Will Duquette blogs at Cry ‘Woof’–And let slip the dogs of whimsy. He has the sharp mind you’d expect from someone who’s both a Dominican and a software engineer, but a light touch that makes his writing appealing and accessible. His series on Bootstrapping the Interior Life should be a starting point for people looking to deepen their spiritual life. (Begin at the end and work your way forward.) Let’s see how he answers the pressing question: How I Pray.
Who are you?
I’m a husband, father, Lay Dominican, software developer, and blogger, in more or less that order.
What is your vocation?
Depends how you mean it. My primary vocation, as the Church defines it, is marriage; and that means my wife and kids come first. But we all have additional callings within our primary vocation, sometimes for a season, sometimes for much longer. In my case, I’m a life-professed Lay Dominican (that is, I’m a tertiary of the Dominican Order, also known as the Order of the Preachers). That’s a true calling, over and above the basic Christian ideal, and among other things it means I’m called to preach. My blogging and my Church-related activities flow out of that.
Whether anyone is called to listen is, I suppose, a fair question.
What is your prayer routine for an average day?
The Lay Dominican rule pretty much determines my routine: the Liturgy of the Hours (Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer), a daily Rosary, and daily Mass if possible (which it usually isn’t).
In the morning I get up before anyone else, make coffee, and say Morning Prayer. Immediately after Morning Prayer, I say an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Eternal Rest for all of the Dominican dead.
While driving to work I say the Rosary in the car. This is completely in-line with St. Dominic’s example; one of Dominic’s “Nine Ways of Prayer” is “Praying while traveling”.
Sometime in the evening, either before or after dinner, I say Evening Prayer. Some days I manage to stop at a parish near where I work, and say it before the Blessed Sacrament, but that’s unusual.
Just before turning out the light, I’ll say Night Prayer.
And then, I’ll frequently say brief prayers throughout the day. If someone brings me a prayer request, I usually say a Hail Mary immediately.
The rule calls for me to attend Daily Mass if I can; but the daily masses in my immediate area are all scheduled for the retirees, and so daily mass is a rare event for me. I usually only attend on particular feast days (St. Dominic, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Thomas Aquinas).
How well do you achieve it, and how do you handle those moments when you don’t?
I don’t achieve it as well as I should; in particular, I pray a lot of two- and three-decade Rosaries because I don’t live that far from work and I tend to get interested in what I’m meditating on. Sometimes, alas, what I end up meditating on is what I’m going to be working on that day rather than the mystery in question.
But the Dominican rule is to be lived out of love, not on pain of sin. If I look at the clock and realize I’ve missed one of the hours I offer it up to God and move on. I don’t beat myself up over it; there’s no point.
On the other hand, I do try to avoid putting off the hours. In other words, if it occurs to me that it’s time for Evening Prayer, I try to sit down and say it right then. Otherwise I might not think of it again until it’s time for Night Prayer.
Do you have a devotion that is particularly important to you or effective?
My go-to prayer is one that I learned from Julie Davis (Happy Catholic) and then adapted: “Lord, please bless him (or her) and keep him and make your face to shine upon him; and have mercy on me.” This is appropriate to almost all occasions and for pretty much everyone, from the friend who asked me to pray for him to the jerk who cut me off in traffic. Everyone can use God’s blessing, and I can always use God’s mercy—especially when I’m bitching about someone who has annoyed or inconvenienced me. I usually pray this prayer many times a day.
And then, I do love the Divine Office. I’ve been praying it daily since the spring of 2008; before then I’d never managed to keep up a daily prayer regimen for more than a few months.
Do you have a place, habit, or way of praying?
I usually pray sitting, by myself: at the kitchen table when no one else is up, or in my room. I often pray in the car; and if I’m walking by myself I’ll often use part of the walk to pray the Rosary.
At meetings of my Lay Dominican chapter I’ll pray Morning Prayer and the Rosary with the chapter, but otherwise I pray them alone.
Do you use any tools or sacramentals?
I use the iBreviary app on my iPad for the Divine Office, and I have a Rosary bracelet I use to pray the Rosary—unless I’m driving. When I’m driving, I just use my fingers.
What are your relationship with the Rosary?
Some of my best prayer experiences have been while praying the Rosary. Some of my most perfunctory prayer experiences have been while praying the Rosary. I cover the waterfront. My current struggle is sitting down to pray the Rosary on Saturdays and Sundays, when I don’t drive to work.
Because of the Rule, though, the Rosary will be a regular part of my life for the rest of my life—I can’t simply ignore it.
Is there one particular book or spiritual work that has been particularly important to your devotional life?
Other than the Divine Office, not really. Devotional books, in the sense of books that want to be looked at every day, don’t seem to work for me. There are so many of them, and they all look interesting, but I can’t seem to commit to any of them. For the rest, I read books that catch my attention, and then move on.
What is your current spiritual or devotional reading?
I’m trying (and mostly failing) to build up the habit of looking at the daily Mass readings every morning; and I’ve been spending time with a treatise by St. Thomas Aquinas called “On Creation”. This is not your typical spiritual reading, but it seems to work for me. And then, I’m working through Thomas’ Compendium Theologiae week by week.
Are there saints or other figures who inspire your prayer life or act as patrons?
Every morning when I put on my Dominican scapular, I ask Sts. Dominic, Catherine, and Thomas Aquinas to pray for me: Dominic as the founder of the Order, Catherine as patron of Lay Dominicans, and Thomas as my patron. Sometimes I ask Justin Martyr to pray for me, since he clearly had a Dominican spirit, or St. Joseph to bless my efforts as a husband and father. I also ask Thomas for help when I work and particularly need to think clearly.
And finally, of course, there’s the Blessed Mother; the Rosary is the Dominican prayer.
What is one prayer you find particularly powerful or effective?
The Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I’m not often moved to pray it, but once in a while…
Have you had any unusual or even miraculous experiences in your prayer life?
Nothing flashy. I do sometimes feel God’s presence strongly when I’m praying, or, more typically, when I’m studying; it’s a Dominican thing. And I’ve seen enough to believe that intercessory prayer is definitely worth while and so I often do pray for others. I rarely find out what happens, and I’m OK with that—God’s in charge, and He’ll take care of it.
I’d like to see__________ answer these questions.
Julie Davis, Mike Flynn, and Melanie Bettinelli.
Anything else you’d like to add?
(Insert profound yet original thought into this space.)