Ten Blessings that I Routinely Overlook

Image courtesy of nalinratphi
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In no particular order:

1. A glass of clean drinking water

2. Waking up in the morning

3. Breathing with no difficulty

4. A sturdy umbrella for the monsoon rains

5. A bowl of sweet-smelling rice

6. The hubby and the kids all in for dinner

7. My parents, both still alive and reasonably healthy

8. A little money for the book sale

9. Durable rubber sandals

10. Piping hot coffee, of course


"Give Me Back the Zeal of My First Conversion"

Many years ago -- as a college student, I suppose -- I heard somebody share a prayer that stayed with me since me since then. And the prayer is this: Lord, give me back the zeal of my first conversion. 

We can experience conversion daily, like when we say our night prayers and resolve to do better the following day. We can experience conversion more than once each day, like when we mumble hurried but sincere words of contrition after a deliberately mean act. To be authentic, conversion doesn't have to come with the drama of Paul's conversion (blindness would definitely scare me), but if it does, let's thank the Lord for the unequivocal affirmation!

Still, I am sure that for each one of us, after our Baptism and as grown-ups, there still was that first conversion. I venture that that first conversion came when as independently thinking and free individuals, we felt God's promptings and decided to follow Him deliberately and wholly with our hearts. Maybe we felt it during a moment of gratitude for blessings undeserved, during a moment of awe while we were studying science, philosophy, or the humanities and reason led us to regard the omnipotence of God, or during a moment of helplessness when as young parents, we realized that bringing up our children can be an overwhelming responsibility.

And with that first conversion came zeal in our hearts. I heard a priest say that the heart is made up of our mind and our emotions, and I believe him. Thank God that the mind is relatively stable compared to our emotions because after the emotions that came with that first conversion have leveled off, the mind -- guided by faith, prodded on by hope, and acting on love -- is still there to carry the work of conversion.

The mind -- reliable, resilient, and constant. It plods on insisting that zeal doesn't have to come with drum rolls and fireworks. The love, vigor, and determination in our hearts can be just as real in the silence of drudgery. And that silence is profound and comforting because God speaks in silence.

Not that emotions are a useless nebula. Cannot joy, excitement, and laughter make elbow grease seem like caramel or chocolate syrup? That is why when the work of conversion gets too tough, demanding, and protracted, we miss the happy heartbeats and the easy laughter. Because while the mind can and does plod on, the heart misses the cheer and kick of emotions.

Might that be the dryness or the dark night that Saint Mother Teresa spoke of? Or maybe just a faint hue of that darkness? I don't know. I feel preposterous asking that question! How dare me compare my circumstances with that of a saint!

But yes, these days, I pray that prayer I heard long ago and have kept in my heart since. Lord, give me back the zeal of my first conversion. 

Saint Mother Teresa, please intercede for me.


Try Another Clue

My lola (grandmother), mom, and brother are mean crossword puzzlers, if that is what you call people who do crossword puzzles. That makes for three generations of mean crossword puzzlers. I wish I can say that I am in the rank of the third generation meanies, but I can't. At my request, my mom used to leave the one-star puzzles for me to answer. While I made honest efforts to fill in the tiny intersecting boxes, I never progressed to her level. 

Still, when I chanced on a crossword puzzle book that I had bought maybe three years ago, but never had the time for, I was actually thrilled. I have been wondering about active means of leisure other than reading (active, i.e., versus the passive means of leisure, such as watching TV and YouTube-ing), and there it was. 

So these days whenever I can grab a few minutes, I happily plod on, threshing out the clues, trying this answer and then that, furiously erasing answers more often than I care to, and now and then joyously regarding a block of letters that I neatly meshed myself. 

Try another clue. Try another clue. Try another clue. I may never get to those three-star puzzles, but the motto works well for me. 

This is a link to the puzzle book pictured above, although I purchased my copy from a local bookstore. 


In Time

Image courtesy of anankkml
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I suspect it's not just me. Hours and weeks and months and years spent trying to make your children do house chores regularly and cheerfully and without being reminded. Paper equivalent to a mini-forest used up on chore charts that everyone ignores. Incentives, prizes, allowances, punishments, penalties, threats. Good examples, walking the talk, living what you preach.

So you resign yourself to clutter, overflowing hampers, and unwashed dishes. You do what you can given the material time that you have, which isn't much. (At least the dogs don't stink and get to go potty.)

Then somebody notices that there is a washing machine somewhere in the house, and that hampers can be emptied by throwing their contents in the washing machine. Another discovers bread and cheese and other nice things in the refrigerator and makes snacks for everyone. And yet another finally figures out how brooms, mops, and vacuum cleaners work.

For now I'll settle for small mercies. Hey, I must have done a few things right! Consistency and organization and efficiency will come. In time.


Location, Location, Location

Here's my take on an aspect of personal prayer (as opposed to community prayer, such as the Holy Mass).

If I had the concentration of a scientist or a monk, the determination of a saint, and maybe a personal chapel (!), I probably won't have any difficulty praying. Right? Wrong? A qualified yes? A qualified no?

Where I pray happens to matter. I wish it doesn't, but it does. Well, most of the time it does. I do rather well in churches, prayer corners, and my bedroom.

During the times when location does not SEEM to matter, it could actually be material to the prayer at hand. For example, it is so easy to pray in the parking lot after having circled it for the nth time and none of the cars are moving out. It is easy to pray while queuing in bank, hoping that they open another counter. But those are near-desperate cases when praying is umm, well... instinctive?

Hopefully when I grow up, when I am more insightful, more determined, and less frivolous, location won't weigh significantly anymore. For now, though, I find some confirmation and gentle encouragement in Phil Kosloski's article, The Importance of a Sacred Space in Daily Prayer. (He maintains a blog, Praying from the Heart, at the Apostleship of Prayer website.)

Mr. Kosloski affirms that "an important aspect of personal prayer is location". He even quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2691) to emphasize the importance of the prayer corner in the home. The prayer corner is fondly referred to as a "little oratory". With what we already have at home, we can set up a prayer corner -- religious images, candles (homes with children should take necessary precaution), Bibles, prayer books, books for spiritual reading, rosaries, and tablecloths in the liturgical colors. The purpose is to make a prayer corner conducive to personal and family prayer and reflection, temporarily and partially setting aside our practical concerns so that we can go back to them refreshed and more resolved after time spent in prayer.

Then, too. Mr. Koloski tells us about public oratories, such as the adoration chapels. Indeed, they are ideal places for personal prayer because of the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. It is a helpful development that today, most if not all, parishes have their own adoration chapels.

I will leave you to read the rest of the article, which was for me a pleasant surprise. I hope that by setting up new prayer corners or sprucing up what we already have, our respective prayer lives can be enlivened and made more meaningful.

And may our Blessed Mother, whose nativity we will commemorate in a few days, help us along and lead us to her Son.