Yesterday at the National Catholic Register blog, Simcha Fisher (a really fun and wise writer) linked my personal blog in an article on “Praying as a Couple.” One of her suggestion for couples was to do part of the Divine Office together, hence the link.
Which prompts me to re-issue part of an old post on this exact same topic. It originally appeared in October of 2011:
We women, who buy and read nearly all of the popular Catholic Marriage books sold in this country, frequently read about the importance of Husbands and Wives Praying Together. And we’re told that family rosary with all the kids kneeling or slumping around the living room does not count. We’re talking about a special, quiet, set-aside time with you, your spouse, and God, where the two of you join hands and offer your spontaneous and heart-felt praise, thanks, and petitions. Out loud. Together. Well, together but taking turns.
Are there more than 100 Catholic male, non-Steubenville graduates * in this country who enthusiastically go along with such a program? (not just tolerate it out of love for their wives, but really enjoy it?) I’d be surprised.
This type of intimate, spousal prayer might sound beautiful to women. But to most guys–good, devout guys–not so much. It requires seat-of-the-pants verbal skills that many of them do not have. Not to mention a willingness to, at times, express emotions that are hard for a guy to discuss with his wife in an ordinary conversation, let alone talk to God about with his wife listening in. It’s one more example of a woman finding it therapeutic to talk about her problems, and the man finding the same activity to be close to torture.
So wives who want to persuade their husbands to pray with them, but find them recalcitrant, would be well-advised to drop the hand-holding, spill- your- guts- to -God- together idea, and go for something that is more realistic. That is, utilizing the type of prayer that the Catholic tradition excels at. Namely, reciting formal prayers that were written by someone else! Or I should say, reciting formal prayers while investing them with your own will, intentions, feelings, etc.
I could write a whole ‘nother essay on why reciting or reading pre-written prayers is such a wonderful thing. Not at all the rote, meaningless ritual that the Church’s critics make it out to be. Converts from Pentecostalism have expressed the overwhelming relief that comes from being able to pray, say, the rosary, in a group of friends, and not having to anticipate one’s turn to pray “spontaneously”, mentally composing a suitable script ahead of time, and then delivering it to one’s audience. For myself, I know what an incoherent, stammering mess my private conversations with God would sound like to a companion if uttered aloud. Blessed be the Lord for Psalms, mass texts, Our Fathers and Hail Marys!
But I digress. Getting a husband to pray with his wife will be much easier if it takes the form of the rosary, a novena prayer, or maybe the acts of faith, hope and charity. If a husband is willing to do this, be content. Be very content. You can state some prayer intentions before beginning, encourage the man to add to these, but don’t force it. Or here’s another idea: do a short scripture reading together each night, maybe with the husband being the one to do the reading. Perhaps the daily gospel from the mass of the day. Begin with the Holy Spirit prayer and conclude with a Glory Be.
My husband and I have both prayed the Divine Office for many years, but for most part, due to different schedules, do it separately. There was a time when we both prayed Night Prayer together fairly regularly, right before bedtime. Because it is short and easy to do, I’d recommend this to couples who might be inclined to do the Divine Office together.