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Prayer is a Battle

ancient antique armor armour
ancient antique armor armour
Photo by Maria Pop on

The Catechism tells us that “prayer is a battle,” and, “The ‘spiritual battle’ of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer” (no. 2725). We do not expect battles to be easy or consoling. We expect them to be dangerous and difficult. Of course, prayer is sometimes consoling, and it leads to abiding peace and joy. But before we experience that peace and joy, we have to fight against ourselves, the pull of the world, and the Devil. We cannot triumph before we take up the sword.

The Catechism goes on to say,

“In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer. Some people view prayer as a simple psychological activity, others as an effort of concentration to reach a mental void. Still others reduce prayer to ritual words and postures” (2726).

The first skirmish is understanding what prayer is. We have covered that in the last few posts, noting that prayer is at heart a conversation with God.

The same paragraph of the Catechism says,

“Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do: they ‘don’t have the time’.”

We might suppose, then, that our next battle is carving out time for prayer. I believe something else must come first, however.

What are your priorities?

Once when talking to an acquaintance who was a college professor, I asked him what he had been reading lately. He replied, “I don’t have time to read.” No doubt he was busy. But my thought then and now was, You really mean that reading is not one of your priorities. I have always loved reading. No matter how busy I have been, from working three jobs to caring for an infant, I have always made time to read.

We can apply this to prayer. If your first reaction to the thought of starting a prayer routine is, “I don’t have the time,” aren’t you saying that you think other things more important? Don’t get me wrong. I understand that you are busy. I am busy too. But can you be too busy for God? If you wanted to spend time regularly with your spouse, but were always told, “Sorry, I’m just too busy,” that would not be a good sign for your marriage. In a healthy marriage, spouses make spending time together a priority. So it is in a healthy relationship with God.

Too busy, or not interested?

Rarely is anyone too busy to eat. We attempt to get adequate sleep no matter how full our schedule is. We make time for whatever is most important to us.

Our next battle, then, is to embrace the importance of prayer, to make it a priority. If it is one of our top priorities, we will somehow find the time to pray regularly.

We know we cannot live a healthy life without enough food and sleep. The truth is that without daily prayer we cannot have a healthy spiritual life. And spiritual health is even more important than physical health. When we recognize and embrace this truth, we will no more skip praying than we will skip eating or sleeping.

Prayer is a battle. It requires fighting the mindset of the world that other tasks are more important. Until we conquer this mindset, we will never be faithful in prayer. Next time, then, we will examine why daily prayer is vital to spiritual health.

Connie Rossini

Note: If you are not a subscriber, please sign up here so that you don’t miss a post in this series. A new video course on prayer is coming soon!

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Beginning to Pray from the Heart

We have been talking about deepening our personal prayer life. When we pray our simple vocal prayers well, we begin to feel a tug towards something deeper, a more heartfelt conversation with God. We desire to address him in our own words, in a more personal and particular way. Traditionally, this prayer from the heart has been called “mental prayer.” Unlike the vocal prayer that we frequently pray with others, mental prayer is prayed in solitude, often without our saying anything aloud.

People sometimes ask me how they can stay focused in mental prayer. Just starting out, they sit down to pray and can’t think of anything to say to God. Their vocal prayers have been so rewarding, but when they try mental prayer, they find it dry and difficult.

When speaking of the three expressions of prayer in the Christian life, the Catechism of the Catholic Church doesn’t mention mental prayer. Instead, after vocal prayer it lists meditation. The Church wants us to understand that mental prayer, in order to be fruitful, should have some kind of format. Mental prayer is not rambling before God, nor rattling off a string of requests. The best mental prayer for beginners is meditation.

The word meditation can confuse people, however. Buddhists, Hindus, New Agers, and others also use the word meditation, but their practice is different than the Christian one.

