that powerful.

a-parent-who-prays-3dWe marvel at how the prayers of Saint Monica, mother of her wayward son, Augustine, worked in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to bring him back to the ways of the Lord and put him on the road to sainthood. We treasure the witness of Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, parents of Saint Therese of Lisieux, who lived their lives as a prayer to God and passionately prayed for their daughters, who all entered the religious life and lived extraordinarily faithful lives.

I don’t want any less for my own children. Honestly, though, life happens, and I’m not always as intentional about praying for my children consistently in the way I really want to be praying for them. But in the times we are living in, our kids need the fervent prayers of their parents!

Enter this new resource that I am so passionate about, because I need this just as much as the next Catholic parent, and I haven’t really found anything like it. 

A Parent Who Prays: A Journal to Guide You in Praying for Your Children (affiliate link) is a simple but transformative little journal to guide you in praying for your children. It will give you the motivation and tools you need – including 52 unique special intentions (one for each week of the year) – to make praying for your children a priority over the next year—and always.

I could tell you more about it, but I’ll let you take a look for yourself. Check out A Parent Who Prays and grab more than one copy; chances are you know someone who is just as interested in learning how to pray more intentionally for their children as you are.

Better still, if you desire to gift this beautiful little journal to your child after completing it, you may want to grab a copy for each child you plan to be praying for. If you’d rather keep it private, one journal can suffice for all of your kids.

And I have some great news for you grandparents, too. A Grandparent Who Prays is also now available! (affiliate link) Make sure you grab a copy and pass this onto fellow grandparents you know. The prayers of grandparents can’t be underestimated. Pope Francis has said, “How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society!”

7 Signs You Have A Faith Your Kids Can “Catch”

Is your faith contagious?

human-854005_960_720When I was writing my book, Head & Heart, I kept hearing over and over again from men and women I spoke with that when it comes to raising children in the Catholic faith, “Faith is more caught than taught.” But what does it look like to have a “catchable” faith? How can we know we are on the right track in witnessing a kind of faith that our kids (and others!) will want to embrace fully themselves?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Am I seeking an ongoing, deeper relationship with Jesus? You can’t give what you don’t have. If you want your children to have an intimate relationship with Christ, you need to have one. This means actually working to grow in relationship with Him, and not just saying that you have one or expecting your relationship with Christ to deepen without any work on your end. Our children sense our authenticity (or inauthenticity) especially in matters of faith, and study after study demonstrates that children are very likely to follow in the footsteps of their parents’ in their own spiritual lives.
  1. Am I praying regularly (and do my kids see me doing it)? If you are seeking an ongoing, deeper relationship with Christ, you must spend time in prayer. That’s how you nurture your relationship with Him. And though you don’t need to make a boy-477010_960_720dramatic, public display of prayer every time you do it, you should make sure that your kids frequently see you praying. Pope Saint John Paul II said, “The concrete example and living witness of parents is fundamental and irreplaceable in educating their children to pray.” Seeing a parent pray with sincerity, regularity, humility, vulnerability, and trust has a powerful impact on a child.
  1. Am I exhibiting virtue? Do you actually act like Christ around your family? Do your children see you living the faith you claim to preach? Do you exhibit joy, charity, hope, patience, forgiveness, and other virtues that characterize someone in love with their faith and their mission to become a saint? If you answered anything but an emphatic “yes” to these questions, pick one virtue right now that you want to exhibit more intentionally to your kids. Set a phone reminder or post a note in a prominent place reminding you to radiate that virtue, so that your kids can catch it, too.
  1. Am I working on my marriage? This might not seem to directly relate to having a “catchable” faith, but you and your spouse help form your children’s image of God! They will often relate to and understand God through the “analogy”—for lack of a better word—of their parents. The more you image the life-giving love of the Trinity in your marriage, the more your children will catch onto that love and crave it from the source of Love Himself.
  1. Am I embracing Catholic culture? Do you celebrate baptism anniversaries and Catholic feast days with the same fun, food, and traditions as you do on days like smile-1507564_960_720Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July? Make Catholic holy days become celebrations that your children anticipate with excitement.
  1. Do I set faith-based goals and dreams, and then actively seek to accomplish them? If you want to accomplish any goal, you need a plan to achieve it. So if you want to possess a catchable faith, you need a plan to acquire one. Set goals for learning more about your faith, getting involved in ministry, or serving your family more intentionally. Set reachable goals—like praying for ten minutes a day, listening to a faith-based podcast during lunch or while folding laundry, or reading the Bible before you go to bed—but then, dream big. Dream about sanctity.
  1. Do I care more about being or doing? Your children might be more likely to “catch” faith from you as a Mary parent than they are from you as a Martha one. Prioritize your desire to become the person God created you to be (ultimately, a saint!) over all the other stuff you have to do. Let your children see and catch the peace that comes from being in love with the Lord and being This will matter more than all the other stuff you might be tempted to “do” to increase their chances of embracing the faith. I often have to adjust my thinking from “I haven’t had them memorize a new Scripture verse this week!” to “Am I a more loving, patient, Christ-like person today than I was yesterday?” The Lord cares more about being than doing.

