I have an essay up today at Fare Forward on some of my experiences muddling through prayer, while I’ve been trying to get my Catholic sea legs:
Since my conversion, I’ve had a lot of awkward moments at the dinner table. It’s not that I’ve been having awkward conversations about my decision to leave atheism and be received into the Catholic Church. It’s that my friends keep pausing and looking inquisitively me at meals, and then saying, “Should I wait for you to say grace?” If I’m not reminded by others, I usually remember that Christians pray sometime before eating about halfway through my meal.
I know what to say and do at Mass; I’ve been attending since two years prior to my conversion, as a deal with my then-boyfriend. I went to Mass with him, and he went to ballroom dance class with me. But I’ve been less prepared for life after the Ite, missa est that closes the Mass.When I started adapting my life to make room for God, I took to scheduling in religion the way that I’d schedule a dinner with a friend, or a movie night. I made sure to leave discrete blocks of time to doreligion, whether it was going to Daily Mass at the church down the block or trying to pray the Morning and Evening Office on my subway commute to work.
But it’s been hard to remember to say grace at meals, because, when I’m eating, I’m not in a setting that I recognize as religious. The restaurant I’ve met my friend at may be dimly lit, but there are no smells and bells to signal an opportunity to be sanctified. It’s easy to try to infuse new habits with religion, but hard to hold on to the presence of God when I’m immersed in an old environment, where I have a long habit of just not thinking of Him. But all those new habits are in the service of inviting God in everywhere, even the times and places I’ve treated as secular.