Monday, April 15, 2013

Distracted prayer

I don't know about you, but my prayer is rarely as focused as it needs to be. It became especially obvious as I sat in Adoration this morning and my mind couldn't stay still. I'd missed daily mass, so I read the readings for the day, then started a rosary. "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is..." not the only thing on my brain. My thoughts ran the gamut, even as I prayed my way through the decades, even as I gazed at Jesus in the monstrance. Here, roughly in the order they came to me, is a small sampling of an hour's worth of thoughts:

 "Oh, that's an interesting jacket that woman's wearing. Four decades to go. The rosary seems to go so much faster when I pray it in the car in the morning. Is it because I'm moving and there's lots going on around me? Thank you, Lord, for protecting Amanda's daughter Grace after she took a 12-foot tumble out of their barn's hay loft. Thank you for allowing my brother to arrive at his Middle-Eastern deployment location safely. Will my friend Marie and her husband who are soon moving back to the area from their overseas deployment have any single male friends they might be able to set me up with? Should I sign up for a Catholic online dating site again? Or is that urge to troll through profiles of single men a temptation to not trust God with it? Be patient, be patient, be patient, please help me be patient. ... I love my rosary, how it's more than 100 year's old, and how the beads no longer stay in one place, having slipped their moorings through years of prayer. Maybe one day I'll wrap it around the stem of a wedding bouquet. It belonged to Miz Bertolotti, my great-grandmother who I never knew but from whom I inherited my awesomely dark under-eye circles. Yay, genetics! But we'll never really know where she got them, since her parents died and she and her siblings were adopted after the 1900 hurricane and Galveston flood. ... I'm glad my insomnia didn't keep me up last night, and I feel well-rested. I hope I can get up off my tail and make it back to the gym today, my jeans are tight. I need to wash some clothes, and make sure I get to the dentist on time (I could have done without my phone going off at 3:30 this morning with a reminder of the appointment, though), and the store, too, since I'm out of lunch meat and tomatoes and why am I suddenly craving orange juice? Please let the rental application for the new place be accepted if it's God's will. ... What is God's will for me to write for GoodGirls today? About yesterday's gospel and how the 153 fish represent the diverse population of the Church, and how the net, which didn't tear despite the weight of the fish, is the Church itself? Or about God's love for us, or Peter's love for Jesus? Or possibly about how I can't imagine living my life without this faith, this beautiful Church and it's sacraments. Thank you, Jesus, for giving me the opportunity to make it to confession Saturday! How DO people live without you, when life gets crazy or bad things happen? ...mmm, I love the smell of incense. One day I need to learn the "Tantum Ergo" by heart..."

As Adoration wound to a close, I realized how little I'd focused. I'd finished my rosary, certainly, and thanked God for the time spent with him, but oh, how I wish I could have just sat still and made my mind a blank page, receptive to what the Lord wanted to tell me! But then, after reposing the Blessed Sacrament, the deacon turned to the small group in the church and thanked us for coming. "God loves you so much, but he loves you even more because you chose to spend time with him today." That eased my mind a bit.

It also was reassuring, once I got home and did a little research, to find that some of the saints struggled with distractions, too. "Even very devout servants of God complain about wanderings and instability of the mind," St. Ignatius of Loyola once said. Among them are St. Gemma Galgani (we celebrated her feast day last week), who once asked God to be forgiving of the wanderings of her mind in prayer: "Oh God... my God! ... Do not be offended if in the morning I come as I am!"

Also, St. Therese of Lisieux, a doctor of the Church, struggled with distractions. In "The Story of a Soul," she writes: "...the recitation of the rosary is more difficult for me than the wearing of an instrument of penance. I feel I have said this so poorly! I force myself in vain to meditate on the mysteries of the rosary; I don't succeed in fixing my mind on them. For a long time I was desolate about this lack of devotion which astonished me, for I love the Blessed Virgin so much that it should be easy for me to recite in her honor prayers which are so pleasing to her."

So while I will work to be better at focusing on my prayer when distractions arise, it seems I'm at least in good company.

Have a blessed week!

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