A weary soul

I mostly try to use this space to stay positive and be encouraging – I want to help you (and myself!) to embrace the truth that our personal faith lives need not suffer because our spouses don’t share our faith. But I also want to be real; and really, I don’t always feel upbeat. Sometimes I feel defeated, hopeless, and weary. Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle to keep my faith alive and vibrant when no one in my home is encouraging me in that endeavour.

I’ve spoken many times about the power of the rosary, and what an important, beautiful devotion it is. I truly believe that. But… I can’t remember the last time I prayed a rosary. Life got hectic, and I let it fall by the wayside for a day, then a few days, then a week or two, and now it’s probably been a couple of months. I keep meaning to get back to it, but I feel very spiritually depleted at the moment. It’s a struggle just to say a few words to the Lord here and there throughout the day. It’s a long time since I’ve sat down with Scripture outside of Mass.

I want to try to do better – and I know there will be seasons of a richer faith life in the future. It can seem hard, even futile, though, when your spouse doesn’t see the value of prayer. It would be so much easier if he would say, “why don’t we pray together for a few minutes before bed?”, or even, “how can I pray for you?”

I’m saying this in the interests of transparency. I want to encourage you, but I also want you to know that a lot of the time, I feel like I’m failing. I think about what it would take for me, in my particular circumstances, to become a saint – and I feel crushed under the weight of my distance from sainthood.

So if your soul is weary, know you are not alone. And know that this too shall pass. In the meantime, let’s ask for Elisabeth Leseur, St. Monica and Our Lady to pray for us. If we feel up to it, let’s pray for each other, too.

A Lenten practice: fasting for faith

I just thought I would check in to share one of my Lenten practices this year. Some time ago, during Ordinary Time, I got into the habit of fasting from drinks other than water on Tuesdays as a small ‘fast’ for my husband’s faith. It reminded me to pray for him more during those days, and re-centred me on one of my primary duties as a Catholic wife: to get my husband to heaven.

However, over time, I let this slide. I kept thinking that I should get back to it, but I never did. Lent seemed like the right time to pick it up again. So I am doing exactly the same thing, but also making a point to pray for other people’s husbands by name. I am also praying the Litany of Trust on Tuesdays. This litany is a great way to remind ourselves that God is ultimately in control, and wills our good and the good of our husbands. We can’t ‘persuade’ God to place a love of Jesus in our husbands’ hearts faster that He wants! God’s timing is not our own, and He works all things together for His glory.

A decade for my marriage

I know, I know, I won’t shut up about the Rosary. And I am usually the first person to roll my eyes about people who go on and on about a particular devotion. It’s not like I think every single person must. pray. the. Rosary. every. single. day., but I think it can have so many benefits that I would really like to encourage everyone to just try incorporating it into their regular prayer life.

Probably the biggest thing keeping people from committing to praying the Rosary regularly is that it seems like a big time commitment, and not one that necessarily sounds like a lot of fun. I still find that to be true. Pretty much every day, when I think about when I’m going to find time to pray the Rosary I think “gaaaah, it’s going to take 15-20 mins of my time and it’s gonna be boring!”

To get around this, I promised myself that I would pray a decade for my marriage every day. If I stop after one decade, then I’ve still prayed powerfully for my primary vocation. I try to mix up my exact prayer so that it doesn’t become robotic: instead of simply saying, “I offer this decade for my marriage”, I might say “I pray that my husband and I will be attentive to each other’s needs, and be able to clearly express our own needs”, or “I offer this decade in thanksgiving for a trustworthy and hardworking husband.”

More often than not, once I’ve prayed that first decade, I want to keep going, and I manage a whole Rosary. But if I get into bed and I’m tired and want to go straight to sleep, and then realise that I’ve forgotten to pray the Rosary today, a decade for my marriage usually still seems doable.

Not every time, and there are of course days when I don’t pray a single Hail Mary. I’m always working towards getting better and better about praying a full Rosary every day. But until I get there, I’ve found this to be a good way to pray at least a part of this beautiful prayer the majority of days.

The Rosary: tips on building a habit

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve found the daily (or as close as possible) recitation of the Rosary has been enormously beneficial for me. I have seen quite tangible, positive changes to my marriage that coincide entirely with when I started to take regular recitation of the Rosary seriously. I love how it now weaves into the rhythm of my life; whilst I rarely manage to say a full Rosary in one sitting, I can usually say a decade here and there throughout my day until it’s complete.

