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Finding Time for God – Book Club

November 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

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An Introduction to the Devout Life (Week 4 of 14)

Do not children as they hearken to their mother, and, lisping, imitate her, gradually learn to speak her language? And so if we remain close to the Savior, meditating upon Him, and giving heed to His words, His actions, and His affections, we shall gradually, by the help of His grace, learn to speak, to act and will like Him. There we must stop, for, believe me, Philothea, we can approach God the Father by no other door: just as we could see no reflection in a mirror were it not covered at the back with lead or tin, so should we be unable in this world to contemplate the Divinity were it not united to our Blessed Lord’s Sacred Humanity, His Life and Death being the most suitable, sweet, blessed, and profitable subject which we can choose for our constant meditation. He did not call Himself “the Bread which cometh down from heaven,” without a meaning: just as men eat bread, with whatever other meat they may have, so in all our prayers and actions we should seek, dwell upon and meditate on our Savior. – An Introduction to the Devout Life, p. 56 (Part II: Chapter 1)

 
Finding Time for God

Over the years, I’ve been blessed with some pretty amazing friends, many of whom I rarely see anymore, as we (or they) have moved steadily from here to there around the country. And I feel guilty about not trying harder to keep in touch. It’s not that I don’t have great intentions – I’d love to go to Virginia next summer for vacation or take a quick trip to Oklahoma between kids’ activities. And someday, I’d love to hit Portland and Texas and Georgia too! But life is so busy that I haven’t even visited my own mother in a year and a half. She’s traveled to our neck of the woods a few times, but, truth be told, I might be disowned if over our next three day weekend we don’t pack the car and head to St. Louis!

The bottom line is that great intentions don’t amount to much when there are more immediate demands on my time. Demands that look me square in the eye and dare me to turn my back. Demands like boy scout campouts and speech competitions, choir practice and art class, not to mention five days per week of homeschooling with home management activities to be completed over the weekend – and these must be tackled too, lest we collapse beneath a mountain of chaos come Monday morning.

With all the demands of life staring me down, the only way I’m going to Portland or Virginia or anywhere else is if I purchase airfare and block off the calendar. That’s when an intention becomes a commitment.

And that’s how it is with God. I may desire to visit with Him each day.  But intentions don’t matter much if I’m unwilling to make a commitment.

The Catechism tells us,

“Following Christ and united with Him, Christians can strive to be “imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love” by conforming their thoughts, words and actions to the “mind…which is yours in Christ Jesus,” and by following His example (CCC 1694) [italics added]

Imitation requires an example to follow.

I once had an acquaintance who was a well-respected attorney. Quite successful and in high demand, she devoted long hours to her career.  When she learned she was expecting her first child, she was very excited to be a mother.  By the same token, she had absolutely no desire to end her career.

Before her daughter was born, this mother painstakingly searched for a live-in nanny, as her husband also had a demanding career. The couple desired to find the best care that money could buy. Their little girl would be fine. After all, they reasoned, good parenting is about quality time, not quantity time, right?

Fast forward a couple of years. I ran into this mother/daughter pair at a local Easter egg hunt. After I applauded Mom for getting away on a Saturday morning, she told me that she had recently quit her job. Apparently, her daughter had spent so much time with her nanny that she had begun to emulate her. It’s not that she developed bad habits, the mother explained. But she and her husband had begun to notice a Northern accent creeping into their daughter’s voice, much like that of the nanny. And the little girl had developed idiosyncrasies in favor of certain foods and routines. Foods and routines preferred by the nanny, not by Mom and Dad. The final straw fell when Mom had come home early one evening excited to be able to tuck her little girl into bed for once. As she began singing her favorite lullaby, the child burst into tears because Mommy didn’t sing the “right” song – a song often sung by the nanny at bedtime. The next day, this woman gave notice to her employer, preferring time with her daughter over the highest of accolades and great wealth from her career.

There is no way around it.  Human beings will follow the example placed before them.  If that example is not God, surely there will be another more than willing to take His place.

