Five Favorite Books and Apps for Praying (when you’re short on time)

Time in adoration or silent prayer is definitely a luxury in this stage of life. It was always so easy to just stop by an adoration chapel after work or schedule a weekly holy hour when I was single and before the kids were born. Now, it’s a pretty heroic effort to even bring the girls to a daily mass on my own (my general strategy is: camp out in the back, because that is where you’ll end up in .2 seconds anyway, and decide who needs to be chased after most immediately. Then thank the Lord that daily mass is 25 minutes long and wish that Sunday mass could be the same!). Still, there are a couple of tools that I really like for fitting in prayers on a (mostly) daily basis, more than just the usual desperate cries to heaven for divine assistance to get through the dayFive Favorite Books and Appsfor Praying(Photo Credit: Inside St Francis Xavier Cathedral via photopin (license))

Blessed is She

This is a wonderful email ministry that sends you the daily readings, accompanied by a short reflection. It’s the easiest way to get in the daily readings.

Small Steps for Catholic Moms by Danielle Bean and Elizabeth Foss

Each day’s short saint quote, reflection, and call to action take about 3 minutes to read. A great little shot of inspiration to the day!

Magnificat App (and the printed version, too)

I’ve had a subscription to the monthly missal on and off in the past, and I really love it. Daily readings, reflection, morning and night prayer, saints. The app is great too, and if one of you has the print subscription, you can use their email/account on multiple devices. It’s also a very visually beautiful app, much like the print version.

Handbook of Prayers ed. by James Socias

This is a really great prayer book that has all the basics, the parts of the Mass, a ton of different devotions, novenas, etc, etc!  I have not yet plumbed its depths. But what I do love are the two pages that have the morning offering and about 5 other really short prayers that are perfect for starting the day. A bonus is that many of the prayers are also in Latin across from the English.

Catholic Short Prayers app

I just downloaded the Lite version, which is limited, obviously, but still has quite a number of old-school short aspirations, or really quick little prayers to say (and I do mean quick, like, “Jesus, save!” or “Come, Holy Spirit.” and a few other slightly longer ones). The full version also allows you to set reminders and alarms to say prayers.

What are your favorite books, apps, etc, for quick prayers or meditations?

Linking up at Jenna’s for Five Favorites!

Affiliate Disclosure: The Amazon links are affiliate, meaning I get a tiny percentage if you click through my link and then buy something on Amazon. Our savings account thanks you!

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A New Little Saint

At the tail-end of my pregnancy with Lucy, Tom and I met up with the sweetest doula-in-training, to see if she would be a good fit as our birth doula. We clicked right away with Tabitha– she was warm, personable, comfortable, and overall, super encouraging about our out-of-hospital birth. We talked for a long time (way longer than our 30 minute scheduled meeting), and I had several more (long) conversations with her via phone as well, as the pregnancy continued on.

She actually never had the chance to be at Lucy’s birth, since Lucy came so unexpectedly early and fast, but somehow that morning, Tabitha knew something might happen. She texted me in the early morning, probably an hour or two after my contractions had started, to let me know she had another birth that morning but would be available for anything I needed later. I never did get to text her back, but her sweet, motherly soul somehow intuited that I was in labor and going to give birth. Amazing. We talked and met up a few times after the birth, and she proclaimed me a birthing warrior and hoped I would have Irish twins every year (ha!).

I remember the morning she emailed the birth announcement for her tenth child, Sebastian. He was born the day after my birthday, and I quickly wrote back to congratulate her. I told her I loved the name they chose, and it had been at the top of our list if Lucy was a boy. And then I told her we were unexpectedly pregnant again, and she was ecstatic for us, and so, so encouraging. She’s just one of those rare people who exude calm, love, and peace pretty much all the time. Oh, and she is the mother of 11 kids, making it look easy somehow.

I was heart-stricken to hear last week that little Sebastian was in extremely critical condition in the hospital just down the road. He struggled for a few days and passed to Eternal Rest on Tuesday. The grief of Tabitha and her family in unimaginable. Her sweet boy, right between my two girls in age, is gone. She wrote the following on her Facebook, as she held her son in the last hours:

So we miss our other children, who are hurting and sorrowing and missing us, and we are here with our beloved baby boy, whose existence is so delicate and so hard to disentangle from all the machines and wires and procedures. But since they removed the EEG stickers from his dear head, I was able to sponge bathe his hair, which just recently got long enough for him to twirl in his fingers the way he likes, so I spend a lot of time holding his head in my hands and kissing it and his face and cupping his brown shoulders and trying to memorize him, whose body I know so, so well. It’s just like labor is for me: I always want to just stay in those moments forever, to take those sensations and put them into a bottle I can open anytime. But I can’t. This time of having his body to hold and keep is about to pass, and if I step outside of the exact moment, it’s so unbearable, there are no words. Even now, his temperature is so low, and they keep trying all kinds of measures to raise it, without much success, so when I touch him, he is so cold. But I can still feel the heft and contours of his body. I don’t want to sleep even a single moment that I could touch him and smell him and feast on the sight of this beautiful life. The big girls spent a lot of time yesterday making molds and prints of his hands and his feet, but I want his sturdy, dense body with its bubble toes and…how can this be borne? As much as I rejoice in the fact that my son is a saint, now and for all eternity, I just can’t understand how to live without taking care of him every day.

