“Only God Himself can enlighten a heart charred by the
fire-breathing dragons of this world.”
“Here there be dragons” is a phrase found on some medieval maps to describe dangerous or uncharted territory, sometimes accompanied by a picture of a dragon, sea serpent, or other mythological creature.
While our modern day physical world is well mapped out, our society faces other dragons that seem to be multiplying rapidly. Marriage, religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family are all under attack. And while we witness the daily attacks on these God-given institutions, we wonder where it is all headed. We wonder what will be attacked next, and how serious the persecution will be.
I often wish I could put on my armor and slay those dragons myself. But how do I go about doing this? How can I convince the world that Hobby Lobby (or the Catholic Church, for that matter) is not out to render women powerless, that a “marriage” between two people of the same sex is not really a marriage at all, and that life from conception to natural death is sacred?
The truth is, I can’t.
I can continue to teach the truths of the Church and hope that hearts will be open to accepting them, I can live the example of the joyful freedom that accompanies the practice of these truths, but I have no power when it comes to people’s hearts. Only the Holy Spirit can bring the mystery of conversion home. Only God Himself can enlighten a heart charred by the fire-breathing dragons of this world.
And so, parents, we must pray. Parenthood is a battle. Not a battle with bed times, tantrums, and picky eaters (although some days it feels that way!), but a battle with the “evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.” (Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel)
We are in a spiritual battle, and the world needs our prayers. Our children need our prayers. But when to do it?
As parents, we have our own dragons to slay on a daily basis. Dishes being pulled from the kitchen cupboards by toddler hands, a seven-year-old sobbing in the corner because he isn’t a Master LEGO Builder, and a nearly potty-trained three-year-old copping a squat in the middle of the living room rug are all normal parts of my day right now.
It’s difficult to find time. It’s difficult to find silence. But we must persevere in our prayer life. The devil wants nothing more than to drive a wedge between us and our Lord, using our own children as leverage.
I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that if I can’t pray an entire Rosary in one sitting, I just won’t pray at all. Or, sometimes I simply don’t feel like praying. If I don’t feel the immediate consolations of God, or hear an answer from Him while in the midst of prayer, I succumb to the temptation of spiritual sloth. And before I know it, a whole week has gone by, at the end of which my prayer life is malnourished and thirsting for attention.
Sticking to a daily lifestyle of prayer, and simply remembering to keep God at the forefront of my mind helps me through those challenging periods of dryness, as well as those times when my children keep me so busy that I’m not quite sure how to squeeze God in.
The following is a list of the five times of day I try to remember to devote to God in prayer. Choose one of the suggestions below each time frame, depending on how your day is going and how demanding your children are being on your time and energy. The point is to do something–to spend some amount of intentional time with Our Lord and His Mother throughout the day, and trust that the answers and consolations will come when you need them most.
1. First Thing in the Morning
Rise early, say a Rosary, and read the day’s Gospel or another Scripture passage.
Read a short quote from a saint and say a decade of the Rosary while eating breakfast (Small Steps for Catholic Moms by Danielle Bean and Elizabeth Foss is a wonderful daily devotional with Mom-sized meditations).
Simply say, “Good morning, God!”, and ask Him to guide your choices that day while you grab a few minutes alone in the bathroom or nurse the baby.
2. Nap Time
Finish your Rosary, say a Divine Mercy Chaplet, and/or do some spiritual reading or journaling while baby sleeps and older kids have some down time with books or screens.
Take a moment to step outside and listen for God in the silence. Dedicate the rest of your day to Him.
Say a Hail Mary while you nurse the baby to sleep.
Pray the Angelus or a Divine Mercy Chaplet.
Pray a decade of the Rosary while doing dishes or folding laundry.
Have a cup of coffee or tea, and ask God to clear your heart and mind of any tension that has been building throughout the course of the day.
4. Near the Dinner Hour
Take a few moments for yourself while your spouse spends time with the kids, and pray the Evening Prayer (I like to use the Magnificat publication for this).
Offer your kitchen clean up or last load of laundry to the glory of God and a special prayer intention.
Pray grace with your family before and after dinner.
5. Before Bed
Mentally review the events of your day, make a good examination of conscience, and say an Act of Contrition before going to bed.
Do some spiritual reading while sitting with a child who needs some company to fall asleep (or pray quietly if the light is too dim for reading).
Pray an Act of Contrition while nursing the baby to sleep. Give your day to God and ask Him to renew and refresh your spirit as you sleep.
Of course, we all have days when our families require the bulk of our time and attention, but I find that if I strive to keep prayer a priority, God seems to increase my time so I can fit it in. Do your best, and you will keep your relationship with God thriving, even during the busiest seasons of parenthood.
Now, put on your armor, and go slay those dragons!