Which of these 7 ways to develop a more catchable faith could you improve on right now?

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Do You Have These 5 Traits of a Spiritual “Heart”?

A Quick Checklist for Wives and Moms

woman-1148923_960_720It often amazes me how many lay men and women, priests and religious point to their mother’s faith as an anchor in their own spiritual journey. That’s certainly the case with me and my mom’s unwavering faith, and I so badly want to be that strong spiritual “heart” for my children, too. I’ve noticed in her and in many other strong spiritual hearts some beautiful, feminine aspects of spiritual leadership:

  • A habit of sacrifice. Strong spiritual hearts seize frequent opportunities to give of themselves, to die to their own desires, inclinations, or preferences for the good of others, especially for the good of their husbands and children. They master the art of self-gift, giving everything from their bodies to their time, talent, and energy for those they love, and they find joy in doing so.
  • Quiet trust. Over time and through prayer, strong spiritual hearts inch their way toward an almost unshakable trust in God and in His will for their lives, especially newborn-659685_960_720within their families. They offer their children to God, recognizing that they are first and foremost His children (read Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel for an awesome example of this), and then they throw themselves into His Divine Mercy, trusting He will care for them and for their families.
  • Reliance on grace. Strong spiritual hearts rely on God’s grace to tackle the colossal responsibility of motherhood. His grace animates their daily lives—carrying them through their household chores and their efforts to provide emotionally, physically, and spiritually for their families—and comforts them when they feel exhausted and worn. They see His grace at work in their family life, and they can’t imagine living without it.
  • Unseen strength. Utilizing the particular gifts, talents, experience, and energy God has given them, spiritual hearts are pillars of physical, emotional, and spiritual child-1245893_960_720strength, serving and loving the Lord and their families with all their might (Dt 6:5). The strength of a wife and mother often goes unseen, but its presence is most certainly felt and needed by their families.
  • Friendship with Mary. Strong spiritual hearts take their leadership cues first and foremost from Our Blessed Mother, the immaculate model of spiritual “heartship.” Seeing her as the most exemplary wife and mother that ever walked the earth, they implore her intercession and cultivate an intimate relationship with her to help them become more beautifully virtuous like her. They ask her to wrap the mantle of her love and protection around each precious member of their family.

Do you possess these five traits? Which one could you spend some time and effort working on as the spiritual heart of your own family?

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Do You Have These 5 Traits of a Spiritual “Head”?

A Checklist for Husbands and Dads

silhouette-1082129_960_720Statistical and anecdotal evidence demonstrates that parents are the number one influence on the faith lives of young people. More specifically, study after study finds that the role of the father in particular is critical in handing on an active spiritual life to his children. Without a strong spiritual head to guide them, children can so easily be lost to our culture that deprives them of the meaning, purpose, and hope that only Jesus Christ can provide, in and through His Church.

Growing up, I was so grateful to have a dad who was (and is) very dedicated to spiritually leading his family, and I’m blessed to have married a man with a similar passionate commitment. I know our children will look to him—as I do—to see a model of Christ’s sacrificial love and humble leadership in our family, since men are called to demonstrate Christ’s love for the Church within their families in a special way.

So what are some traits of a strong spiritual head of a family?

