One of the many things I love about the Catholic Church is her vast treasure trove of devotions. Rosaries, chaplets, novenas, litanies — and I want to do them all.
When I commit to doing too many daily devotions at once, though, I get overwhelmed. I’ve learned the hard way that I shouldn’t try to gather all of the Church’s riches at the same time. There are times and seasons in life for different devotions, and God will call me to do the ones that will bring me closest to Him in each moment.
Sometimes, I fall into the trap of feeling like these devotions are all or nothing: Either I pray a whole Rosary, or I don’t pray one at all. Either I do a holy hour, or I don’t go to the adoration chapel at all.
When I start to think this way, I have to remind myself that God understands when the demands of my vocation prevent me from practicing a particular devotion in its entirety. I believe that the same God who was pleased with the poor widow’s meager offering in the Gospel (Mark 12:41-44) is also pleased when I turn to Him with the meager offering that I have when I’m in a state of physical or spiritual poverty.
Maybe it’s late at night and I’m putting the children to bed, and despite our good intentions we haven’t the time or the wherewithal to do an entire Rosary. I have to remember: It’s not all or nothing. We can pray one decade, or even one Hail Mary, to honor God. I don’t have to tuck the children into bed feeling guilty about what we failed to accomplish. Tomorrow might bring a full Rosary. Tonight, we give what little we have, and it is far better than giving nothing at all. He will multiply our small loaves of bread.
Maybe it’s difficult to do a holy hour with an energetic toddler. Again, it’s not all or nothing: I can stop by the chapel for five minutes and give my toddler the chance to “say hello to Jesus” in the Blessed Sacrament.
Or maybe I’m just burned out and run down from a difficult situation and can’t find the strength to do long, involved prayers. Sometimes I can barely utter a sentence. Sometimes I cannot speak at all.
That’s when I can remember the advice of a few holy people and offer God these simple prayers instead of the long ones I’m not able to do:
Pray One Our Father with Feeling
In his spiritual classic, Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales writes:
“A single Our Father said with feeling has greater value than many said quickly and hurriedly.”
To say one Our Father with love is to pray as Jesus taught, in a way that dispels darkness and brings new life to the soul.
Look for Christ in Each Person
In her beautiful book, The Reed of God, Caryll Houselander writes:
“It is useless to flog a tired mind, useless to reproach a tired heart; the only way to God, when we are tired out, is the simplest wordless act of faith.
“A woman too tired for articulate prayer will find that for her the best of all prayer is the unspoken act of faith in Christ in her children. When she knows that she is setting the table and baking the bread for the Christ Child, her soul will be at rest….
“An old man whose love for his fellow creatures endeared him to them all confessed that whomsoever he met—before greeting him out loud—he greeted Christ within him in secret.”
When I look for Christ in everyone I encounter, I am making an unspoken act of faith, and I am able to love Him through loving them.
Say the Name of Jesus
“Our help is in the name of the Lord,” says Psalm 124:8.
Saint Bernadine of Siena, who is remembered for his great devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, said:
“Glorious name, gracious name, name of love and of power! Through you sins are forgiven, through you enemies are vanquished, through you the sick are freed from their illness, through you those suffering in trials are made strong and cheerful. You bring honor to those who believe, you teach those who preach, you give strength to the toiler, you sustain the weary.”
Simply saying “Jesus” is a prayer of infinite power and strength.
Focus on a Single Verse of Scripture
Several years ago, a dear seminarian friend told me that he had begun meditating on one verse each day from the Gospel of John.
“Start reading the first chapter of John, one verse a day,” he told me enthusiastically. “When you get to John 1:5, you will be absolutely blown away by its power.” He was right; I was.
Another time, I heard a priest talk about Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.” He suggested praying through the psalm like this:
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Both of these suggestions helped me to see the power in a single verse of Scripture.
In the past, I had often tried to read Scripture one chapter at a time. But as a busy mother, I found new joy in reading and praying a single verse at a time, especially when I was exhausted and burdened. The simplicity of the approach was easier for my tired mind to grasp, and I found that each verse of Scripture contains the inexhaustible depth of God’s voice.
If your soul is tired and weary, be gentle with yourself. You cannot climb a mountain when you can barely catch your breath to begin. When you cannot scale great heights, the Lord waits for you in the valley, where He makes you lie down in green pastures, leads you beside still waters, and restores your soul (Psalm 23). In the valley of simplicity, you will find rest.