Favorite devotions and prayer practices

August 6, 2010 | prayer

Well, look who decided to show up and write a blog post. Long story. Someday I’ll share it with you, but mostly it comes down to too many work deadlines and not enough hours in the day. Today I had to show up if only to respond to a challenge. OK, not a challenge but a fun request from two blog friends. Both Fran Rossi Szpylczyn at There Will Be Bread (and Parish Blog of St. Edward the Confessor) and Elizabeth Scalia of The Anchoress (and Summa This, Summa That) tagged me in a “meme” that is traveling around the Catholic blog world. They want to know: What are my five favorite Catholic devotions?

To be honest, my devotions are not going to look or sound like traditional devotions. That’s why I added “prayer practices” to the headline. I tend to have trouble with regimented routines in my spiritual life, so my devotional practices are a little unusual. But still, it’s what I do and maybe someone will find something there to add to their own spiritual practice. So here we go…

1. Silent, contemplative prayer – Of course, saying I prefer silent, contemplative prayer does not mean I am good at silent, contemplative prayer. It just seems to be the place I most feel at home. I light incense, I “burn” a battery powered candle, I sit on a little prayer bench before my tiny sacred space that is sandwiched between a treadmill and a recliner in my basement office (see photo above), and I try to listen for God. As soon as I arrive in that spot, I can feel my shoulders start to come down from near my ears, my breathing slows down. I don’t do it enough, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that this silent time nourishes my soul and centers me. I’ve written about my increasing need for silence on this blog in the past — in this post about my silent retreat, in this post on finding serenity in a bowl of oatmeal, and in this post about a sleepless night saved by silence.

2. Music – I know, that’s not a “devotion” and it’s a rather odd choice even as a prayer practice, but it’s true. Music has been an important part of my life, particularly my spiritual life, since I was a little girl. I remember loving the old hymns when I was very young and going to daily Mass a lot. To this day, when they dust off one of those oldies but goodies at church, I smile. I began writing religious songs and singing them at Mass when I was only in junior high and continued into early college in my parish folk group. Music was my way to pray and still is. Sometimes I turn on Gregorian chant and just revel in the beauty. Sometimes, especially when I’m driving in the morning, I put on my Cornerstone retreat CD in the car and sing along to particular songs that say so beautifully what I’m feeling in my soul.

3. Liturgy of the Hours – Yes, yes, I realize this, too, is NOT a devotion. It’s liturgical, but, since it is at least a semi-regular thing in my prayer life, I’m including in on this list. Like contemplative prayer, saying I like this practice certainly doesn’t mean I’ve mastered it. Not by any stretch. And you would know that if you could see me fighting with my ribbons and pages in search of the correct readings, psalms and canticles. Still, this prayer of the Church has begun to resonate with me after many years of trying it and dropping it. I cannot even consider hitting all the hours, but if I can squeeze in even just Morning Prayer I can feel how it reverberates through my day. When I can’t read my Christian Prayer book, I use my Magnificat, especially for Night Prayer. (And I love my Magnificat for Mass. And my kids love MagnifiKid.)

4. Spiritual reading – I find great solace and encouragement in the words of the saints and other holy men and women. In particular, I try to read something each night from Nearer to the Heart of God: Daily Readings with the Christian Mystics. But I sometimes focus in on the words of one particular person for a while, like St. Francis of Assisi or Teresa of Avila or Francis de Sales or Thomas Merton. And through them I often come around to a particular devotion — a prayer before the cross or a morning offering or a prayer when I am stressed and confused. So the spiritual reading prompts me to seek out other devotions. Hence, its connection here.

5. The Rosary – Finally I get to a real devotion, but, wouldn’t you know, I’m not really being entirely truthful by including it on this list. I am terrible at the Rosary, always have been. I want to pray it well, I really do, but, boy, I just can’t — or don’t. I have a finger Rosary, a bracelet Rosary, a Rosary in my car, and countless Rosaries stuffed in drawers all over my house. I’ve got books on the Rosary, brochures on the Rosary, apps on the Rosary. I try and try, but this devotion trips me up. I have a hard time focusing on the words of the prayers while also contemplating the mysteries. I still work at it every once in a while because I know how powerful this devotion is for so many people. So I’ve included it here because I want to say the Rosary regularly once I figure it out or at least stay awake through it.

There you have it. Not a typical list of devotions, but it’s what works for me. What works for you?

And, because this is a meme, I need to tag five other bloggers and see if they’ll be willing to share their favorites with us. I choose Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle over at View from the Domestic Church, Karen Edmisten, Roxane Salonen over at Peace Garden Mama (even though she was tagged once already), Cathy Adamkiewicz at From the Field of Blue Children (and PIME Missionaries), and Brian Caulfield at Fathers For Good.

Finally, on the news front, I’m going to have a book related to all of this coming out during Lent, so stayed tuned as things develop…



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