  • An attitude of surrender. Strong spiritual heads are willing to hand over control to God, recognizing that He is the one who is King over their lives, their families—screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-11-56-02-ameverything. They recognize that it is a sign of true masculinity to call on God for guidance and to surrender to His will.
  • Humility. While our culture may tout pride as a masculine virtue, strong spiritual heads model the virtue of humility for their families, making daily steps to conquer their desire to be right, or to seek acclaim and accomplishment, instead opting to devote time to showing their families how to give credit and glory to God, seeking to please Him first and foremost.
  • Boldness. Strong spiritual heads are bold about their Catholic faith—at home, at work, and in public. They aren’t afraid to make decisions in light of their faith and to let others know that they are Catholic, not just in name, but in active practice. 
  • Openness to fellowship. While the prevailing norm is to think it a feminine activity to have meaningful conversations about life, faith, and family, strong spiritual heads recognize that they shouldn’t try to go it on their own when it comes to spiritual hands-992896_960_720leadership. They acknowledge the importance of seeking accountability, encouragement, and fraternity with other men and make it a regular habit to do so.
  • Friendship with St. Joseph. Strong spiritual heads often cultivate beautiful devotions to Our Blessed Mother, but they also lean on the intercession of St. Joseph to help them in their immense task of caring for their family’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, as St. Joseph gallantly did for Mary and Jesus.

Okay, men, how are you doing on living out these traits? We women and children need your bold headship in the family, as the Church needs the leadership of Christ.

For more checklists, resources, tips, and recommendations to help take your spiritual life to the next level, make sure you sign up here…and get a *free* Catholic Resource Guide when you do!

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How to Make a Home Altar

Home altar - catholickatieThough many aren’t familiar with it in modern America, a home altar has for a very long time been considered a staple feature in a Catholic home. The home altar is meant to serve as a central place for prayer and religious practice in a Catholic household. Most of us have designated places to eat, sleep, work, exercise, and play at home – why not have a designated, special spot to pray, both individually and together as a family?

Here’s an easy how-to for helping you set up your own home altar or prayer space:

1. altar and bookshelfChoose a place and surface. Find a spot in the home for your prayer space or altar, easily accessible to everyone. Ours is in the family room, in between a bookshelf containing a number of adult and children’s spiritual books, holy water and rosaries (right in picture), and a “prayer chair” below our icon collection (left). (You can also consider having smaller altars and spaces in each of the bedrooms, especially for the kids, which they can design uniquely for themselves.) As far as surfaces go, you can use a shelf, desk, end table, mantle, nook…pretty much anything. We used a medium-sized square end table.

2. (Optional step): Get some linens. I like the idea of having linens on the altar to dress up the table and to coordinate with the liturgical year. (I took pictures of our altar during Lent, so we have a plain white table cloth underneath a purple strip of cloth that I had cut for less than a dollar at a fabric store. I also have a green and a red cloth strip.) This is an optional step because if you are using a shelf or mantle, you may find it preferable to decorate without the linens.

3. Adorn the altar. Collect religious items from around your home to put on the altar. You may also want to consider investing in some of these items if you don’t have them; they make great family gifts on special feast days! You can make the altar as simple or as elaborate as you prefer (we opted for simple with young kiddos). Here are some things you can put in your prayer space or on your altar:

  • altar close upCrucifix
  • Bible (with or without a stand)
  • Prayer books, prayer cards, a missal, or a Catholic book of blessings and prayers
  • Catholic icons and/or art (of Jesus, Mary and the saints; on or above the altar)
  • Statues
  • Rosary(ies)
  • Candles
  • Holy Water
  • Blessed salt
  • Incense burner
  • Seasonal items like pictures of the Stations of the Cross during Lent, Advent wreath or Advent candles, a manger scene during Christmas, a Paschal candle or lamb during Easter, Baptismal candles, palm branches from Palm Sunday, pictures of saints on their feast days, etc.

4. Have your home and altar or prayer space blessed. If you haven’t had your house blessed, have a deacon or priest come bless the whole home, including the altar or prayer space. At least take your crucifix from your altar to Mass with you one Sunday and have that blessed.

altar5. Pray around your home altar! Take time during the day (we like to gather as a family after dinner) to pray around the home altar. This is a great time to light candles, read from the Bible, offer prayers of thanksgiving and intercession, pray a decade of the Rosary or a chaplet, learn about a saint or a feast day you are celebrating, or sign a hymn. Try and take little moments throughout the day to look at the altar or prayer space and offer a quick prayer and turn your mind and heart to Jesus. Just don’t let that special spot go unnoticed and unused!

