Monday, December 7, 2015

Worth Doing Badly

An oldie but goody post written four years ago on this date. It still holds true for me. 

Surfing the net yesterday, I found several blogs and websites that contained information for beginners on praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Which is wonderful. The more awareness of the Divine Office out there, the better.

One of them emphasized the importance scheduling time each day for whichever of the hours one commits  to. And  of finding a quiet, peaceful location with some sort of small shrine--a candle with a statue or picture--in easy view. This is the way to pray one's  Office consistently. With recollection and reverence.

An ordered day and a quiet refuge for prayer. Good ideas. And yet...

This is clearly one of those both/and situations.  Praying in ordered peacefulness is good. Praying amidst slapdash chaos is also good.

I relish the times when I'm able to sit back in my favorite rocking chair, light a candle in front of an icon, near a window with a view of my rural paradise. And then, pray the entire sequence from start to finish, maybe following up by going back to a favorite verse  and thinking about it for a while longer.

If that scenario occurs once out of the five hours of the liturgical day that I (most days ) pray, I'm doing really well.

And when I think back to the years of homeschooling/raising seven children and just trying to remember to do Morning and Evening Prayer...if I had  imagined back then that a monastic schedule and a place of peace were required, I would have given up a long time ago.  And maybe wouldn't be doing it today.

Even now, Evening Prayer is likely to be read in the midst of fixing dinner. A pslam here, check the recipe there, another psalm, flip the pork chops, pour that child a drink before he spills it all over the counter, shoo the cat off the counter, do the reading while peeling the carrots, find the Magnificat antiphon, answer the phone, go find the Magnificat antiphon again, no, go find the breviary which has gone missing--there it is, a little one took it and is practicing writing the letter M  on it's pages, read the antiphon again, say the Magnificat from memory, call someone to set the table, escape for a moment to read the intercessions while the food simmers, yell at a child to put on your coat, it's cold out there, and don't go past the swing set because dinner is almost ready, pray the Our Father and concluding prayer. Take a deep breath. May the Lord bless us, protect us from every evil and bring us to everlasting life. 

Yes, yes, I should do Evening Prayer after dinner. But no, we're going out this evening so that won't happen. Before dinner? It just doesn't seem like Evening  at 4:00 PM, and chances are, that's when I'm tardily getting around to Daytime Prayer. (That "choose one" feature for mid-morn, midday, and midafternoon must have been designed by the Holy Spirit with me in mind.)

Now, I know the above dinner-prep Vespers sounds awful to some people. And no,its not the ideal way to do things. Some would say it's better to skip it altogether than to pray it like that.

Problem is, if I skipped prayer every time the conditions for it were less than optimal, I'd be likely to lose the habit altogether. For me, consistency is important. Not consistency in schedule. Not consistency in a prayerful environment. But consistency in the daily slog of getting it done.

Kind of like marriage and family life in general. The rewards come in faithfulness, not in perfection.

Or, as G.K. Chesterton said, A thing that is really worth doing is worth doing badly.

How about you? Is it worth it to you to  prayerfully plow through the chaos or do you wait to find a moment of rest?


  1. I try to find a quiet few minutes, and most days that works out, but on those busy days, I try to plow through prayer if possible, offering the busyness up to the Lord. We do not have the same life as a monk who may be able to pray the Office all day in choir, but we are each called to a different vocation in life and thus have to figure out how to serve that vocation to the glory of God.

  2. Thank you for this! It is reality for a mother of many small children. This was really refreshing and uplifting. A mom must pray at the sink, stove, wherever she can and God uses those prayers!

  3. I love this post. My morning prayer time is frequently interrupted by two high school-age boys bickering over whose turn it is to feed the dog before they head off to 5:30AM swim practice. Daytime and evening prayer are usually pretty smooth, unless I let them slip until 11:00PM because I'm so busy (in which case, it usually goes daytime prayer, a few other prayers to break it up, evening prayer, a few more prayers to break it up, followed by seeing whether my wife has fallen asleep before praying night prayer with me...)

    Of course, all these are subject to interruption by the dog deciding she needs food. Or water. Or to go outside (and then to be left back in). Or maybe the kitten decides to sleep on my lap during prayer (which I like), only to announce it's play time by reaching over the top of the breviary and slamming a paw down in the middle of the book.

    So I totally understand!

    1. Ha! I'm enjoying the image of the kitten playing with the breviary. Ive had a large dog knock it out of my hand in her effort to get noticed and petted.

    2. It is always great to pray ... even in the chaos. As for Morning prayer - I have found it so worth while to get up earlier than anyone and have the silence of the morning hours. Even when I am tired, it is worth worth it. We can really listen to God in silence. He always hears us....but to hear Him....

    3. I should have responded to this post days ago! I applaud your consistency and concur wholeheartedly with your sentiments.