Over the past few weeks I’ve been taking note of how I’m spending my time in the hope of making time for the things that are most important to me, such as time to be available to the children and my husband and time for prayer.
It’s been an interesting exercise in gaining objectivity about this most precious gift from God.
The first thing it did was take away any feelings that I’m a bit lazy or not really working very hard – almost every waking hour is full of activity, usually with or involving the children in some way.
Looking at the numbers at the end of the first week it was clear that I need to make more time for exercise and for meditation or prayer. That wonderful spiritual director,
St Francis de Sales, once advised someone that it’s necessary to pray for half an hour a day, except if we are busy, in which case we must make it an hour.
There is a lot of wisdom in that advice.
In prayer we step away a little from our own perspective and allow God to show us how we can best be of service today. Prayer is a major source of reality, comfort, strength and hope.
Accounting for a week, hour by hour, into little boxes on a spreadsheet is showing me how easy it is for me to become so busy that I crowd out God.
I can’t help but notice how often, at 9am and 5pm, the times when I set an alarm on my phone to do 15 minutes morning and evening prayer, there is no actual prayer recorded there.
I’ve turned off the alarm and got back to work, cooking, conversing, or whatever it was I was doing, and never caught up with the Lord later.
When I do this it’s with the thought: “It’s just this time.”
But my timesheet shows me in black and white that I did this half of the time, or more.
When I’m stressed, or sick, I can always find the time to pray.
Sometimes for hours. I’ll visit the Blessed Sacrament mid-week, go to Mass, find time to go to Reconciliation.
But when things are going well it is so easy to let prayer time slide until I find my way blocked again by the sneaky little god of self-sufficiency that I have allowed to grow.
In my second week of minding hours, I was more careful to give more time to God.
I heeded those prayer bells more often, turning away from the computer, or closing myself into the bedroom to pray one of the hours of the Divine Office. I logged around half an hour of prayer a day.
St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, known also as St Edith Stein, once wrote in an elaboration on a talk she gave on women’s education, an example of how a busy woman could remain open to God’s grace throughout the day.
She would have borrowed from her own experience, having worked long hours as a teacher, academic, and prolific writer before her entrance into the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Cologne in Germany.
She wrote: “The duties and cares of the day crowd about us when we awake in the morning (if they have not already dispelled our night’s rest).
“Now arises the uneasy question: How can all this be accommodated in one day? When will I do this? When that? How shall I start on this and that?
“Thus agitated, we would like to run around and rush forth. We must then take the reins in and say: ‘Take it easy! Not any of this may touch me now. My first morning’s hour belongs to the Lord. I will tackle the day’s work which He charges me with, and He will give me the power to accomplish it’.”
She recommended pausing for a few moments to collect one’s thoughts before the Lord again in the middle of the day, and then again in the evening for an examination of conscience and to offer up the day’s work to God.
It’s a simple recipe for peace amid great busyness.
It’s much easier to face a full and busy week when we’re deeply impressed with the knowledge that this is work which God has given us, that we will have help getting through it with moments of rest and enjoyment, and that at the end of each day God will be happy with our work even if we haven’t done it perfectly (and we probably won’t have!).