For some home altar inspiration and ideas beside my own pictures here, check out Pinterest and these prayer space pictures from CatholicMom. Having a home altar or prayer space is a great way to make your home more of a domestic church!

One last thing…Recently, during Ordinary Time, I added a small altar/prayer table to my home-altar-catholickatie-comtoddler son’s room so he has a special place in his own room where he (and we together) could pray when he gets up in the morning, before nap/rest time, and before bed time. (Obviously a good habit for your children to form even if you don’t put a prayer table in their room!) Anyway, he loves it! I kept it pretty simple, and his favorite element is the statue of the Good Shepherd. I added a prayer card with a simple Scripture verse next to it, which he memorizes, that I will rotate every month. I’m enjoying the mini altar in his room as much as he is!

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Why I Didn’t Get My Doctorate (And Some Tips for Being at Peace With God’s Will for You)

A lot of my friends with whom I graduated from high school are getting their PhDs right about now. Which made me ask myself–again–the other day, “Why didn’t I get my doctorate?”

The short answer? Because I had kids.

To be more accurate, it was because God had different plans for me than I had for myself. Story of all of our lives, isn’t it?

When I was in graduate school, I was at the beginning of my five-year plan—you know, the new five-year plan I had developed after the previous five-year plan didn’t work out. After graduating with my masters in theology, I would immediately enter a doctoral program, get my PhD (something the overachiever, straight-A, too-concerned-about-what-I-was-doing-and-not-enough-about-who-I-was-becoming student in me had always expected to do), and then teach. Of course, I wanted to get married and have kids, and I suppose that I assumed at the time it would seamlessly happen concurrently…or something.

I met my husband after my first semester in graduate school, was swept off my feet—and unpredictably swept out of state—and now find myself, five years later, looking back at the altogether different five-year plan that God accomplished during that time, which involved getting married, having two beautiful children, writing a book, moving several times, and dabbling in other ministry work in my “free” time (is that what you call spare and fleeting moments as a parent of little ones?). In other words, in the past five years, nowhere was doctoral work to be seen, and it doesn’t appear to be anywhere on the horizon…not as I see it right now, at least.

And I am absolutely at peace and happy with that. 

This peace and happiness is actually quite strange to me, considering I had never pictured myself at home with my kids singing the alphabet for the twenty-sixth time today, while simultaneously wiping drool off my shirt and laughing at my kids trying to poke each other’s cheeks. I thought of a future much more scholarly.

But, more times than I can count, God makes a point of demonstrating to me that His plans are always better than mine. His plans usually allow me to tap into my gifts more appropriately, bring me more joy, have a greater impact on others, produce less stress, and draw me closer to Him. His plans usually make me less selfish and more holy. His plans usually draw my attention away from myself and toward others, most especially toward Him.

Thankfully, in spite of my own (stubborn) free will, I often get diverted from the course of my own plans onto His path for me, and it’s often only in looking back that I can see the fruitfulness of it. I see that through prayer and openness, I sometimes intentionally and other times stumble onto the path of true peace of heart.

That’s where my tips for you come in. If you’re wondering how to find and remain in God’s will for you, try these simple but crucial practices:

  1. Pray. St. Rose of Lima says, “When God is consulted sincerely, He gives a clear answer.”
  2. Be open. Really, actually remain open to what God wants and not just what seems most comfortable or appealing to you at the present moment. It’s amazing how your heart molds to be in joyful conformity with His will when you let it.
  3. Consult logic, your feelings, and your imagination. Don’t just latch onto one of these without the others. They all play a role in peaceful discernment of God’s will.
  4. Seek guidance! Of course, God is the ultimate advice-giver in the process of discernment and finding and living within His will, but seeking counsel from spiritual directors and other wise mentors is not only helpful, but often necessary in the work of uncovering and being at peace with God’s will for you.

You know, I can’t imagine what life would be like right now if my nose was still perpetually in a book and my body in a chair in some classroom for the n-teenth year of my schooling (if you are in that phase of life right now, hoorah! God must have some amazing plans for you on that path). When I was in school, though I love and am always craving to learn, I was a rather anxious person. Now, I have so much more of that deep-down sense of peace and a constant appreciation for the absolute love I have for being in the thick of family life, with more scribbles now hanging on the wall than academic degrees.

