From Brain Buzz To Peaceful Prayer

If this doesn’t happen to you, it likely happens to someone close to you: their brain buzzes. It won’t shut off. Maybe they skip from project to project, never quite getting anything done. Or you lay down at night to sleep, and suddenly every single thought you’ve had for the past three days starts firing off neurons like a pinball wizard. Our days are filled with information from computers and tablets and phones. We meet a friend for dinner and there are 17 TVs in the restaurant showing 12 different stations. Your feet hit the floor in the morning and you’re already planning for a 3 p.m. meeting.

Brain buzz.

Be still before the LORD; wait for him. (Ps. 37:7)

How can I be still?? I’ve got work, and soccer practice. I’m the snack mom for the game this week. My daughter has ballet.

My boss is breathing down my neck about this project. I’ve got men’s Bible study this week, and I’m the discussion leader. I haven’t even had a chance to crack open the book yet.

The car insurance is due. I’m having panic attacks over the election. My mom really needs my help with some things around her house. My girlfriend has been wanting to get together, and I keep putting it off – I’m so busy.

Be still before the Lord.

Yeah, but: my daughter needs help making centerpieces for her wedding in February. The dog needs to go the vet. I missed choir practice last week. I need a flu shot.

Be still.

Every time I walk in the house I remember that I have to call the contractor about that flooring for the laundry room. And don’t I still need to get a baby shower gift for ….


Yes. It is hard to switch into low gear. It’s hard to find quiet. We are so used to multi-tasking, we don’t even think of it as multi-tasking anymore; it’s just life.

But God wants us to be still. To seek out peace and calm and wait for Him. We have to push aside the brain buzz and be still. Fr. Henri Nouwen:

Sometimes we wish that we could stop thinking for a while; that would save us from so many worries, guilt feelings, and fears. Our ability to think is our greatest gift, but it is also the source of our greatest pain. Do we have to become victims of our unceasing thoughts? No, we can convert our unceasing thinking into unceasing prayer by making our inner monologue into a continuig dialogue with our God, who is the source of all love.

Let’s break out of our isolation and realize that Someone who dwells in the center of our being wants to listen with love to all the occupies and preoccupies our minds. (from Bread for the Journey)

Now, instead of brain buzz, try this:

Lord, I need to help my daughter with those wedding centerpieces. Please, Lord, bless the two of them. Give them a strong and deep love for you and each other.

Jesus, that project at work is overwhelming me. I know I need to do some delegating. Grant me wisdom so that we can finish this project well.

Heavenly Father, I’ve been putting off my girlfriend for too long. She is such a good friend and she deserves better from me. Thank you, God, for her friendship and guide us as we continue on this journey.

Maybe you won’t be able to do this all the time. Maybe brain buzz will creep back in. But, you’ve made a start. Be still for just a moment, and see what God’s presence does. Just be still, and wait for Him. He will join you wherever you are.

Find your delight in the LORD who will give you your heart’s desire. (Psalm 37:4)

ordinary time

7 Ways To Make Ordinary Time Less “Ordinary”

We are in the midst of Ordinary Time. If you check the thesaurus, “ordinary” is equated with “humdrum,” “routine,” “run-of-the-mill.” Is this what the Church has in mind for this particular part of our liturgical calendar?

No. The highlights of the liturgical calendar are Easter and Christmas. Ordinary time is about the points in between, focusing on the life of Christ. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Ordinary Time is a time for growth and maturation, a time in which the mystery of Christ is called to penetrate ever more deeply into history until all things are finally caught up in Christ. The goal, toward which all of history is directed, is represented by the final Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere, we are enjoying longer and warmer days. People head off on summer vacations, make plans to be on the water for a quiet evening of fishing or a day of water-skiing adventures. We slow down. We sit by the bonfire and talk and sing. Our neighborhood walks are dotted with a few stops to catch up with the neighbors. Ordinary time is not “humdrum” or boring; it’s just a different rhythm.

