Hacks for Praying and Studying the Faith While Juggling 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.

Most 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.

Reading 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.

This 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.

6 Simple Resources to Amplify Your Prayer Life

“What the world most needs today is prayer.  It is prayer that will give birth to all the
renewals, healings, deep and fruitful transformations we all want for society today.  This world of ours is very sick, and only contact with heaven will be able to cure it.” –Fr. Jacques Philipe 

Furthermore, any great transformation that we wish to see in ourselves thrives on the commitment and strength of our prayers.

Sometimes, though, praying can be a bit of a struggle. What to pray, how to pray, when to pray, being faithful to prayer when distractions and busy schedules get in the way, persevering in prayer when your spiritual life seems dry – all of these “obstacles” to prayer sometimes leave me in a bit of a prayer rut. That’s when I turn to some outside help to give my prayer life the kickstart it needs to keep going.

Of course, the best outside help is God Himself, who longs to draw closer to us and deepen His relationship with us through prayer. Asking God to give you the grace to move forward in your prayer life is a prayer that He no doubt loves to hear and answer.

Here are a few other resources I use to motivate me in prayer:

The Liturgy of the Hours: I feel like the Liturgy of the Hours is one of the most underutilized prayer gems by lay people in the Church today. The Laudate app is usually my preferred tool of choice for praying the Liturgy of the Hours in spare moments I can grab throughout the day, and it is such a helpful guide to calm me and connect me to God, the Source of all peace and transformation, through beautiful prayers that countless others around the world are also praying that day, too.

Thirsting for Prayer by Fr. Jacques Philippe: Having loved so many of Fr. Philippe’s other writings on the spiritual life (my favorite is Searching For and Maintaining Peace), I was eager to dive into this treatise knowing that it was no doubt going to be one of my favorite resources on prayer. Sure enough, I couldn’t stop highlighting everything as I was reading, and it has already deepened my prayer life. You can read the intro to the book here.
What Every Couple Should Know About Marriage and Prayer by Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen: This great CD/MP3 download continuously reminds me of the treasure that prayer is to my marriage. It’s also by one of my favorite saints, and I pretty much hang on every word he says. This particular talk does not disappoint.

Pray More Novenas: This great email service delivers novena prayers straight to your email inbox. It’s easy, it’s free…and most importantly, novenas are such a fantastic practice in enhancing your prayer life by capitalizing on the beautiful devotions and saintly intercessors that can help us grow in our spiritual lives.

Scripture: The Psalms, the Gospels, Paul’s letters…you name it. It’s hard to get past a few verses without finding something so rich to stop and meditate on. Yet we often completely forget to make the Bible a part of our regular prayer routine. I like to have the EWTN app on my phone to use the Bible feature when I’m on the go or not near my printed Bible.

Chapter 4 in Head & Heart on “Prioritizing Prayer”: The couples I interviewed whose stories, tips, and brutal honesty about their prayer lives made it into chapter four of this book continue to inspire me when I need it most, and I often refer to the other reflections and resources in that chapter to get me back on track when I start to lose focus in prayer.

5 Things To Do With Your Catholic Child(ren) Every Day

“So everything that goes on in your home has a good or bad effect on your children. Try to help them with your own good example. Try not to hide your piety from them.” -St. Josemaria Escriva

Here are 5 things you can do with your kids every day to help make faith a more integral part of their lives and to strengthen their connection to Jesus and to you:

  1. Pray. Start the day with prayer, before your usual routine or school time begins. An Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, the Morning Offering, or a free-form prayer are all good options. In the evening, a decade of the Rosary, a chaplet, the Guardian Angel or St. Michael the Archangel prayers, or prayers of thanksgiving and intercession are powerful and simple prayers to say together after dinner or before bedtime.
  2. Read the Bible. Get a hold of a great children’s Bible (or age appropriate Bible for your child) and read a story from it every day. The Bible has been such a routine part of my 2-year-old son’s day that he regularly requests Gospel stories and spends LOTS of time flipping through the pages himself in his own free time. When children are exposed to the Bible on a regular basis, they come to love it.
  3. Tell them how much God loves them. Make sure you remind your child(ren) every day–if not multiple times a day–how much Jesus loves them. A good time to remember to do so is when you are telling them you love them. “I love you! Do you know who else loves you so, so much? Jesus!” The older they get, the more important this message becomes, as they brave the ups and downs of growing up: God loves you more than you’ll ever know.
  4. Do something nice for someone else. Model for your kids this great practice of doing one simple, concrete act of charity or mercy for someone else each day, and encourage them (or physically help them depending on their age) to do that “something kind” for someone else, too. Ask them about their good deed at dinner or at night.
  5. Spend quality time together/Give your child(ren) your undivided attention. Discipleship comes through relationship building. If you want your children to really learn the faith from you and to become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, invest intentional time in them. Make sure that every day, your child(ren) get some of your undivided attention, where you spend time talking with them, reading to them, playing with them, attending their extracurricular activities (and watching rather looking at your phone), cuddling them, or doing whatever connects you with each other and strengthens your parent-child bond.

