Lent in the Legislature

Next week and the week after, I will become less and less accessible, more and more grumpy, and if you push me, downright mean.

These next two weeks are “deadline” weeks in the Oklahoma legislature, or, as we affectionately think of them, living hell.

We have to vote on every bill that every House member managed to author, get out of the various committees and onto the House agenda. That means long days, longer nights, endless debate and mind-numbing exhaustion. I finish deadline weeks feeling like I’ve been drug by a runaway horse. So does everybody else. By the end of this two weeks we’ll hate our jobs and we’ll probably all hate each other, as well.

That’s how legislators do Lent in Oklahoma.

Once, years ago, I tried to give up swearing for Lent. If Lent happened when the legislature wasn’t in session I would have had a fighting chance. But after the third or fourth time I had to go to confession because I’d broken my penance, my pastor got exasperated and told me, “I want you to forget this and pick something you can do.”

I jokingly said, “Well, I haven’t killed anybody. Can I count that as giving up something for Lent?”

He was not amused.

Ever since then, I’ve tried to come up with Lenten practices that fit into my job. You know; things I can do while driving my car to work or when I’m standing in an elevator. That sort of idle time activity. I literally do not have time to pray during deadline week. When I try to pray before I go to bed, I fall asleep. When I try to pray in the mornings, I’m late for work. If I try to pray while I’m driving … well, I’m already tired and distracted, so that’s not the best plan.


One prayer I’ve found that I can actually do is called the Jesus Prayer. It goes: Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner. 

That’s an excellent prayer for deadline week. If you reflect on it, it’s sort of a mini Gospel in a few words. Anytime you’re in a pinch for time, or at a loss for words, I recommend the Jesus Prayer. It says everything you have to say in one profound sentence.

Another one sentence prayer I pray a lot during deadline week comes from Scripture: May the words of my lips and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, my God and my Redeemer.

I pray that a lot before debate.

Then, there’s the Hail Mary: Hail Mary, full of grace. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for me, a sinner, now and at the hour of my death.

The Hail Mary is a cry for help and an act of worship, both at once. It, like the other short prayers I use during deadline week, covers all the ground you have to cover to talk to God.

These quick prayers save my soul (literally) during times like deadline week. But there is another prayer that I’ve learned through the years. This one doesn’t have words, and yet it is perhaps the most eloquent. There are many days when my work is my prayer. I know that sounds odd, but I’ve learned that this can be the most profound prayer and act of worship any of us can do.

What I mean by that is that I am convinced that the most profound act of worship is simply doing what God tells you to do. If I can do my work in a manner that follows what God wants, then I am giving Him obedience, which is profound worship and prayer with feet.

I learned this during a time when I was getting blasted and battered in an ugly and personal way for passing pro life bills. (This was the time when I tried to convince my pastor that the simple fact that I hadn’t killed anybody should count as giving up something for Lent.) It was tough for me as a person and as a woman. But with God’s grace I was able to persevere, and in the persevering I experienced the Lord’s presence in a way that taught me an enormous amount about what prayer and worship truly are.

The best worship is doing what God tells you to do. The most profound prayer is obedience to God from the heart. 

All the other worship we do — the retreats, meditations, hymn-singing, scripture reading, long reflective silences — are simply exercises to get us to that state where we can do what He tells us to do with willing obedience from the heart.

I am looking forward to a real Lent one day. I think it would be most edifying to have time for prayer, reflection and long hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

But this week is deadline week, and my Lenten practice may very well be once again, not killing any of my colleagues. I think that’s a fine goal for a pro life legislator.

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  • Nobody

    “… the most profound act of worship is simply doing what God tells you to do.”

    Thank you for this. This is a solace for so many good unheralded people in the world … such as people stuck without help in caring for the sick and disabled, a thankless and sometimes literally sh***y job … I hope that my protestant relatives are right and we are earning stars for our crowns in Heaven. I could use a little bling in the next life.

  • Bill S

    “… the most profound act of worship is simply doing what God tells you to do.”

    I commend your work ethic but I am leery about people who think that God tells them what to do. I mean no disrespect but such a belief in the wrong hands can be dangerous.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Bill, that’s why we need the Catechism and the 2,000 year old teachings of the Catholic Church. If you follow these, you have no worries in this regard.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I will certainly make a point of not pushing you this week. ;)

    I have to say (and I’m not bragging, just marveling) that this Lent has been my most prayerful to date. I’m just trying to set a few minutes aside at various parts of the day. Hope you can find the time. I’ll keep you in my prayer tonight.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Wise choice! :-)
      “I will certainly make a point of not pushing you this week.”
      I’m glad to hear you are having a Holy Lent. Be sure to pray for our Church in this historic time, and also, if you will, pray for me that I don’t do anything really stupid in the next couple of weeks.
      Blessings Manny.

  • Bill S

    “Bill, that’s why we need the Catechism and the 2,000 year old teachings of the Catholic Church.”

    I have a problem with this because both are supposed to be without error and yet are chock full of errors. It is hard to listen to an institution that is always right and can never be questioned.

    The world keeps evolving and correcting itself. Natural selection weeds out bad mutations and rewards good ones with more robust reproduction. Catholics stick to old traditions from less enlightened times and an outdated Catechism.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      The Church does not claim to be always right and without error, and I believe you, as a lifelong Catholic, know that. The Church claims that the dogmatic teachings are without error. As you know, those are very few, indeed.

      The world you seem to want is a dog eat dog world in which the strong kill the weak with impunity. That is the world you advocate for in your posts on everything from euthanasia to abortion to this.