It’s nearly unbearable to read these words; how much more impossible to have lived them? And yet, here is a picture of Tabitha and her husband, holding their dying son, and still smiling, rejoicing in the last moments of his short but beloved life:

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Please keep this family in your prayers. Here is the giving page, if you feel moved to donate to their medical/funeral expenses.

St. Sebastian, pray for us!

Currently, Vol. 3

Praying For:

We are storming heaven for my dear cousin’s little baby. He is a few weeks older than Magdalena and was just diagnosed last week with a large brain tumor. My heart hurts incredibly when I think of my cousin and her husband, watching their tiny boy go into surgery (twice now) and all the uncertainty and fear in this situation. I just cannot imagine. Please, please, please join us in praying for little Liam.

Celebrating:

My sister graduated from college! We journeyed out to my alma mater two weekends ago to witness the event (over a tv screen in the adjoining student center). I can’t believe she’s already done.

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Nappers gonna nap when graduation is during nap time.

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Magdalena entertains herself as we wait to watch Anna get her diploma on the screen

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The lovely grad and silly niece

Was it five years ago that I was in her (smaller sized) shoes? Anyway, she’s about to go on a pilgrimage to Lourdes with our cousin, Angela. If you can, please consider making a donation to facilitate their trip with the medical pilgrimage team. She’s also leaving next week to begin a two year missionary teaching/grad program in Memphis in an inner-city Catholic school. We will miss her but are so proud! She will be an amazing middle school teacher.

We also celebrated Tom’s birthday last Friday with dinner at our favorite pizza place down the road and had their home-made lemon doughnuts with Nutella whipped cream, instead of cake. And then none of his presents had arrived yet (they finally did yesterday. Let it be known that he ordered them himself and took a looong time deciding…) BUT my first Stitch Fix had, so we had fun opening the box and seeing what clothes worked. I highly recommend trying it out if you need new clothes but hate going out shopping. It was painless to fill out the style profile and the stylist did a fantastic job catering to my tastes and needs. Price and sizing were the only issues. We kept 2 out of the 5 items and have another one scheduled to come next month. (The link above is my referral link which gives me a $25 credit if anyone orders through it, fyi).

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Playing:

It’s HOT here. Humid, upper 80s/90s, how-can-this-be-May, hot. But we still try to get outside as much as we (I) can stand it. A baby pool will be making its way to our front yard ASAP.

The girls are both also really enjoying some new-to-us outside play stuff, donated by a family moving away. It does kind of make our front patio/yard look a bit like an ongoing yard sale, but we’re not in the running for Best Lawn anyway, so who cares. (Oh, probably our elderly neighbors with the all-seeing eyes who have noted every move of our existence in this house since the day we moved in and are currently calculating the dip in their property value due to our plastic kid toys and non-uniform grass). But the kids are having fun!

See?!

See?! Lucy ecstatically rides in the see-saw “hairplane” on my parents’ deck before we transported it to our yard

Clicking:

This is just the coolest video. The makeup artistry is unbelievable. And how crazy/fun would it be to see what your spouse or future spouse will look like wayyyy down the road?!

How to Drink Like a Saint— great thoughts!

Eating:

I’ve been using Pinterest a lot for recipe ideas. Here are a few of my recent favorites, in case you’re anything like me and your brain turns to mush the minute you sit down to meal plan:

One Pot Cheesy Chicken Taco Rice (subbed in ground beef from our freezer stock)

Sweet and Sour Pork Chops

Baked Honey Garlic Chicken

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

(Anything that is one-pot or slow cooker is highly preferable to me these days).

Considering:

A “No Soliciting” sign for the door, since I was just rudely interrupted by a knock on the door. We get sooo many people knocking on the door offering free estimates for every possible type of home repair, financial planning, yard work, etc. They are exceedingly pushy.

This sign spells it out a bit and is basically how we feel, especially during a) nap time (there are the aforementioned toys/trikes/balls in the yard. It’s the early afternoon. Are you daft?) or b) dinnertime. We need all hands on deck to feed our small pack of hungry wolf cubs, let alone ourselves. Ain’t nobody got time to answer the front door and listen to your spiel.

So go away.

Hope you are having a lovely and less-humid week.

The Sacred and Profane

The true, the good, and the beautiful. Here we go!

(A Five Favorites post).

::one::

I have been reading all the buzz around the internet about Leila Lawler’s new book, The Little Oratory. The drawings were done by her daughter and our friend Deirdre, whose husband worked at Tom’s school. We finally ordered the book a few weeks ago, and it’s lovely. It also came at the perfect time, since we are starting fresh with planning out the layout of our new home, and now we’re really excited to include our own little oratory in the family room. The authors give a good overview of the liturgical life of the Church and then break it down into practical and do-able tips for incorporating that into family life. Highly recommend!