As this devotion has been so fruitful for me (and countless others), I wanted to share a few tips about how to forge this habit if it’s something you struggle with.

  • Podcasts/YouTube

When I committed to a daily Rosary, the thing that helped me the most was praying along with an audio Rosary. I used the Rosary Army Scriptural Rosary, which I found great and loved the Scripture verses before each Hail Mary to help me focus on the Mysteries. There are loads of others available, though, depending on your preferences. 

  •  Commit to a novena 

I decided to pray a 54 day Rosary novena for my marriage. It was daunting and overwhelming – I could not imagine praying a Rosary every day for 54 days! But my intention was important to me, and so I did it. It was a great way to make it a habit, and although I haven’t kept it up every single day since, I still manage it most days. If 54 days seems to much, pick a different novena, such as the novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots (9 days) and include the Rosary in your prayers to her.

  • Find where it fits into your day

I used to think that I had to pray a Rosary sitting down, quietly, with no distractions. And maybe that is optimal. But it doesn’t fit well into my life as a SAHM, and so I most often pray it whilst taking the baby somewhere in the pushchair. I count Hail Marys on my fingers, curled around the bar of the pushchair, and let my little one get used to seeing and hearing me say those prayers. Perhaps for you it’s in the car, or while you nurse. Wherever it is, it doesn’t *have* to involve sitting down in conditions conducive to contemplative prayer and praying it all in one sitting. 

  • You don’t have to pray it all at once!

This has probably made the biggest different for me. Sometimes I pray two decades on the way to the supermarket, two on the way back, and one right before bed. Sometimes I pray three in Mass, and two on the walk home. And yes, sometimes I forget (or am too tired) to finish the whole Rosary before the day is over. But that’s OK. God knows your intention and appreciates the efforts you made, and Mary will be interceding for you even in the absence of that final decade (or three)!

I hope this helps, and that little by little, you might feel able to make the Rosary part of your regular prayer routine. I promise you will be so glad that you did.

Catholic marriage envy

I think we all have sins that we know we’re guilty of, that we bring to Confession again and again – gossip, anger, judgement. But we also have sins that we think don’t apply to us, that we have never struggled with. For me, one of those is envy. I’ve never really envied the wealth or beauty or intellect of others – not because I’m totally happy with my own performance in these areas, but because any insecurities I have do not manifest themselves in the cardinal sin of envy.

Or… so I thought. I realised recently that I am guilty of envy. I’m guilty of envying people with ‘perfect’ Catholic marriages. I look at their blogs or Instagrams and think, “Why not me, God? Why can’t I have a faith filled marriage?” And then I start telling myself that maybe those couples aren’t as happy as they look. Maybe they suffer in areas of their marriage that I do not. Maybe it’s all show.

And maybe I’m right. But that’s the danger of envy, and why it’s so bad for our souls. It makes us whine to God, “Why can’t I have that? What you have given me isn’t enough!” And then we start wishing bad things on other people, hoping that their blessings aren’t really so much greater than ours as we perceive.

This is something I’m working on. Now that I’ve recognised that I am, in fact, guilty of envy (and pride to boot, for thinking that I was above envy!), I need to figure out how to combat it. Perhaps I need to unfollow certain accounts on social media, or say a prayer of blessing for anyone I have uncharitable thoughts toward. Furthermore, I need to focus on gratitude for a life which is, in fact, abundantly blessed. I offer a decade of the rosary each day for my marriage, but from time to time, I say it in thanksgiving for the gift of marriage, for my loving husband, for my beautiful daughter.

Envy is ugly, and it feels horrible. It makes us feel like stroppy children who aren’t satisfied with their offering of birthday gifts. God doesn’t want us to feel that way about our marriages; He wants us to rejoice in the gift of our spouses, to pray for them, and enjoy His gift to us! Yes, matrimony is meant to sanctify us, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t also meant to enjoy it. I think us Catholics forget that sometimes – that although redemptive suffering is a beautiful dimension of our faith, it isn’t the only one. God also meets us in joy and thanksgiving, and above all, in love.

Lessons from Elisabeth

The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur was one of those books I read where more of the text was highlighted than wasn’t once I reached the end. Whilst this is testament to the beautiful wisdom, encouragement and spiritual insight contained within the pages, it makes it a little tricky to flick back through the pages to find the particularly useful or interesting passages. So many of them are useful and interesting!

