Domestic monastery: living by the bell

posted in: Homeschool & Parenting | 5
Main bell of the church of the Arkadi Monastery, Crete, Greece. Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons.
Main bell of the church of the Arkadi Monastery, Crete, Greece. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

I had never heard the term “domestic monastery until Jennifer Fulwiler recently blogged about it in a post I linked to. To me, domestic monastery and contemplative home(school)  are 2 ways of expressing the same thing, but with different emphases.  The contemplative home is one where mental prayer and meditating on God’s word day and night are primary. Domestic monastery connotes the rhythm and discipline of monastic life. I’ve decided to bring this rhythm and discipline into our home.

This is an experiment you can try vicariously through my blog, or practice in your own home.

The monastery bell is a call to prayer

Monks in a monastery drop everything to gather for prayer when the bell rings. Now, in school, bells signal changing class periods. I’ve read that the school bell comes from Prussian military training. Not an inviting picture. Nevertheless, the bells function in a similar way. Children at school must stop their task, whether finished or not, to move on to the next subject, come in from recess, etc.

I hate being interrupted. Monastic life would be difficult for me. Some people say that a mother’s constant interruption by the needs of her children serve as a monastic bell. That gives me something to ponder.

But what I really want is to call my children to pray throughout the day.

Choose a prayer to repeat

Dan and I already pray Evening Prayer together and I pray Morning Prayer on my own from the Liturgy of the Hours, a habit we formed while in OCDS. It’s too much to expect our children to join us–at least at this age. Instead, I will modify a practice I’ve used off and on for years.

To remind myself to pray throughout the day, I choose a short prayer to say every time I look at the clock. I have used, “I am the handmaid of the Lord…,” and “Jesus, I trust in you.”

2 years ago I added this antiphon from the Breviary to our school morning prayer: “My heart is ready, Oh, God, my heart is ready” (from Psalm 108:1).  It reminds us to make our hearts ready to learn, to be open. Beginning yesterday, the boys and I are repeating it every time we change subjects, break for snacks or lunch, or end our day’s lessons.  The words themselves are our bell.

An antiphon, not a mantra

Our repeated prayer is not magic. We don’t pray it to appease God or obtain anything from Him. Nor is it simply a repeated motto or theme. Rather, we pray to place ourselves at God’s disposal. We pray to unite ourselves with the prayer of the Church. I find an antiphon from the liturgy especially appropriate for this. You can search for your own here.

If you prefer, choose a prayer that accords with the virtue you are working on this year, or a favorite Bible verse.

You don’t have to be cloistered to bring a prayerful rhythm to your days. A simple prayer at specific moments can hallow your life.

Connie Rossini

Share with us: What antiphon or prayer do you say throughout the day? What is your reminder to pray?

5 Responses

  1. Theresat

    This is so near and dear to my monastic heart. Nancy at the Cloistered Heart also writes beautifully on this topic. I am striving to stop more often during the day to pray one of the mid-day prayers and to really live in His Presence. My prayer throughout the day is *Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.* I need more reminders though : ) I do have a windowsill in my kitchen that is a sort of *altar* for me while I work in there. An icon of our Lady, small bowl of holy water, a book of sayings from John of the Cross that is upright so I can just read when the moment strikes and a decade rosary given to me by a fellow Carmelite from John of the Cross’s monastery in Segovia.

    Have a blessed week and thanks for a great post. I would love to keep discussing this ; )

    • Connie Rossini

      That’s a great idea about the windowsill. So often people recommend having a prayer corner in one’s house, and I have never had one. Our home is taken up with books! But I do have a window with a wide sill over the kitchen sink. I could make it a little altar as you do, then “find God among the pots and pans,” as St. Teresa said, while I’m doing dishes. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Nancy

    LOVE this post! The best “success” I’ve had with this was when I had a watch with an hourly chime. No one around even had to know that the “ding” was my little monastic bell (although some did, and it would serve them as a reminder to pray as well… a nice benefit). I lost the watch, and later replaced it with one whose chime was so quiet I’d almost never hear it. Your post is making me think it’s time to try to find a new LOUD watch!

  3. How to pray throughout the day - Contemplative Homeschool

    […] One practice that works well for me is choosing a short prayer that I can say at specific times in my day. As my regular readers know, my prayer this year has been, “Jesus, I trust in you.” At other times in my life, I have prayed, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me in accordance with your word.” The kids and I try to say, “My heart is ready, Oh God, me heart is ready,” throughout our school day. (I wrote a post on our domestic monastery bell here.) […]

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