      I wrote a post about my own trials as a legislator during Lent and you turned it, as usual, into a polemic for Bill’s dislike of the Church. Do you have anything else that interests you except your obsession with this one idea?

  • Jo Ann

    Bless you Rebecca for all you do and your willingness to share your journey with us. It helps me keep some perspective and know that there are others who struggle with the same issues I have — always good to know we have companions on our journey!

  • Peg

    I like “Jesus I Trust in You” from the Divine Mercy. If anyone is hassling you my spiritual director suggests a quick “bless them ” prayer. He says with a wry smile that sometimes that blessing includes a helpful humbling.

    Prayers for Rebecca and all of us with our lenten struggles this season!

  • SteveP

    Rebecca: May the Holy Spirit refresh, refocus, and revive your soul as you do the hard work of the people. Asked in the name of Christ Jesus. Amen.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Steve.

  • Bill S

    “Do you have anything else that interests you except your obsession with this one idea?”

    Excellent question. I like the responses I get because I am working on a theory. The theory is that even though I know the difference between the “God Delusion”, as Richard Dawkins calls it, and the truth (that there really is no supernatural anything), the delusion is good for us and the truth is not. Stalin, Mao, Castro and others knew the truth and where has it gotten them? Where has it gotten me? The only way out of my dilemma is to be convinced that I am wrong and that what I call the delusion is the truth and visa versa (in which case, I am in serious need of repentance and owe you and everyone else an apology). My blogging has only led me to see the benefits of believing but not to believing. I know this isn’t your problem, but reading this blog has helped me work out my theory.

    • SteveP

      If you are sincere in your theory test it as such: attend Liturgy everyday it is offered in your parish. Listen attentively to the Liturgy of the Word and assume a posture of acceptance during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Of course, if you are a Catholic show your bona fides of Baptism and Confirmation to the priest that he may offer you the Host without endangering his own soul. Otherwise withhold yourself from Communion.

      After Liturgy, record your questions in a journal kept especially for this purpose. Record what struck a chord with you during Liturgy. Record what you found jarring during Liturgy. Keep your observations to yourself for this period of time – no discussing them with anyone else in any forum.

      Do this from today until the day after Pentecost (May 20). On that day revisit each item you recorded in your journal. Keep it if it is still significant, otherwise discard it. Evaluate your remaining items as a matter of belief or of non-belief.

    • Theodore Seeber

      I’ve decided to repost this directly. THIS is my reason for belief in Church Teaching. It comes from Nostra Aetate Section 2. It is the theological equivalent of the Scientific Method, and from my reading of the various ecumenical councils, it is indeed how Catholic theology and morality was formed:

      ” Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing “ways,” comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.”

      In comparison, atheism is like the fundamentalist Christian shouting “It isn’t in the Bible so it can’t be true”. Just replace “Bible” with any body of scientific literature the New Atheist you happen to be talking to believes in. It’s all so narrow minded as to become impossible.

  • Theodore Seeber

    My method. Keep a rosary in your pocket. Even if you only finger the beads it is a prayer.

    And Bill S.- Despite my opposition, I think I was misjudging what your aim was. You are following a similar process that I did in college with respect to other religions. Except I ended up excluding atheism from my search early, for the same reason as in your theory: Nihilism is bad for the human species, really really bad. And by Pascal’s Wager, you don’t lose anything by ignoring it.

    What was much harder in my choice to be confirmed was Zen Buddhism vs Catholicism- and I still have a great deal of respect for the Koans of the Platform Sutra yet today (they’re all nonsense, but nonsense to teach morality is the entire point of Zen, after all).

    • Theodore Seeber

      P. S.- I also ended with a great respect for the restatement of the Scientific Method as applied to Theology in the Vatican II Document, Nostra Aetate, third paragraph. I suggest you go and read it. It is the *SOLE* reason, above all else, that I came to believe in the infalibility of 2/3rds of Church teaching.

  • Peg

    So Bill, if Rebecca is saying these are crunch times, don’t start with me, why do you persist?

    With respect, it’s kind of selfish to “use” someone’s blog for your own ends. If you are serious you must seek and read and do the work. You have to do less Opining and more listening. And dig deeper than com boxes. Try Cardinal Schoenborn’s excellent NY Times 2005 Oped “Finding Design in Nature”. Here’s a great quote, “Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology, is ideology, not science.”. Sorry but Dawkins is the deluded one and the catholic Church is the one to stand up for reason these days as well as faith.

  • http://mywordwall.wordpress.com Imelda

    Thanks God for the lovely short prayers. I do not have your grueling schedule but between taking care of the house and being grumpy, I do not have time for prayer like I had when I was single and could focus more easily.

    The other night, I found a prayer by St. John Vianney which in essence said – “I love you, Jesus. If my lips cannot say it again and again, let my heart do so.” How comforting, I thought.

    I pray you have a Blessed Season. God bless you and your work.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      That’s a lovely prayer Imelda. Thank you. Blessings to you and yours.

  • pagansister

    Rebecca, I can’t imagine doing your job—-my thoughts will be with you as you try to do what is best for your constituents. I know this is a special time in the Church. I have one question, if I may: Were the 2nd set of words —starting with “Holy Mary, Mother of God——” changed by the Church? I taught the children the same first line—”Hail Mary, full of Grace—-” as you have above. However, for the 2nd line, I taught the children “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death”. You wrote “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me, a sinner, now and at the hour of my death.” Wondered if the Church has officially changed it, or it is another version of the prayer.

    • Rick

      No there was no official change. I assume she is simply personalizing the prayer.

      • pagansister

        Thank you, Rick.

  • Don

    ” It is the theological equivalent of the Scientific Method….”

    Really. ” Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.” How does that correlate to the Scientific Method?