So, I decided to compile the key takeaways from this spiritual powerhouse. I also hope this will be a useful resource for those who don’t have time to read it themselves.

  1. Prayer is the most humble and effective act of charity

This is perhaps the most spiritually transformative lesson I learned from Elisabeth. She talks constantly about the importance of both charity and humility in the Christian life, and tells us that prayer is the most humble and useful act of charity that a Christian can do. How so? Well firstly, it is a private act, maybe even completely silent, so it will not attract the praise and affirmation of onlookers. But even more importantly, we may not get the gratification of seeing the answer to our prayers. Whilst we know with certainty that God hears and answers all our acts of petition or prayer, we do not always see how. Perhaps He has breathed peace into the heart of a suffering loved one; maybe He has spoken words of comfort through one friend to another; or it could be that a small sacrifice offered for His glory has brought a suffering soul in purgatory a little closer to Heaven.

Don’t be mistaken. Elisabeth is also clear that more tangible acts of charity are essential when circumstances allow. However, her words remind us that wherever we are, whatever our circumstances, we can offer the most important act of charity simple by offering our prayers to the Lord.

2. Love unbelievers wholly, entirely, without restraint

Many people, myself included, are initially drawn to Elisabeth’s writings because of her marriage to Felix, an atheist until after Elisabeth’s death when he not only converted but became a priest! Elisabeth writes a lot about her deep desire for Felix to know God and to share her faith. She speaks frankly about the loneliness and isolation she feels at not being able to share the deep, unshakeable love and joy she has in the Lord. She longs for Felix to know his Creator, to experience faith in a deep, personal way as well as to understand it intellectually.

But what is especially striking is that she has no sense of superiority, or frustration with her husband – in spite of the fact that Felix could, reportedly, be very cruel to her about her faith, going so far as to try to prevent her from participation in the sacramental life. Having a husband who doesn’t share my beliefs myself, I know all too well the inclination to feel exasperated by his lack of interest in learning about Christianity, and can so quickly become rigid and cold and defensive when matters of faith (or lack thereof) and family life arise.

Elisabeth shows us that we should pray unceasingly for our unbelieving loved ones, but that we should be soft, gentle and loving towards them. We must never view them as deficient because of their unbelief. We must be willing to learn from them, rather than believing that they must learn from us. And this should be done in a spirit of true love and devotion to them – not simply in the hope that we can charm them into coming to faith.

3. We should educate ourselves about faith 

This point was intriguing to me, as I consider myself too much ‘head’ and not enough ‘heart’ when it comes to faith. I can read and read, but I struggle to sit down in silence and talk with God. Of course, Elisabeth is not telling us that ‘heart’ doesn’t matter; she has a beautiful interior spirituality which we learn about in her diary. But she’s making the case that especially for those of us who find ourselves surrounded by non-believers, it is a duty to ensure that we are well grounded in theology, doctrine, writings of Church doctors, and of course Scripture, so that we can feel secure and confident when expressing our beliefs in a way that is communicable to those who cannot understand the ‘heart’ aspect of faith.

These are my main takeaways from Elisabeth’s diary, but there is so much depth and richness in the book that I encourage everyone to read it! In the meantime, I am keeping all those who pray for the conversion of a loved one in my own prayers, and asking for Elisabeth’s intercession.

Servant of God, Elisabeth Leseur, pray for us!

 

The power of a (spiritual) mother

You know that old adage that adrenaline can allow a mother to lift a car if a her baby is trapped underneath? (Apparently that’s true, btw). I’ve been thinking more and more about the fact that we Catholics who are praying earnestly for the conversion of our spouses, partners, children, etc., are “lifting the car” for our unbelieving loved ones.

Sometimes, it is exhausting to pray every. single. day. for the same thing, without seeing much progress. “Is there really any point?”, you ask yourself and God. It can feel like a physical strain, and physically tiring, to feel like your prayers have to cover your whole household.

The same image kept coming back to me, though. One of me using all I have – my physical, emotional and spiritual strength – to lift up my loved ones to God. If you had to lift a car from above your trapped child every day, would you do it? Of course you would, even though it would leave you feeling sapped.

I’m not saying that I do my best every day. I could pray more, make more sacrifices, go to more Masses, and so on. But when I feel like giving up, this is the image I come back to. Our spiritual motherhood is indispensable to the coming of God’s kingdom.

