Cultivating the Virtue of Perseverance in Prayer

Cultivating the Virtue of Perseverance in Prayer August 13, 2020

Fr. Matthew Schneider did a great job covering the recent case of a priest who reacted poorly to a disruptive child during a private baptism.  Please read: “Video Shows the Need to Train Priests on Disability.”

No, seriously.  You need to go read it.  Thank you.

If you obeyed, then for a treat, here’s my small side comment to add to Fr. Matthew’s excellent post (which you read, right?):

Quit using other people as your excuse for poor spiritual training.

You know the lines, and you probably roll your eyes at other people’s favorites but may secretly harbor your own:

  • That person’s clothing is distracting me from prayer.
  • That person’s noise is distracting me from prayer.
  • That person’s movement is distracting me from prayer.
  • That person’s previous terrible behavior is distracting me from prayer.
  • That person’s way of worshiping is distracting me from prayer.

Those are the main categories, and within each the sub-categories are legion.  From the fashion police alone, I’ve heard people blame veils, hats, t-shirts, cut-offs, flip-flops, high-heels, jewelry, make-up, hairstyles, lack of modesty, too much modesty, nuns in habits, nuns not in habits . . . you name it.  Somewhere out there is a person who dresses exactly how they must not, and that person is coming to a Mass near you.

Quit blaming that person for your own spiritual weakness and learn to deal with distraction.

This doesn’t mean there are no wrong behaviors at Mass. Your bathing suit, your PJ’s, your Furry costume . . . these are not appropriate attire for Mass.  You shouldn’t be sitting there chewing on the bulletin or muttering expletives.  That’s not how we act.  Knock it off with the kicking of the pew in front of you.  I hope that you, personally, do all you can to attend Mass reverently.

You are, however, fooling yourself about your spiritual high-mindedness if you blame other people for your inability to pray.

Do you stink at praying so badly that the least little distraction sends you off the rails?  Welcome to the club.  Admit it: You stink at praying.  It’s not like Jesus somehow missed that fact about you.  Also, I doubt you can outdo me in the able-to-be-distracted club.*

If you are the lector, altar server, musician, or cleric charged with serving the Mass, you can learn the skill of continuing with your duties despite the noise around you. Here’s a sample video of how it’s done. –> Unless the roof is literally caving in, you are able to keep on praying.

(And sheesh . . . when the roof is caving in, your prayer-quotient should be skyrocketing, albeit off-script most likely.)

If you are a pewsitter and you stink at praying, no worries.  Just keep practicing.  Give thanks for the many people who come to Mass with their need for your intercession so clearly front-and-center — the Lord has placed them in your sight and hearing because they so desperately need your prayers.  It’s okay to drop your own prayer-topic agenda and switch to the Lord’s.

If it is your duty to serve at Mass and you are truly unable to learn the art of perseverance in the face of distraction, that’s a more serious issue.  Discuss it with your pastor or bishop (per your state in life), acknowledging that you suffer from an unusual mental condition that requires special accommodation.  In admitting to your own disability, perhaps you will gain greater compassion for others who are equally unable, as of yet, to master their own behavior at Mass.


So, so, so very related: Three Secret Spiritual Benefits (for You!) of Bringing Your Children to Mass


*I am, however, a world champion at faking like I’m not distracted at all.  I’ll be impressed if you can beat me at that.

File:Caravaggio - Martirio di San Matteo.jpg

Artwork: The Martyrdom of St. Matthew, Caravaggio, courtesy of Wikimedia (public domain).  Points to ponder:

  • Caravaggio was a terrible Catholic, and that probably explains his ability to paint such spiritually-poignant works.
  • At the moment of your death, you are likely to be completely immersed in the most excruciating of distractions.  And yet you are secretly hoping to be praying at that time?  Now might be a good time to practice praying-while-distracted.

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