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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wondering about Wandering

I think Sesame Street has ruined the minds of anyone who watched it much. It's cheery attempt to keep children's attention by indulging their thirty second attention spans has fostered a nation of people who can't seem to concentrate, even when it's important, as evidenced by these two questions:

Sister what can you tell us about novenas? I make a good start then get busy or distracted by the devil and don't finish. I did finish one once and it worked! Any help would be appreciated. Also who are the best saints to ask for help in prayers for one's children?


SMM, I know this has nothing to do with movies but can you post about Adoration. Are there certain prayers we can say during. I find my mind wandering to my to-do list instead of meditating on the Eucharist.

The devil, indeed.

Let's start with novenas. A novena is when you pray for nine days in a row for a specific purpose. The whole idea is based on the fact that perseverance is an important quality of prayer. There are four types: mourning, petition, preparation, and indulgence.

Mourning is nine days of prayer for the dead. Petition is when you are praying for help, guidance or favors. (We hope you're praying for God's grace to handle your difficulties and not putting in nine quarters in some imagined heavenly Coke machine.) Preparation is to prepare for a feast day. In fact, the earliest novena we know about is in preparation for Christmas. And finally the novena of indulgence, which is the hope that God will accept your prayers instead of the punishment you are due for your sins. Sometimes there are strings attached to a novena of indulgence. For example, you may have to actually show up at a church or chapel at some point.

The whole idea started because the Apostles prayed for nine straight days between the Ascension and the Pentecost and were rewarded with the Holy Spirit, tongues of fires and all that excitement.

Here's the thing: you don't have to get through nine whole days of prayer to complete your novena. You just have to say your novena prayer (there are at least 139 different ones) once a day for nine days. I just can't figure out how you can't manage that. Ever heard of refrigerator magnets? Post it notes?

Do you look in a mirror at yourself? You could put a post it note on the mirror. Do you eat? You could put a note on a refrigerator magnet on your refrigerator. Jumpin' Jeehosaphat woman! Pin a note to your coffeepot! Stick a stick it note on the cat dish! Tie a message to the bathroom tissue! Stick a reminder on your car keys! Put a message to yourself in your underwear drawer! Leave a note in the mailbox! Tape a big message on your TV! Get one of those little tape recorders and say into it, "Note to self....say novena prayer." Put your novena prayer on your screen saver! Distracted by the devil. Please. Too much Sesame Street as a child, more likely.

As for prayers for one's children, I would suggest St. Monica, who had to contend with St. Augustine. Monica's son Augustine was such a party animal that even after she prayed him toward becoming one of the greatest saints the church has known, he still ended up as the patron saint of beer. She cried so much for his soul that the city of Santa Monica is named after her.

Now as to our second question...

One afternoon when I had the flu some time ago, I happened to see the Oprah Show. She had an author on that day who had written a book called, "He's Not That Into You", the premise of which was that women shouldn't go chasing after men who don't pay them proper attention, because a man who is interested in a woman will chase after her to the ends of the earth. He wasn't talking about stalkers. He was talking about ordinary men.

I can't help but think of that book when you say your mind wanders during Adoration. Apparently you're not that into Him.

I suggest you mediate about what's adorable about Jesus. If you're mind wanders (I have to admit I can't picture it....) either pull you brain away from your 'to-do' list (and it's all important trip to take DVD's back to Blockbuster before you have to pay a fee vs. 'loved me enough to die a horrible and humiliating death') and re-train yourself to mediate thusly...or...leave and try again tomorrow. Jesus is very forgiving. But he knows when you're just not that into Him.


Milehimama @ Mama Says said...

The Little Flower offered up hert distractions when her mind wandered.
St. Francis of Rome might be another good one for moms. Her son (and husband) were kidnapped at one point during all that French pope nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sister, for the hearty laugh I just had. I was having a very blah kind of day until you brightened it. I have to confess that I have a short attention span and struggle with consistency and focus for prayer. My two most effective ways to remember to say a novena consistently is to 1)tape it to my laptop, so when I get up in the morning and look at e-mail while sipping my tea, it is right there and I can stop and say it there and then.

The other way is to use a copy of the prayer (you can print them off the internet) as a bookmark for whatever book I am currently reading. Then at night when I climb into bed and open up my book, the prayer is right there and I can pray it before I begin reading.

For Adoration, I use to try and go when the kids were asleep but as a tired mother of 5, I could not keep awake if I went at night. You can't put an exhausted, sleep starved woman who is used to being with kids practically 24/7 in a quiet, dark room. My head would continually nod and the whole thing turned into a struggle to stay awake. But then I discovered there is a church near me that has Adoration all day Wednesdays. It is much better to go during the day for me. I can't go as often but at least when I can make it, I am able to stay awake! For the paltry state of my soul, that is a big improvement!

Melanie said...

Sister Mary Martha, I am in the RCIA process, I have sent away for and recieved a medal, I'm wondering, how can Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal protect me when I can't see her? Does she protect people from the demonic? What graces do people get from the medal? Can she really be a mother to people who don't have that mother figure in their life like St. Catherine saw her as today? What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Meditative exercise I apply, after having read "A little piece of quiet": it's impossible, without years of training, to empty your mind of thoughts. So don't try. Recognise them instead, as they fly past your mind - "oh, another thought crossing my path" - and simply Let. It. Go. You do not need to pay it any attention.
When I had my babies, I was told to pick a spot on the wall and to focus on that spot. Now I pick another physical manifestation, perhaps the feeling of my jeans against my leg, where the stitching's a bit rough - use that, it will block out everything else if you practise.
I think it was Paul Wilson? -who wrote the book, it's not good that I can't remember his name, but I do remember what he wrote!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I understand. If something is important enough for you to do a novena for, it's important enough for you to remember to pray the novena. Or am I missing something?