Today, make peace with where God has put you right now. Or, if you are on a divergent course, find God’s path for you and start trekking on it, even if it feels scary or unplanned. There you will find His grace to meet you, and, as always, He will exceed all of your expectations.

How to Celebrate a Feast Day

In their book, The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us As Catholics, Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina write, “Christian life revolves around the calendar that Christians share. The calendar and its feasts remind us who we are. If we want to know ourselves, it tcht_series_medis important for us to imagine how this works – how feasts form us, what they teach us, how they guide and direct our emotions, our thoughts, and our spiritual growth.”

Sadly, most Catholics today don’t even celebrate solemnities and feast days at home throughout the liturgical year (Christmas and Easter usually excepted). But why not? Celebrating the feast days of the Church not only “directs our spiritual growth,” but it’s just plain FUN. Being Catholic offers us opportunities for penance and reflection, for certain, but it also gives us lots of reasons to party…and that’s where solemnity and feast day celebrations come in.

So, if you aren’t already celebrating feast days on your own or at home with your family, here are some quick hacks and tips to get you started:

  1. Decide which feasts that you’ll make a special effort to celebrate at home. There are a lot of feasts days in the Church, so I recommend you first focus on celebrating solemnities, feasts days of the highest rank in the liturgical calendar. This means a rough average of a couple celebrations per month, which is doable for most of us! You can also add in a few feast days that may be particularly meaningful to your family. For example, we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at our house, since she’s always been a special intercessor for us.
  1. Put them on the calendar and plan ahead. Take note of when the feast or solemnity will occur (some dates fluctuate a little from year to year) and set a digital planneror written reminder a few days before the feast to get your celebration activity, food, prayers, songs, and so forth in order. I strongly recommend you sign up for these feast day reminder emails, which will alert you to an approaching solemnity AND give you resources for learning more about the feast and celebrating it at home.
  1. Learn about the solemnity or feast you’ll be celebrating. It is pretty crucial that you know a decent bit of information (at least the basics) about the feast day you’re planning to commemorate. Read some articles about the history of the feast day, ways that the Church celebrates it, and ideas for bringing the feast day to life in your home in a memorable way. Share what you’ve learned about the feast day or solemnity with your family. (Again, CelebrateTheFeasts.com directs you to great articles and resources to learn about the solemnities on the Church calendar.)
  1. Prepare your feast day celebration(s). Put your grocery list (for a meal that corresponds to the feast day; for example, you may make a meal with all white foods representing purity for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception) or craft supply list together a few days ahead and shop for what you need. Select any prayers or songs celebrate-the-feastsyou might pray/sing on that day and print out copies of the prayer or lyrics for the family. You can browse Catholic blogs and Pinterest for fun ideas to celebrate (or, as I mentioned, make it easy on yourself by using the CelebrateTheFeasts.com reminders and ideas).
  1. Now, celebrate the feast! Make a big deal about it on the feast day or solemnity that you’ve prepared for! Get the family excited for the planned festivities and try and be in good moods as you celebrate throughout the day! Treat it like the holiday (holy day) it is, enjoying the celebrations, however complex or simple they may be.

Sometimes, though, even the best laid plans to celebrate a feast day are hard to execute amidst the unexpected twists and turns of daily family life. I recommend that as a backup plan, you do at least one small thing to acknowledge the feast day at home. If it’s a Marian feast day, pray a decade of the Rosary. If it’s not a Holy Day of Obligation, go to Mass anyway. These simple ways to celebrate don’t take any preparation, but help turn your focus to the importance of this day on the Church calendar, and bring your family one step closer to living a vibrant, liturgical, and fun Catholic life at home.

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Hacks for Praying and Studying the Faith Within the Time Demands of Work & Family Life

I remember one particularly spiritually dry day early on in my second pregnancy. It was late at night and my energy was spent that day keeping a nap-protesting toddler content, doing chores and cooking, and grabbing spare moments to keep up with ministry work before collapsing onto my bed that night. My connection with God that day felt weak and secondary, and I shuddered thinking about more days like this when I had even more demands placed on my time and energy in the months and years to come.

