Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Pray When Praying is Hard

There are times—when we’re lucky—when praying feels easy, and natural, and even wonderful. Just talking with God, right? The truth is that while those times are uplifting, they’re also not the norm. For many of us, prayer can often be difficult, either to get started or to keep on. But what can you do about it?

  • Pray with someone else. For many of us, this is difficult; we’re not used to praying with other people except at Mass. But if you don’t feel like praying, you can bet someone else feels that way, too, and there’s strength in numbers! Invite a friend over, or pray with your children or spouse.
  • Read the psalms. You’ll be surprised at how much of these songs and prayers and verses will sound familiar to you. They have served as an inspiration to Christians for centuries, and they’ll work for you, too. Just read them and let your soul drift into prayer. “I call on you, my God, and you will answer me.”
  • Go for a “prayer walk.” Don’t just walk; walk intentionally. If you take yourself out of your everyday surroundings, you’ll have fewer distractions and you’ll be able to better focus on your conversation with God..

Even the saints struggled with prayer, but the truth is, we’re called to “pray always,” whether we feel like it or not. Prayer as a discipline flows into prayer as joy, but you can’t have one without the other!

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Seasons and How to Cope with Them

We know that seasons change, and just like the way natural seasons change, we can also see the changing of seasons in our lives. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a season for everything, and adds, “God has made everything beautiful for its own time.”

If you are going through a difficult season in your life, here are some ways to cope with it:

  • The dry season: You feel uninspired, and your prayer life seems empty. Remind yourself that you’re not the first person to feel this way, and fall back on prayers you know and love—the Our Father and the Hail Mary. Persevering through these simple prayers will get you though your feelings.
  • The waiting season: God has something in store for you, but it’s taking forever! You feel like the whole world is holding its breath in anticipation. This is a time to read: many of the saints needed to learn patience! Read about St. Cyprian, St. Monica, and St. Francis de Sales.
  • The trials season: Sometimes it just feels like you’re being tested, over and over again. The best thing now is to not be alone: others can help guide you through this difficult season. Use the sacrament of reconciliation frequently. This might be a time to consider talking to a spiritual director.

Not all seasons of your life are the same, and living through them with grace and with God means that you need to be deliberate. Don’t just allow them to happen to you; have a hand in how you experience them.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 New Meditations for Change

Well, they’re not actually new, they’re ancient! But they may be new to you, and at a time when we’re all searching for ways to live though the present time and possibly make sense of it all, they may be most welcome. Choose one of the options below and sit with it, if possible in a quiet place and before a crucifix or an image, or when you are sitting with the Blessed Sacrament. See which one calls to you.

  • The principal devotion of the Pauline Family is Jesus Master, Way, Truth, and Life. We look at Christ and in him contemplate his complete personality. He gave various descriptions of himself: “I am the light of the world,” “I am the vine,” “I am the good shepherd.” But these are particular aspects of Jesus. When he wanted to describe himself completely, he said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). To reproduce the whole Christ in us, it is necessary to believe in his work, to follow his examples and to live his life. How can I think about Jesus Master, Way, Truth, and Life today? Can I do one thing, today, that will make others see his way in my life?
  • Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, invites us to put ourselves in the school of Jesus the Divine Master. In this “school” we listen to the Word of God. We almost make ourselves all “ear” so that we can absorb his way of thinking, of reasoning, of loving, of choosing, of being. You might think about the virtue you most need to grow in at this time. You might picture how Jesus would conduct himself in the situations we find ourselves in right now, and listen to what he might say.
  • Why is St. Paul so great? How did he do some many wonderful things? How is it that year after year his doctrine, apostolate, and mission in the Church of Jesus Christ become better and better known, admired, and celebrated? Why? The answer lies in his interior life. The secret is here. Inflated balloons empty themselves and vanish in a day. How can I develop a genuine interior life that will sustain me and germinate seeds for others?

