Jen Fitz is a catechist, writer, author of Classroom Management for Catechists, and Vice President of the Catholic Writers Guild. I like the clear, no-nonsense posts explaining the faith at her blog Sticking the Corners here at Patheos. Today she joins me to answer the How I Pray questionnaire.
Who are you?
Jen Fitz. I’m a writer, and that is the worst thing possible for my prayer life.
What is your vocation?
I’m married, and the mother of four children ages 8-14. We homeschool. In terms of prayer means that I have very little uninterrupted time, ever, but much more ability to get away than I did when the children were younger.
What is your prayer routine for an average day?
I wish I knew. I used to have one, but it was completely obliterated when I was sick last spring. I keep trying to go back to it, but it doesn’t work because I don’t have the physical or mental stamina that I used to.
It is very disconcerting, because for the last sixteen or so years, my desire to pray and my ability to pray have steadily increased, and that feels like progress. I dislike being in a phase where I’m utterly unable to impress myself. So it’s all for the good.
How well do you achieve it, and how do you handle those moments when you don’t?
All my confessions lately involve “neglecting my prayer life.” (Other sins, too, but they’re off-topic.) I’m not really sure how much neglecting I’m doing, since I don’t know what I’m actually capable of, but I’m 100% sure at least part of the time I’m just a complete goof-off. (You can tell because I’m goofing off instead of praying, at all, with no obvious excuse to hide behind.) After confession I return to trying to figure out the new normal as best I can.
Do you have a devotion that is particularly important to you or effective?
Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, which is the most powerful thing, though I don’t get there very often. Chaplet of Divine Mercy is #2, think of it as Distance Adoration.
Something that’s so reliable it’s like running water is praying over the day’s Mass readings. That’s my bedrock, for certain. (And daily Mass if I can, but I go long stretches being unable to do that. It’s all I can do to drag myself in on Sundays, right now.)
Singing sacred music – both liturgical and ordinary inspirational or devotional — is very important to me, spiritually. I couldn’t sing while I was sick, and now can’t sing as much as I could before, but I can sing some and have to not forget it, because when I remember, everything’s better. Memorizing sacred music is probably the best thing you can do for yourself.
Do you have a place, habit, or way of praying?
For praying over scripture, a quiet room, a comfortable chair, and a cup of coffee.
For the Rosary or Chaplet, I really like to be moving — up walking around, or at the very least sitting in a lawn chair throwing a tennis ball for the dog. The only way I can pray either of those still is to be alone in church in silence, and I never get that, so I never pray still. Not never never, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve succeeded. I really stink at being still outside of the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
Do you use any tools or sacramentals?
The Daily Roman Missal is the one book I use more than any other, ever.
Something different: Lately I’ve been doing a lot driving kids places, way more than I used to, and that’s another thing that totally blew apart the old routine. But I also got a new phone that supports iBreviary. So I discovered that if you sit staring at your phone, everyone thinks you’re unsociable (correct) and they ignore you. So I can pray on the sly that way, just sitting and reading whatever hour it is, and I figure it’s not full-fledged “praying the office” (which I have never succeeded at doing), but by the time you’re sitting at volleyball practice at 7pm on a Friday evening, what exactly were you going to do with your brain anyway? Nothing good. So almost-praying is more than nothing.
I have a green scapular (blessed) and a brown scapular (not vested – I’m just trying it out to see what it’s like) that people gave me. Scapulars are the world’s most effective ward against pretension. Also I have my mom’s baptism cross, which she gave me the month before she died, and a medal of San Juan of Capistrano, a gift from a friend, that I wear. People give me things, and that’s how I build my life.
What is your relationship with the Rosary?
I accidentally joined the Legion of Mary. (You can read about it here: Reluctantly Agreeing to Pray the Daily Rosary – Snoring Scholar) Lately I’ve been ranked among the legion’s worst auxiliary members, but over the long haul, yeah, I’m in.
People have given me all these beautiful Rosaries, and I have a favorite one which I got up the nerve to get blessed (because I’m very shy about stuff like that, fault of shyness and not being raised doing any of this), and it has become my favorite thing. I just want it with me, then I worry about losing it, but then . . . anyway, it’s the best thing ever.
Is there one particular book or spiritual work that has been particularly important to your devotional life?
In addition to the Missal? The Mundelein Psalter. I got it for Christmas or something last year, and I was just getting started teaching myself to chant a bit of the office when I got sick and couldn’t sing, so I haven’t gotten far at all. Double-stymied by the fact that I’m a non-musician living with musicians, in a small house, which means that there’s no end to the grief when people are subject to your terrible singing. But I was blown away by what a difference it makes if you chant the office. It really opened my eyes to this whole dimension of prayer that has not quite disappeared from Catholic life, but almost, and that is so intensely vital. We need it back.
What is your current spiritual or devotional reading?
Umm . . . Just the daily Mass readings, I guess, and other praying business. I think I’m in between books right now.
Are there saints or other figures who inspire your prayer life or act as patrons?
Ha. Yeah. All of them.
What is one prayer you find particularly powerful or effective?
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Sometimes that’s the only thing I manage to pray. I’m not exaggerating when I say my prayer life can get shockingly close to moribund at times, sometimes for long stretches. So that prayer pretty much sums up my situation.
Have you had any unusual or even miraculous experiences in your prayer life?
Not that I recall, other than ordinary consolations. Lots of prayers answered, though. Oh wait, and some run-of-the-mill charismatic stuff. I mean, gosh, I don’t know. Nothing that’s like, “Wow! A miracle! Scientists Amazed!” But it’s all God, palpable, present, active. Very real. Very much there, interacting. I’m so spoiled on the normal God stuff. I love miracle-miracles, and I’ve heard about many of them, and it’s very edifying to be reminded of them. But for my own part it’s more just an everyday relationship. God does everything, and puts up with me into the bargain.
I’d like to see __________ answer these questions.
My parish priests. They’re such great guys, and they pretty much live like sneakers thrown into the dryer to bang around for an hour.
Anything else you’d like to add?
This was one of the most beneficial thing I’ve done for myself in ages. Thanks for asking me.