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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Good Night, Mrs. Calabash

Greetings from the Midwest! Today's question, easy breezy, lemon squeezy:

Here's a question you might think is silly. Maybe I'm being scrupulous, I don't know. Is it okay to say your nighttime prayers and then read a book? My mom said I should say my prayers "as soon as I wake up, before my feet hit the floor and last thing I do before I close my eyes at night." The problem is that I like to read in bed but, I often fall asleep reading thus not having examined my conscience or said my prayers. Is falling asleep without saying your prayers a venial sin? It seems disrespectful to say my prayers and then pick up a book to read. What do you think?P.S. I love being able to ask these kinds of questions without having to bother my priest with them. Hope you don't think this is too goofy.

The last time I checked, there were no laws governing bedtime prayers. While I applaud your mother both for her plan of prayer attack and her ability to stuff her prayer plan into your brain so as to become inextricable (hooray for Catholic guilt!), it's her plan, something she concocted on her own.

Don't get me wrong. It's a great plan. I highly recommend it. You've got the Son in the morning, as the old song says.

But falling asleep without saying your bedtime prayers is not a venial sin. It is merely a bad habit. (Although bad habits can also become venial sins! Maybe even mortal sins! Today's skipped prayers are tomorrow's missed Mass. I should put that on a T-shirt. Maybe a mousepad.)

Here are a couple of bedtime do's and don't's:

Do say your bedtime prayers.

Do say a rosary for your bedtime prayers.

Don't say a rosary to cause drowsiness. The rosary is a meditative prayer. You should be trying to fill your mind with thoughts of the life of Jesus as seen through Mary's eyes. This should not make you drowsy. If it does make you drowsy you should stop doing it until you can wake yourself up. Because if you keep saying a rosary to make you drowsy, or while you're drowsy, you'll become the Pavlov's dog of the rosary sleep aid. For you, this equation will take over your prayer life: rosary=dreamland.

The rosary is not dreamland. Those things all really happened.

Do read a book, if you like, after your prayers. Why not? You've said your prayers, you've examined your conscious. Now if you need something to read before you nod off do so with God's blessing. God invented reading. He wrote a couple of books, didn't He?

Here's a plan for you, if you're still in a state because your mother is scolding you in your head (go Mom!): Read a book about God! Read the lives of the saints (very exciting stories, political intrigue, chase scenes, violence, mayhem, and always a happy ending, since they're all dead and in heaven), the Bible, your missal, books about the Vatican or the Popes, read encyclicals, the Catholic newspapers, books about Mary.

I have a great book now about good old Mother Angelica, aka Rita Rizzo of Canton, Ohio. Did you know that as a child, angels flew her out of the path of a bus? It's right in the book!

PS. I wonder if your priest is glad to skip these sorts of questions. I doubt it. It's a relief to tackle the easy ones.


eastmoormom said...

so glad you made it safely...
always a pleasure to read your posts. keep on keep'n on Sister!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sister, I disagree with you slightly about saying the rosary at night...I say my rosary in the morning when I am wide awake. But there are times when I just can't fall asleep and I find praying the Joyful and Glorious mysteries of the rosary to be a very soothing way to lull onesself to sleep. So as long as it's not the only time one prays the rosary, I think it's fine to say it as a sleep aid. And I always make sure I ask my guardian angel to finish it for me if and when I do go to sleep!

Anonymous said...

Sister Mary:
I put most of your post on "Giving Advice" on my website/blog. I even put your picture on it while "braggig" about you! I also linked your site to mine http://www.catholicpsychology.blogspot.com ... Very interesting stuff!!!
Jim Hogue

Anonymous said...

my grandmother, who would now be 124 if she hadn't died 34 years ago, went down on her knees every single night of her life, and said her prayers by her bed. Rosary included. She said the nuns who taught her in the nineteenth century instilled that into her.
I wish I could have made that devotion my own - it was always so peaceful, watching her pray.

Sister Mary Martha said...

Thank you, Jim! That's quite a compliment, coming from a psychotherapist!

Kasia said...

OK, Sister, I have a question for you:

Do I have to pray the Rosary with the actual beads?

You suggested making it part of our nightly prayers, and I'd like to try that. However, I have two cats. You, having Teddy, can no doubt appreciate what that's like. As soon as they hear the beads rattle, they're on you like the devil himself, tryign to "help". It ends up going a little something like this:

"Hail Mary, full of - HEY, CUT THAT OUT! - grace, the - I SAID CUT THAT OUT! - um, where was I? Oh yeah, hail Mary, full - WOULD YOU PLEASE STOP TRYING TO EAT THE CRUCIFIX? - full of grace, the Lord is [cat is earnestly tugging on beads]"

Not very conducive to meditation. I have an abacus-style rosary in my car, but I'm not going down to my car in my jammies to say my prayers. ;-)

Specifically, I found free software called Virtual Rosary. Is it OK to pray it along with the computer? Or at least count on my fingers? My cats are less apt to try to gnaw on my fingers (though they do do that sometimes)...

Anonymous said...

The cat story is pretty funny. My cat tried that before. I use virtual rosary from time to time, but you can also get yourself a finger rosary (you can find them at your local Catholic store or on line at most shops, like, Autom. The cheapest and most effective way? CLOSE the cat(s) out of your room by shutting the door. I'm sure God won't mind if after you end the rosary, you have to get up and open the door again.

Sister, I loved your Saint Patrick Day blog and the stuff on the scapular! Being a military wife, loved the "they come in different colors, like the national terror alert system, only more useful".

God bless,

Anonymous said...

Sister Mary Martha,

Thank you for answering my questions about nighttime prayers. Your answer has taken the guilt right out of my nighttime reading but, without taking my mother's voice out of my head. I find it's a good thing that her voice is still in my head. It keeps me on the straight and narrow most times.

I am looking forward to reading the book about Mother Angelica. I love her. She's alot like you. She tells it like it is.

I'll add you to my prayers. Thanks again!