Bonus one: Take them to daily Mass! It’s pretty much the best way to combine all of the above into one awesome, faith-building activity that you can do together. If you have the ability to go to Mass together on a non-Sunday day of the week, do it. Over time, you won’t be able to live without it! Never underestimate the power of the sacraments to work wonders in the lives of you and your children.

 

How to Honor the Lord’s Day

Many of us know the Third Commandment given by God to Moses: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the sev- enth day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; . . . therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it” (Ex 20:8–11).

Unfortunately, knowing the commandment doesn’t mean it is well practiced. Full schedules, sports events and TV, open restaurants and shopping malls, and a general cultural habit of working too much and playing too little make it easy to let Sundays pass us by as just another day of the week. And it is not just another day of the week. If we want more peace in our lives, we need to reconnect with God, rest, and pursue leisure on the day made to recharge our peace: Sunday.

Tips for “taking back Sunday” as a day for peace in your life and home:

  • Prioritize Mass: Plan your whole day around the Mass, making it the “high point” of your Sunday. Read the readings before you go, dress up, linger to pray, and discuss and reflect on what you got out of Mass later that day.
  • Minimize distractions: Don’t allow errands, shopping, chores, overconsumption of media, and other distractions to hijack your Sunday, leaving you little time for the things that restore your peace and help you reconnect with God and family.
  • Plan rejuvenating, fun, and restful activities: Go for a day trip, read for pleasure, take a nap, watch a movie as a family, read the Bible together, spend time outdoors, celebrate a feast day with a craft or food related to the feast, say a family rosary, visit a distant or sick friend or relative, do a volunteer or ministry activity at your parish or in the community.

Make a plan this week to make the most of your upcoming Sunday, and the rest of your Sundays this month.

In his masterful work, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, Josef Pieper contends that leisure requires con- stant affirmation by our practice of it and leads us to an inner joyfulness that lasts. “This is why the ability to be ‘at leisure’ is one of the basic powers of the human soul . . . the power to be at leisure is the power to step beyond the working world and win contact with those superhuman, life-giving forces that can send us, renewed and alive again, into the busy world of work.”

20 Life Lessons I Will Teach My Son

My little boy should arrive any day now. Having ventured beyond my due date, I’m experiencing Advent as the “season of patient waiting” to a very realistic extent this year. The extra days have given me ample time to reflect and prepare for both his arrival and the celebration of the arrival of the infant Jesus shortly thereafter. I decided to come up with a list of 20 things I look forward to teaching my son, many of the lessons inspired by the example of the Holy Family. Now my baby just has to arrive so I can get to work!

1. No one loves you more than Jesus. If you want to learn to love and be loved beyond your wildest dreams, learn to be loved by Jesus and to love Him madly in return.

2. The priesthood is arguably the coolest job on the planet. Always be open to God recruiting you.

3. Treating a lady with great reverence and respect is never old fashioned.

4. Always honor your father and I. God gave you to us in particular, and He did that for a reason. Respecting us, especially when you don’t feel like it, will make you a better man.

5. The most important trait you should ever desire to master is holiness. Disclaimer: it’s also the hardest to master.

6. Adoration chapels are the best getaways and surest places to relieve stress and find clarity.

7. Your future siblings will look to you as an example of how to behave. Rise to the challenge; give them something to aspire to.

8. Be like your father. Work hard, sacrifice, pray, study, and live morally, so that someday, if God calls you to marriage, you will attract a woman who loves you as much as I love your daddy.

9. Don’t worry. I’ve read studies that explain how much more anxious kids are today (about everything) than in previous generations. Worry is a crippling thing. Trust that God’s grace will help you handle whatever comes your way, and live in the present.

10. Make Sundays sacred. You have six other days in the week to do homework and all other work. Start healthy Sabbath habits now, so you can benefit from Sunday rest for the remainder of your life.

11. Take good care of your body. Eat well and exercise. Show God you appreciate the gift of your health.

12. Use your imagination! Your father and I will help you learn how to play, read, imagine, and dream. Have real fun.

13. Go outside. Enjoy nature. God gave us the mountains, beaches, forests, lakes, and valleys as an expression of His power and beauty. Take advantage of it. It’s a gift…for you!

14. Be self-aware. Examine your conscience every single night, so you can concentrate on how to be a better man tomorrow.

15. Practice gratitude–everyday. Tell God and others daily what you are thankful for. Gratitude cultivates a joyful spirit. Live with joy.

16. Be kind. There is not enough kindness in our hurting world today. Blessed Mother Teresa says that a smile is an act of love, a gift to another person, a beautiful thing. Smile often.

17. Don’t be afraid to share your faith with others. Offer them a slice of the great gift you have that is your salvation and membership in God’s family, His Catholic Church.

18. Learn to love Our Blessed Mother. Imagine the unconditional love of two mothers: one on earth and one in heaven. You are one lucky boy.

19. Make your Bible and Rosary your travel and nightstand companions.

20. Be a good friend. A good friend of your friends, a good friend of the saints, and a good friend of your Savior.