Last night, when I was standing at the counter chopping vegetables for pasta primavera and listening to Chiara torture her big sister, I went back to my thoughts about how difficult it is to fit prayer, especially Evening Prayer, into a busy family life. Before I knew it, Chiara was hanging from my leg, crying that Olivia wouldn't play with her, and I couldn't help but laugh at the absurd notion that I might stop all the madness and sit down in silence to listen to God. The only thing I could hear at that moment was crying and whining from what seemed like every corner of the house. And then I remembered what a friend, Father Mike, said in a recent email. He reminded me that my prayer IS the chopping of vegetables, the drying of tears, the kneeling down to hug a 3-year-old who is working through her drama queen stage and requires a little extra attention these days.
And I tried, maybe for the very first time, to see my dinner time rush that way, as an opportunity for prayer. No, it was not a beautiful and peaceful moment shrouded in spiritual silence, but that's because I don't live in a monastery. I live in a house filled with children and noises and plastic toys strewn from one end of the room to the other. And God is here, in the midst of that, just as surely as He is in the quiet isolation of a cloister.
St. Francis de Sales, in his Introduction to the Devout Life, talks about the fact that while we are all called to devotion, we are not all called to the same methods or ways of devotion. He may have lived and preached in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, but the sentiments surely hold true for us today. In the particular section I'm going to quote, he asks whether it would be fitting for a bishop to want to live a solitary life like a Carthusian monk or for a family man to seek a life of poverty like a Capuchin or for an artisan to spend his life in church like a religious. When we find a way to incorporate devotion into our own vocations (not someone else's definition of vocation), that devotion begins to color every aspect of our lives.
"Throw precious stones into honey, and each will grow more brilliant according to its several colors -- and in like manner everybody fulfills his special calling better when subject to the influence of devotion: family duties are lighter, married love truer, service to our king more faithful, every kind of occupation more acceptable and better performed where that is the guide," St. Francis wrote.
So rather than regret that I cannot find quiet time away from my true vocation, I have to find a way to incorporate devotion into my everyday responsibilities. When I finally do that, my vocation will actually become a pathway to the kind of inner quiet that I'm longing for, the kind of calm that remains steady even when the children are howling and the deadlines are pounding at my door. Well, that won't be easy, will it? Maybe that's why I keep reaching for quiet contemplation; it's easier to complain that I can't have prayer time than it is to make my every action a living prayer. Still, that is what we are called to do.
You've probably had enough of my endless spiritual chatter today. If you, like me, find it hard to work regular prayer into the day, here are a couple websites that offer brief but inspiring quotes.
The first is a site devoted to daily reflections from St. Francis de Sales (Thanks to Karen Edmiston for the heads up on this one.) Click HERE for a daily dose of de Sales.
The second choice offers super brief Scripture reflections -- one line -- with a short quote from a saint or other spiritual great. It's waiting in my email inbox every morning when I sit down to work. A quick and easy way to start the day with a spiritual boost. Click HERE for Word of God Every Day.