Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Venus and Mars at Prayer, again

Today at the National Catholic Register blog, Simcha Fisher (a really fun and wise writer) linked this blog in an article on "Praying as a Couple."  One of her suggestion for couples was to do part of the Divine Office together, hence the link to Coffee&Canticles.

Which prompts me to re-issue part of an old post on this exact same topic. It originally appeared in October of 2011:

We women, who buy and read nearly all  of the popular Catholic Marriage  books sold in this country, frequently read about the importance of Husbands and Wives Praying Together. And we're told  that family rosary with all the kids kneeling or slumping around the living room does not count. We're talking about  a special, quiet, set-aside time with you, your spouse, and God, where the two of you join hands and offer your spontaneous and  heart-felt praise, thanks, and petitions. Out loud. Together. Well, together but taking turns.

Are there more than 100 Catholic  male, non-Steubenville graduates * in this country  who enthusiastically  go along with such a program?  (not just  tolerate it  out of love for their wives, but really enjoy it?) I'd be surprised. 

 This type of intimate, spousal prayer might sound beautiful  to women.  But to most guys--good, devout guys--not so much. It requires seat-of-the-pants verbal skills that many of them do not have. Not to mention a willingness to, at times, express  emotions that are hard for a guy to discuss with his wife in an ordinary conversation, let alone talk to God  about  with his wife listening in. It's one more example of a  woman finding it therapeutic to talk about her problems, and the man finding the same activity to be close to torture.

So wives who want to persuade their husbands to pray with them, but find them recalcitrant, would be well-advised to drop the hand-holding, spill- your- guts- to -God- together idea, and go for something that is more realistic. That is,  utilizing the type of prayer that the Catholic tradition excels at. Namely, reciting formal  prayers that were written by someone else! Or I should say, reciting formal prayers while investing them with your own will, intentions, feelings, etc.

I could write a whole 'nother essay on why reciting or reading pre-written prayers is such a wonderful thing. Not at all the rote, meaningless ritual that the Church's critics make it out to be. Converts from Pentecostalism have expressed the overwhelming relief that comes from being able to pray, say, the rosary, in a group of friends, and not having to anticipate one's turn to pray "spontaneously", mentally composing a suitable script ahead of time, and then delivering it to one's audience.  For myself, I know what an incoherent, stammering mess my private conversations with God would sound like to a companion  if uttered aloud. Blessed be the Lord for Psalms, mass texts, Our Fathers and Hail Marys!

But I digress. Getting a husband to pray with his wife will be much easier if it takes the form of the rosary, a novena prayer, or maybe the acts of faith, hope and charity. If a husband is willing to do this, be content. Be very content. You can state some prayer intentions before beginning, encourage the man to add to these, but don't force it.  Or here's another  idea: do a short scripture reading together each night, maybe with the husband being the one to do the reading. Perhaps  the daily gospel from the mass of the day. Begin with the Holy Spirit prayer and conclude with a Glory Be. 

My husband and I have both prayed the Divine Office for many years, but for most part, due to different schedules, do it separately.  There was a time when we both prayed Night Prayer together fairly regularly, right before bedtime. Because it is short and easy to do, I'd recommend this to couples who might be inclined to do the Divine Office together.

For those who cannot get their husbands interested in any kind of prayer as a couple, here is one more thought. Do the two of you attend Mass together?  Then you have already been praying together in the best way possible! Be grateful for this.  If you want to make it a little more intentional, wife, then tell your husband how glad you are to have him praying at your side at Mass. Tell him what intentions you are praying about at mass, and ask him if he would please bring those needs to the altar as well, and share them with Jesus after communion. Ask him whether there is anything in particular that he would like you to pray for.And  if he just shrugs his shoulders, you are to smile, say "I love you", and let it go.

Now, maybe all of the above is just me speaking from my personal experience and prejudice. So.... Comments are welcome, especially from men.

*This is not to knock Steubenville. I love the place, and sent my oldest daughter there. 


  1. I went to Franciscan University and my wife Kim went St. Anselm College. We pray periodically as a couple. We definitely don't rule it out. Life gets busy. It is very important to us and we believe a priority. Bill Mance

  2. We pray Morning Prayer and sometimes Vespers as a family (3 kids) plus during Advent and Lent we open our house for the community and neighbors to join us for the morning Prayer at 7am daily.