::two::

Tom got me this book for Mother’s Day, which has been perfect for the mornings (uh..every one) when I only have a minute or two to reflect. I love the format: a quote or small meditation from a saint, a short prayer, and an idea for a concrete action for the day.

::three::

Ok, here comes the frivolity. This sea salt spray looks awesome! I’m not in love with the price tag, but still. We’ve come to the conclusion that the only possible time for me to shower this coming year is at night, so this stuff will probably help if I can spray it in at night and throw my hair up.

::four::

And for some dorky home organization: I found that by using the Preview program on the Mac, I can take the pictures of our future kitchen and pre-organize where every single thing will go. Slightly neurotic, slightly amazing. I just click a text box over the area I want to label, and voila! I now have every drawer, cabinet, and shelf space labeled so that when we move in, we (and our pack of amazing helpers, whoever they may be), will know exactly where everything goes. And then we won’t have to guess for the first 4 weeks we live there.

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Just a peek at my craziness

 

I also got much of my inspiration for good kitchen flow/organization from iHeart Organizing blog, which also has tons of other home inspiration and DIY ideas.

::five::

And this one isn’t really a favorite so much as a request: what are the best (free, of course) contraction timer apps out there?? There are so many to choose from, so suggestions would be welcomed! I just want to be prepared (unlike last time, which was before I had any sort of portable smart device, and instead tried to time contractions on a website while lugging my MacBook. Guess how that went). We hit the 37 week mark yesterday, AKA: full-term, sapping energy, and tons o’ muscle aches. BUT, we’re trying to make sure baby doesn’t even think about coming until June 27, which is when Tom has two weeks off between summer camps. Timing is everything, tiny bebe, so get it right. 🙂

 

 

The Pregnant Lent

For the second year in a row, I’ll be “doing” Lent while pregnant. Contrary to what any men or non-pregnant women out there may think, normal/healthy pregnancies are NOT enough sacrifice to count for the entire Lenten sacrifice and preparation. There are definite happenings that constitute an immense dying to self, I will say, and this year I obviously have the added wild card of Princess Lucia, who demands all of me and then some. And of course, pregnant and nursing moms are always exempt from fasting and abstinence. So all this leaves me pondering lately– how are pregnant mothers specifically called to observe the season of Lent? It’s tricky, but I do really want to try harder this year. Last year I think I spent a great deal of Lent suffering and recovering from strep and several head colds, as well as the general exhaustion of the late third trimester. In other words, I had the physical suffering part down pat, but certainly didn’t feel spiritually refreshed by the time we were singing Alleluia again.

In general, I’m coming to realize the great truth that motherhood is an intense form of dying to self, as any mother (or father, really) can tell you. My sleep schedule is not my own. My eating schedule is not my own. I can’t even go to the bathroom or shower without an audience or a crying soundtrack in the background. I’ve learned a great deal this year about how selfish I really am and that the dying to self thing does not come naturally. And that is precisely why I need great spiritual aid in this time of life. When I have the least time for quiet and prayer is when I need it most. There is no possibly way I can sustain my well-being, especially mental and emotional, without supernatural sustenance.

Yet most days, between Lucy’s extremely early wakings and struggle with naps, I find that the only formal prayer I may have gotten in is grace before meals and hopefully night prayers with Tom if we haven’t yet collapsed in exhaustion. This is not good for keeping my soul refreshed, renewed, strengthened, and growing in virtue. I cannot use motherhood and pregnancy as an excuse for not improving my spiritual life; it is, in fact, essential to my vocation as mother to improve my spiritual life daily. It is difficult though, especially for me, since I am not that great at multi-tasking prayer or spiritual reading while supervising Lucy or folding clothes or any of the other million tasks that need to be done. And with this second pregnancy, an afternoon nap with Lucy has become a true necessity.

I’m hoping to make small additions to my prayer life this Lent. Fasting is less about denying one’s self and more about realizing how dependent one is on God. For me, that will mean fasting from wasting my precious few free minutes of time on social media and using them for connecting with Scripture, quiet, and spiritual reading.

Simcha has a great Lenten reading list, and Elizabeth Foss gives several suggestions, with more in the comments.

Tom and I will pick up our practice of reading a chapter (or portion of a chapter) from a chosen book of the Bible during Lent. We read Isaiah during Advent and Christmas. I’m thinking the Gospels, and maybe a different prophet for Lent. Personally, I am also planning to continue plodding my way through Orthodoxy, which is amazing but I can only get about 5 pages in at a time before life calls. I also want to read Caryll Houselander’s Wood of the Cradle, Wood of the Cross. She wrote beautiful, lucid meditations, such as the one I wrote out in this post. The important thing is, while I can’t fast from food and physical sustenance again this Lent, I do need, ever so much, to strengthen my soul with total reliance on God through increased and dedicated prayer time.

(Also, since the challenge is 7 posts in 7 days, it should totally count to do two posts in one day!)