Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Prayer and the sacraments

St. John Bosco's approach to helping the impoverished street boys of Italy focused on providing three things that he felt would really benefit them: 1)prayer and the sacraments, 2) physical exercise/sports and 3) music - which he felt ennobled the soul.

I find myself, in an attempt to take on yet another year with the overwhelming task of homeschooling my children, (this is our 12th year, yet I always and forever find it overwhelming. Overwhelmed is my middle name!) trying to find ways to simplify things in my mind. For the academic portion of our lives I'm using the principle of multa non multam as expressed in Andrew Campbell's Latin Centered Curriculum. Things necessarily get complicated though as kids enter their teens and begin to prepare for the next stage of their education: college. One needs to start thinking about nitty gritty details like the SAT and what transcripts will look like and how many credits do you really need to graduate high school. Are there enough math and science credits, how many years of language should one take, etc. etc. So there is only so much simplifying one can do, realistically speaking. Life just isn't simple with three teens in the house!

But for a wholesome and godly way of life, I'm looking to the three elements St. John Bosco believed would be so healing and helpful to his poor abandoned boys. So for the next couple of posts I think I am going to try to examine where we are as a family in each category and how we might develop each over the coming academic year.

I myself have been going through a particularly dry time in my spiritual life. It is there intellectually (when my brain isn't too tired!) but it hasn't been resonating with me as it has in the past. It hasn't felt like a source of comfort and strength especially. A lot of times I'm just going through the motions. This tends to perpetuate itself. I used to really make an effort to get to at least one daily Mass a week, besides Sunday, but this practice fell to the wayside slowly until now it has been several months since we last attended a daily mass. H and W tend to go but not me. I had dreams of going a lot this summer, but I've yet to go once at all!

I used to get up and say the rosary pretty much every morning. I haven't said a rosary in at least six weeks, let alone have any regular time (though I did pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet several times during my mother in law's passing). Part of that is the change that summer brings, though that isn't true now that I think about it. Last summer I got up almost every morning and walked and said the rosary. I'm really in a slump.

And summer is always a bit of strain on us for going to Mass. During the winter, H sings in the choir at 8:15 a.m. Mass and so we have a regular routine. During the summer though we go to any Mass and often to Masses in other parishes because we are too lazy to get out the door in the a.m. We wind up finding an evening Mass somewhere and sandwiching it in just before dinner. While I enjoy an occasional mass at a different parish, I do like going to my own parish because I feel connected to the community. It makes it feel like it is more smoothly woven into my life.

Also during the school year when H is singing in the choir, I get once a month e-mails asking me to sign up to pray for an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament (my parish has adoration for 24 hours before First Friday). So I usually go and pray once a month. I love this time! Love it! But I never think to do it unless I get those e-mail requests.

And I haven't been to confession since Good Friday! I can't seem to get to confession once a month which at one time was a goal of mine; our weekends get so busy. Then I was trying to go every two months but that fell by the wayside. We seem to go once a season, once in fall, once in winter (Advent), once in spring (Lent) and once in summer.

I feel in bad shape.

On the other hand, I feel the Lord really blessed us during the time of my mother in law's dying and death. We had a lovely experience of praying the Our Father with her over the speaker phone and we have continued to do this occasionally with my father in law either when he is staying over or is chatting with R on the phone when prayer time arrives. I really felt the workings of the Holy Spirit through out that time even though the prayers and the rituals were Reformed Judiasm. But then I have always grown in my faith when it is in relief against another. And that isn't even really true of Judiasm because so much of Catholicism is drawn directly from that well. So mostly it was the joy of recognition, the familiarity of it all that made me feel God's presence.

In light of all this, here are my thoughts:

1) Try at least once this week to get up and walk and say a rosary.

2) Next week I can try to get up once and say a rosary and I can also try to attend a noon mass near the music camp so I can easily pick up the kids from camp.

3) When I go on vacation in August, I like to attend daily mass there. Everybody sleeps in and my usual pattern is to get up and take a walk on the beach and then quick zip off to morning mass. I'll see if I can't do that while down in Nag's Head.

4) I heard this tip somewhere on the Catholic homeschooling internet blogosphere: I want an alarm clock to keep in my living room. I'm going to set it for 8:15 a.m. and when it goes off that tells everybody it is rosary time. I'll do that when we get back from vacation.

5) Since we'll be doing a Friday co-op that begins at 10:00 we can try to go to a Friday Mass at the church that we will literally be passing on the way. They have a mass at 9:00 a.m. That will fit so neatly into our schedule that I think it will be pretty easy to establish as a routine.

6) Things will be more on a regular schedule once the school year starts up, so things will necessarily tighten up then. We'll be meeting at breakfast again and doing regular readings in Scripture and the saints. We'll be studying catechism and it is going to be a big year for sacraments as B is receiving her First Confession and first Holy Communion and J is receiving Confirmation.

7) I'm feeling a bit better about the state of my/our spiritual life just by typing this out. Things ebb and flow and right now is simply an ebbing time. I am reading Ann Ball's book about Blessed Miguel Pro and his courage and faith is so inspiring. I think that may help put things on an upswing!

So: Blessed Miguel Pro, St. John Bosco and St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

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