The power of the rosary

Happy Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary! I decided to make this Feast the day I start sharing this blog more widely, due to the particular intercession I’ve received from Our Lady through praying the rosary.

Although I’ve always thought that the rosary was a beautiful prayer, I’ve never been able to get into a good habit of praying a daily rosary. I always felt like I was missing something. But over the summer, I started to get the strong sense that the Lord was asking me to pray a 54 day rosary novena for my marriage. This seemed crazy. There was no way that I could keep up praying a rosary each day for 54. whole. days. Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling (a sure sign that the Lord is trying to tell us something!) and little signs kept popping up everywhere, so I decided I would begin the novena the day after the Feast of St. Monica (whose novena I had prayed), on the Feast of St. Augustine (a guy who knows a thing or two about men who think they do not need God).

For those who are not familiar, the 54 day rosary novena consists of 27 days of petition, and 27 days of thanksgiving for your intention. I am on day 40, and by God’s grace, I have not missed a day yet. I’ve tried to say the rosary earlier in the day so that I can be focussed, but there have been days when I’ve prayed it right before going to sleep. I am sure that I would not have succeeded in getting this far if it weren’t for very large doses of grace being doled out from Heaven.

I am here to tell you that this novena is incredibly powerful, and will bring great conviction that Our Lord and Our Lady love you deeply and listen to your prayers. My experience with it has been genuinely miraculous; there have been transformations in my marriage that are completely out of my hands, and so can only be attributed to this novena.

Even if you’re not ready to commit to a daily rosary, or a 54 day novena – pray a rosary today on this Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and then commit to one decade per day thereafter. You can build up from there. If you feel like you can’t possibly manage it, pray that God will grant you the grace and the time to make it a habit. I promise that He will answer your prayers.

I can’t tell you the ways that your life will be transformed by devotion to Our Lady through the rosary, but I have no doubt that it will.

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!

Get ye to Confession! (with a good confessor)

We’ve probably all had good and bad Confessions. For me, a bad Confession is when the priest just listens to you reeling off your sins, and offers you no input other than your penance (which was actually also forgotten once). I know that I am still absolved of my sins and that’s what matters, but let’s be honest… that isn’t usually all that we want. We want some advice, some guidance in how to overcome our sins and grow in holiness.

I have been to Confession a few times at my local parish, but it was always as described above. I left feeling frustrated that I was none the wiser on how to work through some of the sins that I repeatedly have to confess, and that the priest didn’t seem to think they really mattered. So I knew I had to find somewhere else for Confession.

There’s a Latin Mass parish not so far from me, so I decided to try there. Although I am not a TLM devotee, I imagined that the priests there might be more ‘involved’ confessors. I was right.

When married to someone who does not share your Catholic faith, there are certain marital issues that come up time and time again. The Catholic theology of marriage and the body is unique and beautiful and one of the most wonderful teachings the Church has to offer the world… but it’s VERY counter-cultural, and tends not to go down well with anyone who did not receive good Catholic formation.

As such, I have ended up in the confessional with the same sins time and time again. I have never received good guidance about them, until yesterday. Whilst I will not disclose the details of the conversation in the confessional, the priest reassured me that as long as I am praying about these issues and broaching them with my husband when the time feels right, then I need not feel the burden of the sins. He encouraged me to come back to Confession as often as necessary to work through the issues.

I left with such peace. I am not absolved of responsibility; through prayer and perseverance, I must try to lead my husband towards the Church’s understanding of marriage and sexuality. But if I can honestly sit before God having done everything in my power to live the Church’s teachings in my marriage, then I can be absolved of my sins.

A post-rosary prayer for my marriage

This is an approximation of a prayer that I offer each day after the rosary I say for my husband, my marriage and my family. Of course, it can be tweaked according to your circumstances and doesn’t need to be offered after a rosary.

Lord, through the intercession of your Blessed Mother, please accept this rosary as an offering for the good of my marriage.

May our union be long, happy, healthy and holy.

May your Most Holy Mother pray for me that I would imitate her, striving to love my family as perfectly as she loves hers, and that I would grow in the virtues modelled so flawlessly by her.

I pray that through the intercession of her spouse, your foster father, St. Joseph, my husband will come to love You and Your Church. May St. Joseph intercede for him to grow as a loving husband and father, who will ultimately lead his family towards Christ.

May the Spirit guide me today and always to be the wife that my husband needs me to be, and the mother than my daughter needs me to be. I pray that, by your Grace, I will help to lead them Home.

Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.