Etrangère said...

The whole premise of Sesame Street was to use the commercial format to "sell" learning to children. That is, take something they're already bombarded with and turn it into something positive (on a station where they show no commercials.) Sesame Street itself isn't so much the problem as letting your kids watch it (or any tv) too young or too often.

Anonymous said...

Well written Sister. I was under the impression a novena was to be said at the same time each day, can't remember who told me that. When I would miss the appointed time I thought I'd blown it. I'll try the suggests for wandering thoughts, thank you all very much. Now I'll really make a confession, I don't know what Adoration is. I am only now learning how to say a rosary. The Knights have a good site that gives step by step instructions so I'm following that. Does anyone have any suggestions on Catholic music? I'd like some cds to have for home while I'm working.

Anonymous said...

My pastor says opportunity offered by Adoration is to listen to Jesus.
I try not to "pray for things" while I'm with Jesus. I do ask for advice.
While I'm praying the rosary, sometimes a thought like, "I haven't talked to Aunt Jean lately" intrudes. I put it on my to do list. If "nagging" thoughts of an obligation keep interrupting, I guess I'd better deal with it.
Maybe the distractions are Jesus talking.

Julie D. said...

I agree about the reminders to do novenas.

However, in the area of distraction during adoration, on the off chance that you're not just being flip to someone who expects a funny answer ... and that the person who asked actually would like some sound advice ... I think that one would perhaps look to the saints who, surely, battled the same problem. None of them advise leaving; all advise sticking to it. Sound advice because if we simply "leave and try again tomorrow" it is difficult to develop the spiritual "muscle" we need through repeated practice.

"If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently … and even if you did nothing during the whole of your (of contemplation) bur bring your heart back, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed." St. Francis de Sales

"As to the distractions which happen in reciting the Divine office, I am also very subject to them, and I believe they proceed from a weakness in the head, at least in mine."
St. Teresa (Letter to Don Sancho D'Avila)

God, is much disturbed by the tumult of the thoughts: no notice, however, should be taken of them, or they would cause the loss of a great part of the favour the soul is enjoying. Let the spirit ignore these distractions and abandon itself in the arms of divine love: His Majesty will teach it how best to act, which chiefly consists in its recognizing its unworthiness of so great a good and occupying itself in thanking Him for it.
St. Teresa

"And now for a last dilemma. If I find that my prayer is, or know that my prayer is going to be, a mass of distractions, though they be involuntary ones, is it worth while trying to pray at all? (I'm thinking of prayers which are not of obligation now.) Wouldn't it be better to do some spiritual reading or even go out and do some visiting instead? Because you have told me that prayer is thinking about God, and if I'm not thinking about God, I don't see how I am to describe myself as praying.

Here I would return a decided answer; Never give in like that. Go through the motions of praying, if that is all you can do, and when you have finished, offer it up to God in a spirit of great humility. Tell him he knows your fashioning, knows you are but dust; deplore the natural weakness which makes it so hard for you, his creature, to do the thing you were put into the world to do. Confess to him, at the same time, the habitual want of seriousness and purpose in your life which prevents you attaining recollection when you want it.

Tell him you wish your prayer had been one long peaceful aspiration to him; unite it with the prayer of our Blessed Lord while he was on earth, and ask to have it accepted with that mantle cast over it. Offer to God your will, the will that is so weak, and has achieved so little. Then perhaps (who knows?) this distracted prayer of yours may be more acceptable to God than the most fervent prayer you ever offered in your life. He wants us to throw ourselves at his feet; he does not need to be told that we are sinners."
Ronald Knox

Laura Michele said...

Thanks y'all, for all the Adoration suggestions. I really appreciate it, and now, have many different strategies for staying focused on adoring Jesus!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Julie D. Great quotes! I had forgotten the one by St. Francis de Sales. He was always so gentle in his advice. Reading his Introduction to the Devout Life is probably the best advice anyone can give.

Anonymous said...

I've googled 'Adoration' and asked my dh and carefully read these posts. Adoration is time spent meditating on God, His goodness and mercy, just enclosing oneself in His presence? Not in prayer where a person actually communicates specifics with God, but just time spent with Him? Somebody help a convert out, I'm truely trying to learn by all the means I can.
Also, in Mass a couple of weeks ago, the music was devoted to Mary. Parts of it keeps playing in my head. That's why I wanted cds, so I could learn the whole songs. The part of my mind that wants to wander could be filled with praise and adoration music, any suggestions?

Motherhen said...

Off the farm, if you google Catholic Music Network, you should come to a site that has CDs as well as MP3 song downloads. I made a wonderful CD of my mother's favorite Marian hymns for her mother's day gift. There are all types of music, praise & worship, chant, liturgical, hispanic, etc.

Laura The Crazy Mama said...


listen to the samples, I am buying this one TODAY! She is just so great and peaceful. It will inspire you and help you learn your latin at the same time!

Anonymous said...

In regard to Adoration, you can also just sit there. He looks at you, and you look at Him.

Even as ineffective as this may seem, most of us have to start somewhere. Just sitting in His presence frequently is the antidote itself.
tina in ashburn

Anonymous said...

oh sister l am 51 years old and in love for the first time with a man who pursued me, he is wonderful, but his wife passed in feb 2008 he thought he was ready but was not, now he left me and leads me to believe he will return when he is ready, what novena can l say to help him through this mourning and grieving time and that he will truly return to me when he is ready... desperately in love