These are difficult questions for difficult times. Know that the Daughters of St. Paul are praying for you and with you as we move forward together.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Start Your Day

Most of us find that when things go wrong early in the day, it casts a shadow over everything else! The good news is that the opposite is also true: when our days start well, we’re more confident, more present, and a great deal calmer! And when you intentionally start your day with the Lord, that can only keep you present with him through to bedtime.

But with alarm clocks ringing and a line for the family bathroom, how do you find calm in the morning?

  • Get up. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But hitting the snooze button two or three times; all that does is make you late. Put your clock across the room if necessary so that you’re already out of bed when you turn it off.
  • Pray. I know: you think you don’t have time. And perhaps this isn’t the best moment for a full morning prayer service or a recitation of the Rosary. The good news is, all you need is a quiet prayer while you’re getting dressed! Tell God you’re grateful for this day and that you’re putting your trust in him to guide you through it. That’s all you need.
  • Resolve to be cheerful in encountering everything in your morning. C.S. Lewis writes that where Christ is, cheerfulness keeps breaking in, and it’s true! Your mood will spread to others and enhance the day they start their days, too.

Even for “morning people,” starting the day can be difficult and frustrating. But you’re in control of more than you may think. Try these simple steps for starting the day right and see what a difference they can make!

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Keep Perspective

Memento mori (literally, “remember that you have to die”) is an ancient practice of reflection on mortality, the reminder that this life is not forever. French painter Philippe de Champaigne illustrated it in his painting Still Life with a Skull, showing the three essentials of existence: a tulip (life), a skull (death), and an hourglass (time). The practice isn’t meant to be depressing, but rather to remind us of where our real life lies.

  • Remember that every day on earth is a gift from God. How many people died in their sleep last night? You weren’t one of them. Wake up with a sense of gratitude.
  • Keep this life in perspective. When someone angers you or hurts you, step back from it. Will it matter a year from now? Ten years from now? Take the long view.
  • If you were to die today, what would be left unsaid, what would be left undone? Make a list, and start crossing items off.

Scripture tells us that we never know when God might call us home to live with him in eternity. Memento mori is a practice that reminds of that, every day. We are just passing through this life: our real home is in heaven.

Easter, Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Live the Resurrection

Hallelujah: Jesus suffered, died, and was buried, as the Church lived with him through the Triduum, and now has risen forevermore! We celebrated with joy yesterday, and yet now, on Easter Monday, we must ask ourselves the question: what now? We have the Easter Season stretching out before us, inviting us into new life. How do we live it?

  • Keep up the good work! Perhaps you picked up a devotional or some Scripture reading during Lent. We need that attention and focus all the time, as we navigate the ins and outs of daily life, so keep it up!
  • The light of Christ may have come into the world, but not everyone has seen it. This holy Easter season is a good time to pray especially for the evangelization of the world.
  • If our fasting in Lent and especially on Good Friday has taught us anything, it is that hunger is no joke. Show support for those experiencing food insecurity by donating to a local food bank or homeless shelter.

We are people of the light, we live in the sure knowledge of the Kingdom. Jesus asks us to share that light with the world. How will you do it, this Easter season?

Everyday Grace, Lent

3 Ways to Keep Your Focus During Holy Week

Holy Week, as we all know, is an intense journey with Jesus through the darkest moments of life, emerging finally into the glory of the resurrection at the Easter Vigil. Through many different liturgies, our Church invites us to recall this journey and these events.

Unfortunately, in real life, most of us don’t have the option of slowing down to accommodate extra liturgies and church attendance. So how can we keep our focus on Jesus throughout the week?

  • Either alone or with your family, watch one of the many excellent movies that re-tell the Holy Week story. One favorite is Jesus taken from The Bible Stories series, with Jeremy Sisto as Jesus. You may have another favorite. This is a wonderful way to enter into the story visually and emotionally.
  • Use your social media. If you can’t unplug, then post Bible passages, appropriate poetry, and links to great works of art that point to God’s redeeming love instead of posting political rants, pictures of your cat, or updates about your activities.
  • The Good Friday liturgy is beautiful and eloquent, but you might not be able to get to church for it. If you can, take a longer lunch break at work to acknowledge this sacred time. Shut off your electronics, read quietly, reflect on Jesus’ last words.

