Life after Epiphany

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I would so much like to do better!


One of the most confusing things, when one leaves religious life behind, is trying to figure out what a healthy prayer life “on the outside” looks like.

On the one hand, stopping to pray at all the same times and with all the same devotions as I did in the convent is just plain unhealthy. I’m not a religious – I am a lay woman. The prayer life of a religious is not appropriate to the lay state of life. In fact, its actually harmful, as it keeps the lay person from performing the duties proper to the lay state.

Having said that, the opposite extreme would be disastrous. To cease to make prayer a part of my day? Unthinkable. That would be to sever my relationship with the God with whom I have developed an intimate and precious relationship. That would be to lose the spiritual dimension of my life, that life breathed into me at Baptism, that in-dwelling of the Blessed Trinity that I hope and pray I would literally die to preserve.

Well… how about minimalism?

That doesn’t really work either. My relationship with God is founded on love. Minimalism is pretty loveless, pretty self-serving. That would be turning God into what I have heard described in the past as a “Toothbrush God” to be used for ones own health and well-being, and placed back on the shelf until the next time required.

So I know what healthy prayer in lay life is NOT. But what IS it?

I’m still over-correcting one way, and then over-correcting the other, trying to find equilibrium. In 3 days it will have been 8 months since I removed my habit and got on a plane to return home. In that time I’ve done a pretty mixed-up job of trying to maintain a strong and loving relationship with my Heavenly Father. I so much want to do better!

One thing I know for certain – the Mass is central. I need to get to Mass as often as I can. I need Jesus. I need Him. There’s just no two ways about it! I meet Him in the Eucharist. Whenever I’m tempted not to bother with weekday Mass, THATS when I need to step up my commitment. THAT’s when I need Him most. And not in a self-serving way. I need Him because I know that He is the only way for me to be able to return love for Love.

But outside of the Mass?

I’m a Scripture research student. My research is doomed to fail if I don’t spend time PRAYING with Scripture to support my study. I want my research to be at the service of the Lord – so I need to remember ALWAYS to put it in His hands. Each time I sit down to do any work on this, I need to start by praying with the Text for at least 10 minutes prior to commencing any work with it.

What about mental prayer? I need to set perhaps a more realistic target than the 1.5 hours of time before the Blessed Sacrament that used to be part of my horarium. Perhaps 15 minutes of dedicated time for mental prayer. That’s St. Teresa of Avila’s recommendation, right? They didn’t make HER a Doctor of the Church for nothing! 😉 At the beginning of the day, or perhaps some silence in the car on the way to work if all else fails.

And here is something that I think will REALLY be helpful – I need NOT to let go of the Office. Perhaps praying all the hours that I used to do is maybe a little unrealistic at the moment. But Compline? I can fit Compline in. It takes 10-15 minutes and its just before bed so it’s pretty hard to forget.

OK. These are the concrete goals I’m going to set myself for now. Not as a checklist of daily chores – but as an authentic commitment to a relationship that I want to nurture. If you chance across this blog post, please pray for me!


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Don’t let academic hubris hijack theology…


I discovered something very ugly in myself today, as I reflected upon an event in my past.

As a novice, I was writing a paper that involved some exegetical work with the Psalms. During my private prayer and study, I encountered a fairly involved connection between one of the Psalms and the Gospel of Matthew that excited me greatly! I added it to my paper as part of the case I was trying to build to support the central thesis of the paper and thought little more of it until the following day.

At the evening meal the following day, I was sitting at table with my sisters in the refectory, and listening to the spiritual reading selection of the evening as is monastic custom. Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was hot off the presses and we were hearing it for the first time the very week it was released.

That evening at table, I heard THE VERY SAME EXEGESIS that I had prepared on the day prior, read from the work of the then Holy Father. Exegetical method AND conclusion were almost identical. And here it was, published by the Holy Father! But when I had typed it the day prior, that very same argument had been my own original work. Supposedly original.

So here is where my ugliness crept in.

I started getting all upset about INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY of all things. Can you think of anything more ridiculous than wanting to compete with the Pope over the intellectual property?

An account of my folly: I went to see my superior first thing the following morning. I wanted to know what to do from an academic honesty perspective. I didn’t want to cite the Holy Father. I felt I was justified in claiming the work as my own, given that I HAD arrived at the conclusions before encountering them elsewhere, even though they had existed elsewhere prior to my discovery of them. I wanted to use the electronic timestamp on the document in which I had written my paper to demonstrate that my conclusion was written prior to the night that it had been read to us at table.

PRIDE. How it corrupts the beauty that God created in me.

I write of it now because I refuse to let shame take a hold. Shame is a lie. Of COURSE I’m weak – why be scandalised by that?  Here is an opportunity. Out of the depths I can call upon the Lord. Out of my weakness, I can still witness to the Truth.

What is Truth, here?

I call upon ALL who read, study and pray with Scripture to recall that ANY time we are able to draw something from the Sacred Text, it is RECEIVED. It is a GIFT. It is the Word, GIVEN to us.

The conclusion I reached when working with the Psalms and the Gospel of Matthew? It wasn’t mine. It was given to me, by the very same God who gave it to the Holy Father. Instead of resenting that he got there first, what on EARTH am I doing not giving thanks that such a thing was revealed to me, a mere child? (And a spoiled child at that!!) I give thanks now, and offer my very failure to do so earlier to the Lord that He may bring good out of it.

Curious to know what the exegetical conclusion was? Go read Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Benedict XVI. In the meantime, I pray for humility, and I return to my study of the Scriptures… on my knees.

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Blessed John XXIII’s Decalogue

Having just moved house this weekend, I find myself in an area with about 3 different Catholic parishes almost equidistant from my new home. Two of the parishes are familiar to me so I thought I’d try the new one this past Sunday. Slipped into the parish bulletin was a document entitled “Decalogue for Daily Living.” It read:

Pope John XXIII wrote a Decalogue for Daily Living, his own commandments for daily life. They reflect his depth, his simplicity and his humility.

  1. Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.
  2. Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance; I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behaviour; I will not criticise anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.
  3. Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.
  4. Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
  5. Only for today, I will devote ten minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.
  6. Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
  7. Only for today, I will do one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure no one notices.
  8. Only for today, I will make a plan for myself; I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils, hastiness and indecision.
  9. Only for today, despite appearances, I will firmly believe that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in the world.
  10. Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed for twelve hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

Some of these sound like they might take a bit of practice to really be able to live them well! But that’s what a virtue is… an acquired habit, a firm disposition to do the good! These practices that Blessed John XXIII established for himself seem to me the kind of goals that, apart from the Lord, are frankly unachievable… but with the Lord? Such practices would surely result in a joyful, grateful person that truly reflects the love of Christ, and finds both his strength and his rest in Him. Way to be a signpost to the Kingdom, JXXIII!!