So I told Auntie Leila that I would host a giveaway of her new book. I was very, very excited to do so. But in my perpetually-bleary state I misread the details. Somehow I got it into my head that the blog post was supposed to be up by the 10th, but really the giveaway is supposed to close by the 10th. Which is Tuesday. And it’s Friday night and I’ve still not written the blog post. Nor finished reading the book either, which is what I was waiting for.
Anyway, If you’d like to win a copy of The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home, which is a beautiful little book about prayer in the home, here’s your chance. Leave a comment here and you will be entered. Since I’m posting so late, if you enter now you probably have a very, very good chance of winning. The giveaway will close Tuesday June 10.
This book is about praying in the home, which is the heart of our vocation as parents. It’s about doing in here and now in the mess and chaos and not waiting for the perfect moment. Hey, I’m kind of good at that. But I really want to be better. I’m really looking forward to reading this book.
And it’s a great book for fathers. Auntie Leila points out that often they feel on the fringes of things while prayer and such become the domain of Mother. So here’s a chance to hand this book to the father of the house, a better alternative than another tie. Auntie Leila says this book appeals very strongly to men, so give it a try. Win it for the Dad in your life. (And then read it yourself when he’s done.) Though you don’t have to give it to Dad. You don’t even have to have children or even be married to win. Because making space and time for prayer is for everyone.
And now I veer into the personal, but this is my blog and this isn’t my book review yet and anyway I’m hoping it sort of inspires you to pick up this book and give it a try.
Charlotte of Waltzing Matilda is also hosting a giveaway and hers has been up for a while.
In her introduction she says,”I’ve never felt particularly called to the movement that imposes monastic like silence and seriousness on a day when babies are crying and toddlers need help wiping.”
(My comment was way too long to leave at her blog and I’m too tired to figure out how to edit it, so I’ll just post it here for now and maybe try to post it on her blog tomorrow.)
Ahem. I’ve never felt called to that movement either, but I have been praying the Liturgy of the Hours in some slipshod form or fashion since before I was married and I’ve never completely stopped praying it even in the midst of the crying babies and attention-needing toddlers. But then I’ve never tried to make it into an imposition of monastic silence and seriousness on the home. Maybe it’s because I learned to pray it from my Dad, who is a secular Carmelite and not a monk living a highly structured contemplative life in a monastery. He already shoed me that the divinve office had a different way for laypeople living in the world.
I remember going into my parents’ bedroom to say goodnight to Dad and he’d be laying on his side in bed in his night clothes with his prayer book open and I knew he wasn’t going to engage me in conversation, but if I asid good night to him he’d look up and kiss me goodnight and then go back to his prayers. Or he’d be sitting quietly on the couch in the middle of the afternoon and reading calmly while we went about our house-y busy-ness. My first experience of the office was informal, a quiet conversation more than a formal liturgical structure. It was something you can pray in bed, not that you have to be standing or kneeling for. And no prayer shelf or icon corner. Just Dad and his book. Dad never tried to pray with us, never prayed out loud at all, at least not intentionally, sometimes he’d sort of mumble a bit. It was that thing *he* did not that thing *we* did. But seeing him pray made an impression.
And one day he sent me a copy of Christian Prayer and I started trying to figure out how to pray for myself. At the time I was in grad school and living a crazy life. I prayed only Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer and I did not pray them at the liturgically correct hours. I prayed morning prayer whatever time I woke up for the day, often well past noon. I’d sit up in bed and pull out my prayer book and pray right there before I got up for the day because I knew once I left my room I’d be distracted by my roommates. Then I prayed Evening Prayer at whatever time I stumbled to bed. Very often I was falling asleep in the middle of these prayers. If I woke up, I’d try to pick up where I left off. Just me, in bed, in my pajamas, talking to God. Not very monastic at all, at least not if what you have in your head is Cistercian Abbey.
So when I had Bella, I’d read the hours quietly to myself while she nursed or played on the floor at my feet. And when she was a toddler and trying to grab my prayer book and pull out all the holy cards, one day it occurred to me to start reading some of the psalms and prayers out loud so that she could understand that I was doing something, talking to someone else instead of her, and maybe she would sort of leave me alone. I’d hand her a stack of her own holy cards and she’d flip through them and occasionally echo back what I said. And when I first heard a few words of prayer on the mouth of my babe, I started to understand that she was capable of praying with me. So I did it more, never, ever trying to make her pray with me, but just being inviting when I was praying.
And the funny thing was my dad started to pick up on that and when he came to visit us he’d sometimes pray out loud too when the kids were snuggling up with him on the couch. He changed the way he prayed to invite them into the conversation. It’s more like letting the kids slowly learn to take part in adult conversation with house guests at the dinner table. They don’t contribute much at first, but you let them try because they also want to talk to the important guest and tell him their stories and show him their pictures. It’s not really anything like adult conversation, and it’s sometimes a bit annoying when it interrupts the important adult conversation, so you try to find a balance that lets them feel included without being too much of a disturbance.
Over the years I’ve also started supplementing my reading the prayers myself from the book with listening to them on the Divine Office podcast while making oatmeal for breakfast or chopping onions for dinner. I play it over the speakers so that everyone can hear and repeat the prayers out loud and pray along as best I can while I work and pausing to listen to requests from small children. I don’t have perfect attention span. Doing it this way, I actually actively pray maybe half or a quarter of the prayers… but I do pray a little– most of the time. Some days I don’t think I heard anything at all.
So it’s nothing at all like a monastery where the monks stop their work for hours of prayer. But it’s how it works in my domestic church where I can’t put dinner on hold most nights to sit and pray. It’s not silent and solemn at all. Sometimes it seems far from serious. But my kids are learning the structure of the hours, and are hearing and pondering the Word of God. Much of the time they ignore the prayers and go on with their wild and crazy play. Often I have to ask them to stop screaming so I can hear. Or beg them to play a bit more quietly. But sometimes they seem to ignore it, and then later come to me with a question or I hear them repeat a phrase or two while they are playing or while “pretending to pray.” I question whether it’s really pretending or it’s real prayer. I think God hears all these little prayers even the ones that seem like play.
Anyway, I’m not saying I’ve got it all down, just that maybe Charlotte– and all you other dear readers who have been scared away from trying to pray the Liturgy of the hours because you aren’t attracted to trying to remake your home into a monastery– might want to shift from thinking you need to recreate Cistercian or your local monastic community at home.
I’m very much a work in progress and still think I have much room for improvement. And am really hoping that reading and pondering The Little Oratory will help. I’d like to be a bit more focused and monastic, but I do recognize that that’s not the stage our family is at.
Perhaps there are some things I could do now. Maybe I should try to light a candle when I pray. I have never, ever done that. Maybe I should try to pray in a particular place. I have a prayer shelf, but never use it to actually pray at. It’s just a place to house some of our collection of icons, holy cards, relics, and other bits and pieces. So I’m still trying to figure out how to move toward the idea of calm, silent, reverent prayer. Meanwhile, what we have is the Liturgy of the Hours for little kids, which is very much joyful chaos and I think it makes God happy just the same and works for our sanctification.
Some of our holy spots though the years.
I love how the children spontaneously bring flowers to these spots. I really need to clean off my shelf, tidy it up, put some spring wildflowers there, and take a new picture too…