Hard Breaks

Hard Breaks April 10, 2012

Twice in the past few weeks, my middle son, the one who rarely pays attention, has asked to lead the Angelus right before lunch.  In our go-go-go days, he has spoken up in busy moments, when lunch was just barely going to fit in before baseball or some other commitment, and both times I have responded that we did not have time.  To pray.  Led by a 7 year old.

That is so wrong.

In my prayer over the last few days, I recognized that it is a big problem not to respond to a child calling me to prayer.  It was a call from his heart to Our Lord, and was perhaps inspired by something that came up in his recent confessions, and I need to support that, for his sake, and also for my own, I need to respond in the affirmative to that call to prayer.

In the post below, Elizabeth describes a television producer’s “hard breaks” — the preprogrammed times that they are going to cut to commercial whether the conversation has stopped or not.  The schedule is supposed to fit in to these breaks neatly, just as the break for the Angelus before lunch is supposed to be a consistent part of our day, but whether it fits or not they are stopping.  What if I made my prayer times into these sorts of hard breaks?  Rearrange other things.  Take the sandwiches to the car, don’t clear the table, be 5 minutes late for baseball, but in any event, pray the Angelus (well, Regina Coeli) before lunch.

Elizabeth details how she did this, with chimes on her phone, which she treated as hard breaks, to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.  That is not part of my devotional practice, I have other norms of prayer that I am trying to habituate, but I can make use of the same strategy.  The key is to treat it as a rule — when the chime goes, drop whatever you are doing and pray.  Or, keep doing what you are doing and pray.  I really appreciate Elizabeth’s honesty about how her prayer life involves a lot of movement.  These days, if I sit still for long, I fall asleep.  I am going to work on that, and once I am nursing I will have more quiet, still times throughout my day.  But for now, I need to be an active, busy mom, and I can listen to the rosary and make dinner; it may not be the most contemplative rosary but it will be a long way better than nothing.

Everyone’s lives are different, so I know that it is not useful to compare, but another thing that I love about Elizabeth is understanding that she has been living in the stage that I am now entering – some toddlers who need lots of snuggles and some big guys who need lots of thoughtful conversation and rides to sports practices.  When all of my children were tiny, I longed to be out of the house more.  These days, I long to be home more!  I know that Elizabeth feels the same way, so I take to heart her advice to incorporate these “hard breaks” for prayer into the rhythm of our days, to keep the off beat syncopation of our unpredictability from driving me insane.

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  • Kellie “Red”

    I must admit that while I loved your post, I was completely overwhelmed by reading hers. Your thoughts are great. Hard breaks are a fantastic idea. I would like to use this in our home to incorporate more prayer into our daily routine as a family. Perhaps it will also be an excuse to get an iphone 😉

    I’m nursing right now, so that’s an easy time for me to remember to pray, and an automatic hard break in my day, but it does not include the children.

    And I just can’t relate to a morning person giving up coffee. I’m soooo not a morning person. Merely reading her morning routine makes me want to cry.

  • maryalice

    Yeah, you are not going to find me giving up coffee anytime soon, but her morning routine does fill my heart with longing. Before I was pregnant this time, I was getting up and going to mass or running before my family was up most days, and it was really wonderful to have that time to adjust to the day. I could just as easily be a morning person as a night person, the main thing is that I am an 8+ hours of sleep person, so I often say that my “heroic minute” comes at 10 pm when I make the decision to give in to my tiredness and go to sleep.

  • Sarah

    I too was humbled by the morning routine! But it was inspiring to think about more ways to incorporate prayer in my day.

    Just thought I would pass on that I have an android phone instead of an iPhone. I just today looked for similar apps and found what seems to be a great free one called “Laudate”. It has the daily readings, and links to the Liturgy of the Hours prayers, and lots of other things I have not explored yet. I hope to use it to help get into the habit of more frequent prayer…

  • Juris Mater

    I think giving up caffeine and letting prayer and fresh air carry you is very inspiring, but very difficult to take up during times of pregnancy or postpartum survival mode. You ladies are constant reminders of the different seasons of young motherhood. It’s much easier to take on new prayer commitments and find joy in them during maintenance/thriving mode. I don’t think those of us in extreme survival mode should necessarily aspire to big changes like this, or expect that we’ll miraculously get energy to surge and soar through the day. When I’m pregnant or postpartum (or both at once), that energetic joy usually just isn’t there, I’m only hanging on, and if I take up strenuous prayer and/or exercise routines in pursuit of it, I end up worse off than where I started.