Wednesday 21 December 2022

An interruption to the routine

People often come back from their summer holidays and find that they haven’t spent very much time in prayer. We sometimes hear about it afterwards in the confessional. A whole week or two can go past, and someone who would normally be very regular in praying every day — even someone who might often attend daily Mass — can suddenly realise that a whole week has passed without thinking very much about God at all. The same happens all too often during the Christmas period as well, and there can be a similar stream of confession in the New Year of those who felt they really should have spent a bit more time with God. Our late Fr Jerome used to point out that it is better that way round than the reverse — that we pray most of the time and might take a few weeks off, rather than praying only during holidays and not for the rest of the year! But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to avoid the problem altogether.

The reason for all this is that we human beings aren’t nearly as sophisticated as we like to make out. We don’t always think about all of our actions before we do them. We don’t always do the things we think about and decide to do. We depend on habits to help us perform daily tasks without having to think about them. Just think how tedious it would become if we had to decide each day when we would brush our teeth, what toothpaste we would use and how long we would brush them for…

We depend on our habits, and our habits depend on our routines. When the pattern of our day is more or less consistent, we know what we’re supposed to be doing and when. Prayer is supposed to be a routine thing. That doesn’t make it any less important or any less exciting than, for example, the routine time we spend with those we love. It’s part of our daily life, and not some extraordinary effort we make from time to time, precisely because it is essential.

The problem is that, when our routines get interrupted, so do our habits. And we forget to do things. If we know in advance that our routines are going to be interrupted over Christmas, we will need to make more of an effort to spend some time in prayer, if we want to make sure we don’t pass the Christmas period without missing the point.

At Christmas, God becomes man, like us in all things but sin, so that we can approach him with our cares, needs and worries, with our thoughts and feelings, with our prayer and praise — all without fear. It would be a shame to miss out on sharing that with him just because we forgot to fit it into our schedule.

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