Without  any effort, we are bombarded daily with the values and priorities of this world. Negative cultural messages are constantly communicated via movies, television, songs, literature, advertising and the like. If we don’t make a commitment to spend time daily with Christ, won’t we, like the little girl, absorb the more constant influences in our lives?

St. Francis de Sales recommends we spend an hour per day in mental prayer, preferably in the morning.  Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I understood this to mean focused prayer without interruption. For me, this will be quite a jump from the 15 minutes I currently spend in prayer (most mornings).  But it is doable.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen made a resolution on the day of his ordination to spend a continuous hour each day with our Lord in adoration. To my knowledge, he kept this commitment until his death. Here are a couple of thoughts he shared about The Hour that Makes My Day:

 The third reason I keep up the Holy Hour is to grow more and more into his likeness. As Paul puts it: “We are transfigured into his likeness, from splendor to splendor.” We become like that which we gaze upon…

…Is it difficult? Sometimes it seemed to be hard; it might mean having to forgo a social engagement, or rise an hour earlier, but on the whole it has never been a burden, only a joy.

An hour, huh?  This kind of time commitment will certainly require sacrifice (How far can I roll that alarm clock back before it becomes “last night”?);  but I've no doubt the rewards (both in this life and in the next) will be more than worth the effort.

Baby steps, anyone?

 

Reading Assignment:

Week 4 Part 2: Chapter 13-21

IMPORTANT: There will be NO post next week, due to the Thanksgiving Holiday. We will begin with Week 5 on Tuesday, December 3.

 

Discussion Questions:

1. When do you find time to spend with Christ? Do you have a routine you’d like to share? Or perhaps you have questions for others in the club about how to juggle other obligations to make time for Christ?

2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

 

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

For More Information on the Book Club:  http://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

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  • DianeVa

    Does mental prayer include the rosary? I often spend an hour reading daily readings and meditating on the mysteries of the rosary. Or does St Francis de Sales mean an hor in lectio divina?

    • Dear DianeVa – it depends on how it is prayed. St. Teresa noted that there is no such thing as a rosary truly prayed the prayer is limited to the lips and the vocal cords. So, if we are truly engaged and in conversation with God over the mysteries and engaged with Mary as she shows us the suffering and triumph of her Son, then it can and is vocal and mental prayer at the same time.

    • Vicki

      That’s a great question. He differentiates between mental prayer and vocal prayer, but does recommend various vocal prayers during this time, “provided you may appreciate the blessed meaning of those holy prayers, which you must say, fixing your thoughts steadily, and arousing your affections, not hurrying in order to say many prayers, but endeavoring that what you say may one from your heart…” Specifically about the rosary, he states, “The rosary is a most useful kind of prayer, if you know how to say it rightly; to which end use one of the little books which explain it…” Shortly after this he states, “But if you have the gift of mental prayer, mind and make that the chief thing…” and “If during vocal prayer your heart is drawn to mental prayer, do not restrain it, but let your devotion take that channel, omitting the vocal prayers you intended to say: that which takes their place is more acceptable to God, and more useful to your own soul…” (These quotes are also found in Part 2: Chapter 1, shortly after the passage I quoted for today’s post.)

  • frtrue75@att.net

    My parish reserves each Friday for Adoration and Benediction and that is time I use for my Hour with the Lord. I am trying to incorporate an hour each day for Adoration. I will succeed in this because I have followed the same pattern in praying the rosary every day. It is, for me a matter of prayer in asking Our Lady for the self discipline.