Let’s return to our definition of prayer from my first article in this series. Following St. Teresa of Avila, we said that prayer is “friendly conversation with God.” The purpose of prayer is an intimate, loving union with God. From this definition, we can see that Christian meditation is not the same as meditation in other religions. Buddhists, for example, do not converse with anyone during their meditation. They do not seek a union of love with God. Rather, they seek freedom from suffering, and ultimately an annihilation of the self. For Buddhists, the question of whether God exists is ultimately a meaningless one. Clearly, then Buddhist practices could not be called Christian prayer. Nor should we expect Christian prayer to resemble Buddhist meditation in more than a superficial way.

What is Christian meditation?

Christian meditation does not involve altered states of consciousness. It is not primarily about awareness. It is not primarily about detachment. Christian prayer is about union with God through Jesus Christ. It is conversation with him.

The Catechism calls meditation “prayerful reflection” (no. 2708). We read a holy book, especially the Gospels, and prayerfully consider what the Lord is saying to us through it. Then we respond to his word by asking him for the help we need to live in better accordance with it, examining our conscience, repenting of our sins, praising him and thanking him – all in the light of what we have just read.

The Catechism explains:

Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking… To meditate on what we read helps us to make it our own by confronting it with ourselves… Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of the faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary” (nos. 2705 – 2708).

There are dozens of ways we can engage in Christian meditation, using our hearts, minds, and own choice of words to grow closer to Christ. We will consider one such method next time.

Connie Rossini

This article was originally published in The Catholic Voice, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Omaha.  This is the third in a series that I am posting from past newspaper columns, every other Tuesday. I have 3 years’ worth of columns to share with you! I wrote these columns in a logical order, so that they could serve as a written course on mental prayer. For more in-depth study, follow the links to read blog posts that you may have missed or forgotten. If you have not subscribed to my blog, do so now so that you don’t miss a post.

Photo from Pixabay.

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Our destiny is love

Sacred Heart by Jose de Paez (Wikimedia Commons).

Why did God make you? Some of us memorized the answer to that question as children. The Baltimore Catechism says, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next” (No. 6).

More specifically, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

The vocation of humanity is to show forth the image of God and to be transformed into the image of the Father’s only Son… (paragraph 1877)

‘All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.’ (2013, quoting Lumen Gentium 40§2)

In other words, when the Baltimore Catechism said God made us to love Him, it didn’t mean to love Him a little or to love Him moderately. It meant to love Him “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4). This is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38).

Why should we love God, other than out of a desire to save our souls? The answer is easy. “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins… We love, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:10, 19).

As Thomas Aquinas so beautifully put it, “Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened his hand” (In libros sentitiarum II, Prol.).

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Becoming your children’s spiritual director

Homeschool and Parenting

File:James Sant - The Fairy Tale - Google Art Project.jpg
The Fairy Tale by James Sant (Wikimedia Commons). Are you making plans for your children’s spiritual growth?


Have you ever thought of having a spiritual director for your kids or grandkids? Have you ever thought of being one? It’s not enough to teach children “religion”–i.e., Catechism. We also need to teach them how to become saints.

I am developing a spiritual growth plan for my three older children. (J is a little too young at age three!) Here are the areas I am considering:


D is almost purely choleric, M is melancholic-phlegmatic, and C is primarily phlegmatic. (I haven’t completely figured him out yet–he’s eight and doesn’t know himself as well as the others do.)

Each of the four classical temperaments has a different perspective on life. Each has typical strengths and weaknesses. I seek to encourage my boys in their strengths and help them fight their weaknesses. I plan to do much of this through reading. Books will inspire them where lectures won’t.

Talents and interests

Temperament is only one part of personality. Each child has unique talents. For example, cholerics are bursting with energy, but one may be good at football and another at track.

Quiet and reserved M has a surprising acting ability.

How can my children use their gifts to glorify God? How can their talents help them choose a vocation and a career?

Developmental and academic level

In order to guide my children closer to Christ, I must understand the level of their intellectual and psychological development. I will consider Erik Erikson’s stages of psycho-social development, as well as Piaget’s stages of cognitive development.

These considerations should help me choose goals that are realistic for each child.