    1. I'm very impressed with the neighborhood Lauds program! I don't think I could face the public that early. By the way, I checked your blog and bookmarked the recipe for paczki. I'm of Polish heritage but don't do much Polish cuisine outside of Christmas Eve.

  3. Hmmm challenging post. There is just no way I could see this happening. My wife's and mine spirituality are so very very different there is just no common place. I tend to spend time in silent prayer, while she feels elevated with hymns, for e.g. So, while some sort of hybrid liturgy for the home (a hymn and a moment of silent prayer) could work, I am pretty sure neither would walk out of it feeling they had actually prayed to God. At best it was a bit of a performance to the other. I can imagine the feelings of intimacy it will create, but I wonder if there is any actual, you know, prayer in this act? I am always amazed with people who are more public-prayer oriented, and think this is wonderful. Just not my calling. OTOH joint reading of Scripture and discussion works just fine in our family.

  4. Polish, huh? That changes everything then. Now I understand your mission for Canticles and Coffee, although Canticles and Tea would be more suitable perhaps. :-0

    Over a year ago I, being sentimental (or spiritual) and missing daily Polish Rorate Mass during Advent, decided to try community Lauds. Chanting, not reciting! It worked! Usually we've had more kids/teens than adults, and Saturday/Sunday mornings were low in attendance. We tried again for Lent, and I thought that we will not have as many people bc we didn't have muffins but only tea/coffee in the morning, trying to be more penitential. Well, they still did come at 6:30 am for a drink and a chat before praying.
    As the result, all of the participants learned few simple chanting tones, memorized Benedictus and all of the Invitatory Psalms (at least the kids did, they remember everything very easily), not to mention all of the spiritual benefits.

    We continued group Lauds this year with Advent Morning Prayer and will start again during Lent.

    P.S. We live in Steubenville. :-) :-) :-)

  5. My husband and I pray the rosary every evening together - it was his idea AND he's a convert to Catholicism. We've also done the spontaneous prayers together but it didn't stick the way the rosary has for us. Neither of us went to Franciscan, but my dad was born in Steubenville in 1925!

  6. You have again approached another topic with an openness and allowed for individualism suitable to everyone's comfort level. Your suggestions make one think about how to implement spiritual growth through prayer into one's life.
    And, Thank you!

  7. What a relief this blog entry brought me. Recently my 18 year old “accused” me of praying all the time. I remembered this morning that St. Paul exhorts us to “Pray without Ceasing.” I cannot imagine going hours without having some kind of communication such as praising, worshipping, petitioning and thanking Our Lord.

    My husband on the other hand admitted to me a few years ago that he prays at Mass. ONLY! I was aghast. But we go to Mass every week with our sons, miraculously. We also celebrate Advent with an Advent Wreath. We take turns to offer establish prayers and sometimes we even compose our own.

    One of my past Pastors told me one time to accept my husband’s choices of prayer. He made the analogy that some people are tubs and others are thimbles. The Father doesn’t care as long as we are full. Happy New Year every one…Sylvia

  8. My wife and I have been doing Evening prayer together for the past two years, when my scheduled fit. We also do reflective daily devotionals and pray the rosary together on weekends. I do Morning prayer on most days.

    I do like the idea of prayer together that would allow us to share intentions. We will have to discuss this. I am a convert and my prayer life has grown and continues to grow. I thank you for your words they are a great way to understand and share our prayers.

  9. Married for just over 26 years, and quite resigned to (and content with) not living in a Catholic Romance novel. The only time we pray "alone" as a couple is when we are in the car driving somewhere and say a rosary. With 5 kids still at home, we don't have much (waking) time alone as a couple, period.

  10. Hilariously true. I asked my husband to do the kind of pray-out-loud spill-your-guts together with me and he said, "That's for Protestants! Catholics don't do that!" I'm a convert from Episcopalianism (is that a word?) so I took what he said at face value. So funny to see it portrayed as a man-woman thing, rather than a Catholic-Protestant thing. You pegged me and my husband to a tee. ROTFL