I prayed to God asking for guidance to help me discern how to structure my prayer life during this wonderful but rather hectic phase of life—a phase I think many people would describe themselves as being in, regardless of their children’s ages, work demands, social obligations, and other responsibilities. I identified patterns of spiritual activity in many of my days, and I pieced them together to form the basic outline of how I might pray and study to a reasonable degree on an average day.  Here are some of the praying and faith-studying “hacks” I uncovered:

  1. Pray first thing when you wake up.

Prayer and Study Hacks for Busy CatholicsMost mornings I wake up via my what I call my toddler alarm clock—my son’s voice saying “Mama, Mama, Maaaamaaaaa!!” Though I always think it would be particularly delightful to preempt my toddler alarm clock with another phone tone, so I have time to pray more slowly before I start the day, right now this just isn’t practical most days given pretty intense middle-of-the-night pregnancy insomnia and nausea in the morning. So, at the very least, I make sure to chat with God, whatever few words I can, before I grab my toddler and rush to make him “eh-s” (eggs) before he supposedly will starve to death. When I greet him with a hug and kiss, we say Good Morning to Jesus, followed by the words, “Thank you, Jesus, for this day. Help us to live it well.” My husband and I (though I am occasionally half-asleep at the time), with or without our son depending on when he wakes up, also pray the Memorare and the Morning Offering before he takes his pre-sunrise leave for work.

  1. Listen to Catholic radio and podcasts while cooking and cleaning.

As a stay-at-home mom, a decent portion of the day is spent cooking and doing chores—an activity shared by most parents, who work either in or outside of the home. My in-laws gifted us with a fantastic pair of speakers (one for upstairs and one for down), and I turn on Catholic radio as I occupy myself with my daily housework. This serves as a great opportunity to keep my brain active and learn more about my faith. I’m usually tuned into whatever is playing on EWTN radio, and am almost always home before 8 a.m. and around 4 p.m. when cooking dinner, so, being on Eastern time, I can plan on catching The Son Rise Morning Show for news and various interviews of Catholic interest, and Kresta in the Afternoon for in-depth commentary on important Catholic issues. Catholic podcasts are also a great source for audio learning. In addition to a variety of EWTN, Ave Maria, and Immaculate Heart radio show podcasts, I like Catholic Answers Focus (which I recently got to do a show for—look for Head & Heart!), for more thorough analysis on certain faith topics, and the Word on Fire Sermon podcast in preparation for Sunday Mass.

  1. Go to daily Mass whenever possible.

Most days of the week, my son and I go to daily Mass. Though praying at Mass with a toddler in tow can be a wee bit distracting, I wouldn’t trade the opportunity for anything, as the graces I get from receiving the Eucharist and the blessing it is to have him make Mass a part of his regular routine from a young age are invaluable.

  1. Read the Bible on my phone.

Prayer and Study Hacks for Busy CatholicsReading the Bible electronically is not my ideal way to engage Scripture, but when I can’t easily hold a Bible in hand, having a Bible app on my phone is extremely helpful. (I like this one.) It allows me to read a chapter at a time in unexpected free moments of the day, and I try to select one verse in my reading to continue thinking about after I put my phone away. The Laudate app is also great for praying the Liturgy of the Hours, in whole or in part, throughout the day.

  1. Pray in short spurts throughout the day, with and without your family.

For me, this usually means talking to God more casually in the car, while on an errand, in between books I’m reading to or games I’m playing with my son, while doing a quick task or chore, or while exercising. My prayers are sometimes form prayers, like all or part of a Rosary, a novena prayer for that day, or the Angelus, or they can be more conversation prayers, like thanking God for my blessings, petitioning for my own family’s needs, praying for others intentions, or asking for quick guidance or discernment. Offering up the actual tasks, highs, and lows of the day—whether that be laundry, moments of frustration, a joyful experience—is another way I try to incorporate prayer smoothly into my routine.

  1. Read a faith-related article or from a spiritual or theological book sometime during the day or evening.

I work to include some sort of spiritual reading into my day in addition to Scripture, whether that is an article online from sources like the Integrated Catholic Life or the National Catholic Register or a spiritual book from a classic or modern Catholic writer. One of my all-time favorites is Fr. Jacques Philippe’s Searching for and Maintaining Peace. My husband and I also plan to start watching more episodes from faith-based DVD programs at night after we put our son to bed, like the Augustine Institute’s Symbolon or Beloved.