Saints and other famous people to study

Which saints shared my child’s temperament? Which saints’ stories will he find most interesting?

What historical figures can inspire my child to greater things? Could any provide a counter-example to serve as a warning against misusing one’s gifts?

Goals for prayer

By the time they graduate from high school, I want each of my children to have a habit of thirty minutes of mental prayer a day, preferably in the morning. I can’t help them meet this goal without specific plans for growth in prayer.

M and C will still need my guidance for prayer for some time. I hope to make more meditations that they can use on their own, as we begin to set aside a half hour at the beginning of each school day for Bible reading, prayer, and quiet time.

I hope to lead D to begin making short (five-minute) meditations on his own. Then each school year we can expand that time by five minutes until he reaches the thirty-minute goal. This will take some one-on-one help at the beginning, but I hope we have done enough meditations in the past that he can catch on to doing this on his own pretty quickly. As a choleric, he likes to take charge and have me step out of the way.

 Goals for Bible reading and catechism

We should be finishing the New Testament soon, after several years of studying the Bible together. Next fall I want to have D and M reread and study parts of the Bible on their own. Again I will consider each boy’s temperament and interests, as well as what he remembers and what he needs to review. In high school, I hope we will study single books of the Bible at a higher level.

D and M will also study the early Church fathers, using some primary documents, as well as the early creeds.

C missed out on most of our Old Testament study, so I plan to go back to the beginning with him.

Bible-reading should be a part of life, not just part of a school subject. If we are to know God intimately, we must know what He has revealed about Himself. Nothing teaches the character of God like the Gospels.

Their dad’s input

All children need their fathers to show them how to live for God. Boys especially need this example.

While I focus on learning and prayer, Dan takes turns going on walks with each boy. They discuss any subject that is on our son’s mind. This deepens their relationship with Dan and allows them time to ask any awkward questions, especially ones they don’t feel comfortable asking me.

Templates coming for your use

As I develop a spiritual growth plan for my boys, I am creating templates I hope to share with you. This may become a major project after I finish my current book. In the meantime, I hope to offer you some checklists and journal pages as I complete them.

The spiritual health of our children is even more important than their physical health. We can’t leave it to chance.

Connie Rossini

Share with us: Have you made a spiritual growth plan for your kids? What else should I include in my plans? What helps would you like me to provide?

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Memorize the Faith with your child

Memorize the Faith!

A few of my readers have asked me for recommendations for children’s catechesis. One of the resources we have been using for the past several months is Memorize the Faith by Kevin Vost. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to learn more about the Catholic faith or teach it to children.

I love learning, especially learning about the faith and the spiritual life. Memorize the Faith is one of those books that you can learn from as a whole family.

Author Kevin Vost presents a method called loci (Latin for location), a mnemonic device  that is based on St. Thomas Aquinas’s memory system. I have read some reviews arguing that it is not really the same method St. Thomas used. I can’t speak to that issue. But I can tell you the system works.

The loci method of memorization

Basically, you imagine a room in a home. Specific objects occupy different places in that room. Each object is meant to remind you of one item in a list you are memorizing. The location itself also aids your memory.

For example, in memorizing the Beatitudes, you start at the door of the family room. A ghostly person in rags meets you there. He represents the first Beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Then you enter the room and see a woman in black sitting on top of a dresser to the left of the door. She represents, “Blessed are those who mourn…” Yes, some of the images are a little outrageous. That’s to make them more memorable.

Easy enough for most ages

So far, D and M have reviewed the 10 Commandments (which we learned a few years ago), and memorized the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, the Beatitudes, the Sacraments, the Mysteries of the Rosary, and the Twelve Apostles–in the order they’re found in the Bible. We also each made our own room to memorize 150 years of popes at the time of the Conclave last spring. I haven’t used the book as much with C yet, since we are focusing on Confession and Communion with him this year.

This book makes memorization easy. You can adapt it to any list you want to memorize. I’m looking forward to the section on memorizing 21 Centuries of Church History

Connie Rossini

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