  • LizEst
  • hopeisfree8900

    Hello everyone!
    I am a late contributor to the book club and a first time “blogger”.
    I was raised in a pagan family. In 2000 (the Jubilee) our Lord brought me out of darkness and into the light of the Catholic church. I was a 52 year old convert. Our Lord had me by the hand, and He was running – running because I had so much to LEARN, so much to heal from & so much He wanted me to experience. I struggled to just stay on my feet. Many times I wanted Him to let go of my hand and let me fall to the ground…..but, NOPE! He just kept holding my hand and running.
    He instilled in me from the start a rigorous morning schedule of praying for 2 hours which included the Liturgy of the Hours. During that time I read many books which educated, edified and strengthened my spiritual life. I woke at 4 am to accomplish this. Now I am retired and have maintained the 2 hours each morning for our Lord.
    In 2013 I found Navigating the Interior Life by Dan Burke. I read it 3 times, studied it and prayed about what it had to teach me. I now have the spiritual director I had been longing for. He is a deacon in the Church and is guiding me in ways I could not have “seen” to do on my own.
    Jesus commands us to do as he did — PRAY! In the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours it states, “The gospels very frequently show us Christ at prayer…….” If our goal is to imitate Him who is all good and worthy of imitation, then my prayer is this; “Lord, help me to pray in praise, petition, thanksgiving and intercession for others”. Amen

    • LizEst

      Wow! What a journey you’ve been on! We value your contributions to our site. God bless you, hopeisfree8900!

  • DianeVa

    Thank you all so much for your replies everyone! I do find myself drifting during my Rosary like many of us. Given a choice between conversation and contemplation with God, I feel bad to say this, but my vocal recitation of the Rosary too often takes a back seat and the day is over before I have recited it!

  • Alexandra Campbell

    As a convert to Christianity in 1995 and a revert to the Catholic faith in 2006 I can relate to what “hopeisfree” said about the Lord seeming to run with me. I learned so much so fast those first “on fire” years by reading good classic Catholic books and the Bible. Getting a focused prayer life has continued to be a challenge, however. Even though God was giving me so many (too many?) consolations in the first few years back in the Church, I still refused to make regular time for Him as the family and work life crowded in.
    Two weeks ago I went on a four day, silent (self-led) retreat at the Oakville Carmelite House of Prayer in wine country CA, in their Hermitage. I had not been to this wonderful oasis since 2010 due to lots of setbacks in life (divorce, job loss, death of Father, etc.)
    Honestly, I was terrified to go…I knew how lax I had become in mental prayer time (although I had been having more success with the Rosary lately, but usually looked forward to it as a way to fall asleep real fast when insomnia was bothering me…not the best motive!)
    So, anyway I made it there after the three hour drive and waited for the Lord to do what he needed to do. The first few times I went I had received so many consolations, but I intuited that God was going to be tougher on me this time.
    As I was copying out Psalm 51 into English so I could pray it with understanding while listening to the Latin of Allegri’s Miserere, I got to line where the psalmist writes about purification (purify me with hyssop…) and suddenly the purging of my mind, soul and body literally began. For the next 48 hours I could barely get off the bed except to throw up A LOT, and I did not have the flu. My entire being was in excruciating suffering that could not be relieved. It was all I could do to gaze up at the crucifix above my bed and tell Jesus to keep bringing to my mind everything that he wanted to purge me of, especially my attachments to venial sins and use of ungodly, time-wasting entertainments like internet surfing and Netflix 🙂
    I was able to journal all that was transpiring in my soul but I will have to go back and read it because I can’t really remember everything that He took me through. I wrote down everything and went to Mass without going to Communion on the last day. I needed confession which was after Mass, so I rang the bell and was heard by one of the Carmelite friars before leaving for home.
    My main SIN is not taking the time to be alone with my Master in prayer. After all He has given me I have repaid Him in love so little. Now that I am home I am trying to keep my resolution to do the Divine Office (on my iphone app).
    Please pray for me that I keep my promise to spend time with the Lord in vocal leading to mental prayer for at least 15-30 minutes per day!
    I recommend a good silent retreat for anyone struggling with lukewarmness as a way to get back to the committment to keep the intention to put our King first in our lives!

  • Monica

    I admit due to the demands of life, it is difficult to find any time for silence and meditation, but all things are possible with God. I find that when I say a quick prayer on the road to work in the mornings or while running errands it brings peace and serenity to my heart, or even during my 30 minute break at work take some time to read the daily readings and reflect upon them throughout the day until I get home. Then in the evening, meditate on the Rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet at the gym for 30 minutes, finally ending the day with spiritual reading. Yes, life is filled with lots of noise, but no matter there is grace amidst the chaos. Our Lord did say, seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be open, we just have to be willing.

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