We’d all love to be able to spend this entire week in church and with the community of faith, but most of us don’t have that luxury. Don’t give up! You don’t have to be physically in a church to carry Christ in your heart.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Feel Loved

We all know God loves us, but it’s often difficult to really believe it, to feel it. Things can go terribly wrong in our lives, often through events or circumstances outside our control. The world can feel like an unfriendly place. Where is God in it all? How do I know he loves me?

  • Look around you. We generally see what we want to see. If you expect to see bad things, you will. But if you expect to look around yourself and see God’s presence and love, even in small things, then you will see that, too. The gift of such a crazy beautiful world is a good sign of God’s love.
  • Read Scripture. Especially the Gospel of John. The leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the promise of God’s love for every one of us. And remind yourself that Jesus died for you, personally: the greatest indication of God’s love there ever could be.
  • See Christ in others. It’s easy to judge those who are different from us. If you can stop and see Christ in everyone around you, then it will be easier to be Christ to others, too, letting God’s love flow through you and into others’ lives.

God knows every one of us inside and out, far better than we know ourselves. He has promised to never leave us, to never forsake us. Saint Paul wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Everyday Grace, Lent

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Refresh Your Lenten Practice

This second Lent of the worldwide pandemic is weighing heavily on us all. You may have started it with enthusiasm, picking a penance or a practice that may or may not still be working for you several weeks in. Here are some ideas to refresh your Lenten practice now:

  • Change your language. Don’t talk about giving up, think in terms of a Lenten practice that will carry you through the remainder of the season and be more meaningful than a farewell to chocolate. What will be your Lenten practice this year?
  • Be prayerful in selecting your fast. We tend to abstain from the same things every year, but is that always what God calls us to? The point of a fast is to become uncomfortable so our thoughts can focus on God. What would make you uncomfortable for the remainder of Lent?
  • We forget what the Good Samaritan did after rescuing the man by the roadside. He gave money to the innkeeper to look after the victim; freely and wholeheartedly, as though giving that money were the most natural thing. For Catholics, it is! Almsgiving flows from prayer and fasting and is central to Lent. Who is your “innkeeper” this Lent? To whom will you give your money freely to help someone else?

We’ll never have all the answers, but God doesn’t expect us to. What he does expect is for us to be discerning: to ask the difficult questions of ourselves, our Church, and our world. Partway through Lent is an excellent time to ask those questions.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Spring Clean

The winter is fading—finally!—and it’s time to start looking ahead to spring cleaning. And while getting your home aired out and scrubbed is satisfying, it’s also useful to think about clearing out some of the bad habits you might have picked up over the long winter! Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • While building a habit is good, doing the same thing over and over again eventually feels rote. So clear out your prayer life with something new! There are a number of beautiful prayer books (Queen of Apostles Prayer Book, Sacred Heart Prayer Book, Holy Spirit Prayer Book, Memento Mori Prayer Book) that will give you fresh words and ideas to enhance your prayer time.
  • Notice how “stuff” gets accumulated over the winter? We’re just not as careful about cleaning then. This is a good time to clear out you interior life by going to confession. It clears the decks of all the times you’ve tripped and fallen, and you’ll be all set for the springtime of your soul! If you cannot yet go to confession due to the pandemic, spend some time instead with reflections from the Examen.
  • What can you get rid of? Are there things that you’re clinging to that are standing between you and God? Maybe it’s resenting someone else, or wishing that you had as much as someone else, or holding onto a perceived insult. Let them all go!

Spring cleaning for your soul can be just as liberating as spring cleaning for your home, and it’s a good Lenten practice to lead you closer to the glory of the Resurrection that’s only a few weeks away!