How can we make Ordinary Time a more spiritual time? How can we, as the U.S. bishops say, grow and mature in our faith? Here are 7 ideas:

  1. Take your Bible to the bonfire. There is something about a fire on a quiet summer night that is perfect for meditation. Choose one of the Gospels at random and spend a bit of time praying. Or look over the upcoming Sunday’s Gospel reading. Let the Holy Spirit, who first came to us in fire, lead you in prayer.
  2. Vacation to a different parish. Even if you’re not traveling, ordinary time is a great time to go visit a parish near you that maybe you’ve never been to, or haven’t seen in a long time. You could visit your diocese’s cathedral, or a little country church. Either way, it’s a great reminder that we are the Universal Church and every Catholic church in the world is our home. If you’d like, pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it!
  3. Get into a rhythm of prayer. Priests and religious are bound to pray the Divine Office every day, but it’s a fine prayer for the lay faithful as well. It can be a little tricky learning how to do this, but practice makes perfect, and that goes double for prayer. There are websites that offer assistance in this. Another fine option is Magnificat monthly magazine, which is a truncated version of the Office (and, they have a children’s version!)
  4. Have your home blessed. The blessing of a home is a long-standing Catholic tradition. Why bless our house? Because we who live there are a domestic church; it is the nursery of faith and the place where our faith is lived out. Ask your pastor to bless your home, and ask if he’ll stay for dinner. What a wonderful way to spend a summer evening!
  5. Ditch the electronics for a day. Yup, this is hard. We will want to check our phones, catch a baseball game, beat our latest score on a video game. But just for a day, ditch the electronics. Head outside. Play tag. Decorate the sidewalks with encouraging messages. Have the neighbors over for ice cream after dinner. Give the dog a bath. Wander. Read. Take a nap. Enjoy the quiet, because this is where God speaks to us.
  6. Make the outside of your home look Catholic. Plant a Marian garden. Find a statue you really like (Mary, St. Francis of Assisi perhaps) and give it a fitting place of prominence. Plan a day for the kids to make garden stepping stones that reflect their faith.
  7. Make Catholic attractions part of your summer vacation. If you are on the road this summer, find a Catholic attraction or two to visit. Maybe it’s a shrine that features a huge cross, or a grotto dedicated to Mary, lovingly made by hand. This doesn’t mean you have to forgo a trip to the water park or skip mini-golf; just plan on one more stop that reminds us that the Catholic faith is big and bold and beautiful, and expressed in many loving ways.

Ordinary time is not meant to be boring or mundane. Enjoy this time of year, and find ways to move closer to Christ, because in Him we live and move and have our being.

(Don’t forget to enter our “Ordinary Time, Extraordinary Giveaway.” Three folks will get a great summer bundle of fun!)

consistent prayer

4 Ways To Keep Your Prayer Life Consistent

St. Paul says we are supposed to pray always (Always?? Really?). However, most of us struggle to keep our prayer life consistent. We go through periods of intense prayer (and let’s face it, that’s usually when we need God to “do something” for us) and times when we drift away from prayer. How can we keep our prayer lives running smoothly, in order to stay in relationship with God?

The chart below is a great one to print and tape to your bathroom mirror, your fridge, or near your computer. It “breaks down” your day of prayer into manageable pieces.

First, the morning offering. This is a traditional Catholic prayer that dedicates one’s day to God. It’s a reminder to ourselves that we want to serve God all day, in everything we do.

Next, 15 minutes (that’s it??) of spiritual reading. Of course, the Bible is terrific, but consider a book on a saint’s life, a book explaining some part of Catholic doctrine (such as a book on the Mass) or even a book you can read with your child.

The next one is probably that which we find most difficult: time spent in “mental prayer.” Part of developing a mature faith life means you spend time talking to God. You’d never consider creating a friendship with someone if you could never talk to them – we must do the same with God. Of course, it’s perfectly fine to use memorized prayers, but in order to form a healthy, rich relationship with Almighty God, we have to talk to Him. That means coming before Him with our sufferings, our joys, our praise, our gratitude. If this seems rather daunting, perhaps you can back up a step, and begin by reading a book on how and why we pray.

Finally, there is the nightly examination of conscience. Most of us know that we do an examination of conscience prior to going to Confession, but doing one every evening will truly help us become aware of our daily sins – even those small ones that we might otherwise shrug off. Now, this type of exercise is not meant to become a way to beat yourself up, but rather a way to recognize where you can daily improve your relationships with God and with other people.

With these four fairly simple steps, you can start making the ideal of “pray always” a reality.

prayer chart