  1. Pray with your family before bedtime.

Our evening prayer as a family after dinner usually looks like a decade of the Rosary, a reflection from a spiritual book (like this one, for example), or the PRAISE formula prayer we learned from one of Dr. Greg Popcak’s books (Praise and thank, repent, ask, intercede, seek God’s will, expect that He will answer your prayers in whatever way is best for you.)

  1. Spend a few minutes of silent time with Jesus before I go to bed.

Prayer and Study Hacks for Busy CatholicsThis is the critically important silent time with the Lord that is usually the hardest but most important prayer time of the day. My silent time with Jesus also generally includes an examination of conscience. (Among others, I like the one for families I include at the back of my book.) Ideally, time in the adoration chapel once a week allows for a more prolonged experience of silent prayer which the soul really craves to thrive.

  1. Listen to a spiritual audio book when you can’t sleep.

I spend an unwelcomed amount of time awake in the 2-4 a.m. hours these days, thanks to the well-known experience many women called pregnancy. During these sleepless nights, I’m thankful for Catholic audio books, which allow me to squeeze in some reflection and learning time when my eyes are too tired to read. Thanks to the audio version of the text, I finally finished Ralph Martin’s massive and beautiful book, The Fulfillment of All Desire, which I had wanted to read in its entirety for years.

  1. Try to be patient with yourself and rely heavily on God’s grace.

St. Francis de Sales said, “God takes pleasure to see you take your little steps.” Sometimes, my daily efforts to pray and study seem so wimpy to me, but I am consoled by the fact that God looks kindly on my effort, which gives me the motivation I need to keep praying and moving forward in my spiritual life.

What do you do to maintain a life of prayer and learning amidst your hectic work or family schedules? This is what my average daily prayer and study routine looks like while parenting, maintaining a home, and working part-time in ministry (mostly at nights and during naptime), but of course it fluctuates. Consistency, though, is one of the most important keys to making this all happen—that, and, of course, a heavy dose of patience and lots of God’s grace.

*Make sure you have my free Catholic Resource Guide – a great tool with lots of additional hacks and resources for learning more about your Catholic faith!*

5 Signs You May Not Be Loving Your Spouse As Well As You Could Be

Some reminders I know that need from time to time:

1.    You’re focused on his/her faults more than your own.

couple on oceanIf you’re wrapped up in all the things your spouse is or isn’t doing for you that you wish he or she would do for you, then it’s time for a shift in focus. Rather than nitpicking your spouse’s faults, ask yourself, “What am I doing or not doing right now that I could be doing to love him/her better?” This approach is guaranteed to make both of you more content.

2.    You’re not praying daily for your spouse.

Praying for your spouse is one of the greatest gifts you can offer in your marriage. Strangely enough, many of us are sometimes better at praying with our spouse than we are at praying for him or her. Make sure you offer at least one heartfelt prayer to God for your spouse each day. Something as simple as, “Lord, I ask that you bless my spouse and help him/her to know your love more deeply today” is an important yet easy offering of love you can give your spouse every day.

3.    You haven’t done an unrequested act of service for him/her in recent history.

Maybe you’re pretty good at completing tasks or favors requested of you by your spouse, but it has been a while since you’ve spontaneously done something generous and unexpected for them. Think of something you can do to make your spouse’s life easier, and then do it—and, better yet, do it with joy.

4.    You aren’t paying him/her compliments regularly.

5 Signs You May Not Be loving Your Spouse as Well as You Could BeMark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Sometimes the simplest compliment or encouraging word from you can make your spouse’s day a thousand times better. But, as we know too well, life happens, and it can be too easy to forget to say intentionally kind things to our spouse every day. So here’s a reminder to affirm your spouse more, starting now.

5.    You’re not good at giving your spouse the “benefit of the doubt.”

Conflict in marriage often comes when we assume the worst about our spouse and his/her intentions in a given situation. To love your spouse better, make an intentional decision to give him/her the benefit of the doubt the next time an uncomfortable situation arises, assuming the best about them or what they have said or done. After all, when you married your spouse you were likely great at doing this; dial back to that sort of positivity you have about him or her.

*Know a friend who could benefit from this reminder, too? Please share!*