Routine. It’s something that I strive to maintain in all areas of my life. Whether that is the time I eat meals, pray, shower or exercise, I often thrive on having a set pattern of doing things, at least on the weekdays. Although my routine can be beneficial, I can often allow it to get in the way of my spiritual growth.
For example, I usually try to arrive at daily Mass fifteen minutes early, to give myself some quiet time with the Lord. However, on days where I’m running a bit behind schedule and arrive only five minutes before Mass, I obsess over the fact that I should have been at Mass earlier and get distracted in my prayer. Instead of using those five minutes to pray devoutly, I get caught up in the fact that I’ve given God less time than I had committed to doing.
In this way, the routine becomes a barrier to my growth because I focus more on following my self-imposed rules then reflecting on why I put the rules there in the first place. I try to get to Mass early so that I can pray and spend time with Christ, not to count up the minutes that I have set aside for prayer. If I’m more focused on the minutes I have spent “praying” than trying to encounter Christ in prayer, I have missed the point. The clock in clock out mentality to prayer is not helpful, since prayer should occur because of our genuine love for Christ. Thankfully, I have a loving wife who is helping me overcome this legalistic approach to prayer.
For example, both of us have done Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary as laid out by St. Louis de Montfort. For more information on this devotion, please see here. Anyway, the devotion requires daily prayers and reflection for a 33-day period preceding a great Marian feast day on which the person prays a special consecration prayer to Mary, entrusting themselves to her care so that she can bring them to Jesus.
The devotion can be an intense prayer marathon and difficult to complete. Once finished, the person is recommended to renew this consecration every year, following the same practice of praying these devotions in the days leading up to the Marian feast day of consecration.
Having consecrated to Mary a few years ago, each year I just do the same prayers again and reconsecrate myself to Mary. However, this year, my wife recommended that we purchase the book, 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley, which provides an alternative way to Marian consecration focusing on the writings of the great modern Marian saints, rather than just reciting many prayers.
I by no means wish to criticize St. Louis’ method of consecration; I have clearly seen the fruit of it in my own life. However, going through Gaitley’s book has helped my wife Caitlyn and I ponder the Marian consecration in a new way, which would not have been opened to us if I would have just kept us in the same routine of years past. Now, routines are not always bad, there can be great good in them as well. For example, there is something comforting in knowing that the basic structure of the Mass is the same each time I go. However, the rest of life is not always as neat and orderly as the Mass.
Just take a look at the last two popes to see how the Holy Spirit is at work in different ways within the modern Church. As pope, John Paul II showed us how to suffer and die as a witness of the dignity of life amidst the culture of death whereas Benedict XVI has shown us humility amidst a society of great pride and arrogance by renouncing the papacy due to his advanced age.
I think the actions of these popes can help remind us that our God cannot be put into a box. The old saying goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”. Sure it’s good to have a vision for the future and a structure to living life but we cannot be so rigid as to allow these human inventions get in the way of encountering Christ. If God asks us to step outside of our comfort zone, we need to do it instead of developing a three year plan to implement the suggestion. We need to remember that our lives do not belong to us but God and that we are not in control of things, He is.
In conclusion, I ask you to pray this prayer below of Sir Francis Drake and open yourself more fully to God’s will in your life this Lent so as to experience the joys of Easter in a more profound way come the end of this month.
Disturb us Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.