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Archive for April, 2010

For the past few years, the church I go to has had a campaign called “The One-Hour Challenge”:

To have a happy, peaceful life, it is important that we have our lives in order, with our grateful response to God for his gifts being our top priority. That is how a disciple responds in the areas of prayer, family, finance, and service.

If you need help to put balance in your life, take the “one hour challenge”: Each week spend at least…

  • One hour in prayer and worship.
  • One hour, special, focused on your family or other important relationship.
  • One hour’s wage (if you have a job) for the Lord. No job? Then give what seems right for you.
  • One hour in service. (Helping another, or working for some cause.)

The above quote is from the “ad” in the church bulletin describing this challenge.

Recently I’ve been reflecting on this challenge, as it relates to my life:

  • One hour in prayer and worship. Check!
  • One hour, special, focused on your family or other important relationship. Check!
  • One hour’s wage for the Lord. Check!
  • One hour in service. Now this is where I’m having trouble!

A few years ago I had no problem fulfilling this one hour in service every week. Every other week I would go visit an elderly aunt of mine. She didn’t drive, so I took her shopping and on any other errand she needed. I stayed over the whole weekend and we had a nice visit in addition to the “work”. So, the service time averaged out to more than an hour a week. After I got married, the visits were less frequent, and the number of hours of my stay was fewer, but I still was going that extra mile, so to speak, to be of service. Then about a year and a half ago my aunt moved in with her son and daughter-in-law and my services were no longer needed.

I can’t lie. I was grateful for this. Over the years, as I moved farther and farther away from my aunt and as my responsibilities grew in my immediate family, it became tiring to go over there and help out. Even if it was only twice a month. I cherished the freedom of having my weekends free to do what I wanted. That sounds selfish, I know. But, after taking care of others (not just my aunt) for well over 15 years, it was nice to have a break.

But, maybe because I’ve spent nearly half of my life taking care of others, I’ve recently been feeling that I should again be of service to others. So, I’ve been contemplating various opportunities to see what I might be interested in (and competent to do). Most recently the prayer quilt ministry has been asking for new members. I like to sew. I’m not very good at it, but they’ll even take people who don’t know how to sew.

As I sat in my favorite chair and contemplated attending a meeting, I ended up looking around my living room, and my kitchen, and my dining room (it’s all one large room in my house). And I realized something. How can I have the time to serve others when I haven’t even found the time to serve my family? And, let’s face it, keeping a clean house and cooking a nice dinner for one’s spouse is serving the greater good of the family. Now, spending time doing these things may not be the “special” time spent nurturing my family as it says in the second list item above. But, even these mundane tasks are a way for me to show my gratitude to God for his gifts of my spouse, our house, our possessions, the food we eat…. And, it is this attitude of gratitude that the One Hour Challenge is supposed to foster.

So, first things first. I have to put my own house in order (and keep it in order) and only after that’s done can I really contemplate what to do with my free time. Because only when the work is done will my time really be free.

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In my personal prayer life, I’m not a fan of pre-scripted prayers in general. Joan Osborne once sang “What If God Was One of Us?” Well, I believe He was one of us. I believe in the Holy Trinity, one God in three persons. Jesus is one of the Trinity. He was fully human and fully divine. Sure, he lacked sin, but he did live here on earth, saw the suffering and experienced suffering of his own. As a result, I prefer to talk to God, Jesus, in everyday language, as if we were two friends sitting together enjoying each other’s company. That’s how I normally pray.

There are two exceptions, however. The Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I used to pray the Rosary quite often, then for some reason I stopped praying it as often. Then I started praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily. Then, for some reason, I also stopped praying that.

In 2000 Pope John Paul II designated the Sunday after Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday in the Catholic Church. Typically, starting with Good Friday, the devout are encouraged to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet as a novena, to pray the prayers daily for nine days. The prayers are offered for different souls each day:

Day 1: All mankind, especially all sinners.
Day 2: The souls of priests and religious.
Day 3: The devout and faithful souls.
Day 4: Those who do not believe in God and those who do not yet know Jesus.
Day 5: The souls of those who have separated themselves from the church.
Day 6: The meek and the humble souls and the souls of little children.
Day 7: The souls who especially venerate and glorify Jesus’s mercy.
Day 8: The souls who are detained in purgatory.
Day 9: The souls who have become lukewarm.

(To learn more about these devotions click the links in this blog post, or go to http://www.ewtn.com.)

I liked praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet because it helped me to think about others in the world, take my focus off of myself. When I used to pray it daily, I would pray along with the Divine Mercy in Song program on EWTN radio. I even bought a CD of the Divine Mercy in Song so that if I missed the Chaplet recitation on the radio, then I could recite it along with the CD when I had the time. Then, for some reason, I stopped my devotion. Recently, on Good Friday, I made a vow to myself to say the Divine Mercy novena, hoping that I would get in the habit of daily structured prayer again. Well, I haven’t exactly been reciting the prayers every day, but I’m still hoping…. One thing that has been happening is that the individual prayers have been sticking in my head and I find myself throughout the day singing the prayers. Something that doesn’t happen otherwise.

And, this got me thinking about prayer and music. For me the musical Divine Mercy Chaplet so moves my soul that I want to sing the prayers at all hours of the day. The music enhances my personal prayer life. The music allows me to give a physical voice to the prayer.

Then there’s the Hail Mary. When said by itself in English, or as part of the Rosary, at least for me, it can become quite automatic. Sometimes this is what I want. Sometimes I just want God to talk to me through the prayer. Get lost in the prayer so to speak. However, this prayer can also become quite routine. So much so that the words can be said, but they are not felt. Perhaps this is why I stopped reciting the Rosary those many years ago. I figured that if I couldn’t put my heart and soul into the prayers, it would be better if I didn’t pray them at all.

And, then there’s the Ave Maria. The Hail Mary in Latin.

Listening to this my soul cannot help but feel the words, feel the prayer. The music allows my soul to give a spiritual voice to the prayer.

I’ve found that music can enhance my prayer life, whether by inspiring me to pray more spontaneously or by feeding my soul’s need to feel prayer, to glorify God, and thus appreciate the beauty and meaning of the words.

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Sometimes words move a person, sometimes music does. This week I came across this video on YouTube. I was so moved by Harvey Reid’s playing “The Scotland Suite” that I thought I’d share it with you, my readers. Sit back and let the music envelop you!

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