November 16, 2009

Pro Innumerabilibus Neglegentiis Meis

Like most mornings, I got up today, made some coffee, and then sat down with my breviary to pray the Office of Readings. That's when I noticed that I had forgotten to pray Evening Prayer last night; the ribbons were still set at the end of Sunday Daytime Prayer, Week I.

I know how it happened: At midday yesterday I knew that I would be at the funeral home in the afternoon for a wake, so I saved my Daytime Prayer for then, carrying a breviary along. But the wake went very quickly, and I was in and out in just a few minutes with prayers said and the funeral Mass planned. Once I got home and had the funeral Mass squared away, it was already late in the afternoon, and I still had the Daytime Prayer to offer. So I did, thinking I would then save Evening Prayer for after supper. Not so wise, it turned out, because I never remembered to get back to it.

This sort of thing provides a simple example for a reflection on guilt, negligence, and the locating of culpability in our lives. It is an objectively serious sin for me as a religious and a priest to neglect to offer one of the hinge hours (i.e. Morning and Evening Prayer.) On the other hand, I didn't miss the prayer on purpose, but simply forgot. But this doesn't mean that I am not culpable. The sin, however, lies not in "missing Evening Prayer" but in failing to live a life that is vigilant and mindful enough so that grave obligations are not simply forgotten.

In my experience as a sinner, penitent, and confessor, there are many situations like this in which actual guilt lies not in the sinful act or sinful negligence, but in the failure to organize the rest of one's life in order to avoid occasions of sin and provide occasions of faithfulness. I think this is often true of ingrained habits of sin, particularly around the areas of speech or chastity. The spiritual work called for is not to "stop doing x" but to find the willingness to re-arrange one's life and patterns of thought to reduce the maladaptive function of the sin or to rid oneself of its occasions. For this reason I often invite penitents to 'do a little detective work,' trying to notice when and under what internal and external circumstances stubborn bad habits are likely to materialize. Turning this reflection on myself, I'm reminded that the fatigue and unstructured quietness of Sunday afternoon needs to be an invitation into the mystery of prayer, not an occasion of forgetting who I am and what I have promised.

8 comments:

Buck George said...

The spiritual work called for is not to "stop doing x" but to find the willingness to re-arrange one's life and patterns of thought to reduce the maladaptive function of the sin or to rid oneself of its occasions.

Thanks for this. It's something I needed to hear this morning.

FrankCaiati said...

"Turning this reflection on myself, I'm reminded that the fatigue and unstructured quietness of Sunday afternoon needs to be an invitation into the mystery of prayer, not an occasion of forgetting who I am and what I have promised."

This is fantastic. I find that I do have a tendency to "slip-up" or "forget" my call to live rich Catholic life in the unstructured, or more often, idle times. I sometimes justify my idleness with- "I'm a good Catholic. I just happened to be engrossed in my Facebook page for a half-hour."
...But, couldn't something more spiritually productive happen in that half-hour? I think we need to re-examine just how precious time really is.

pennyante said...

A perfect example for reflection is my own problem with forgetfulness. I can't seem to develop a strategy to remember to ask God to bless my food at mealtime. Such a seemingly simple lapse; yet it happens time and time again even though I DO want to thank God for his many blessings.

It aggravates me no end that I can dive into a meal and only later do I remember that I have forgotten to thank God for it.

The only good thing about the forgetfulness is that when I DO remember, I pray that thanksgiving and then specifically remember those who have nothing... recalling the terrible hunger that people experience whether through natural disaster or man's inhumanity to man...

Thanks for your timely post...

KAM said...

Excellent self-examination which we can all benifit from. I just spent a Saturday night just like that, watching 'The Matrix' for the second time. I did do Evening Prayer, but that's as far as it got. I had the night to myself and I blew it...

Qualis Rex said...

Pennyante - try physically crossing yourself and saying outloud "thank you God, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." Before you put any food into your mouth. Once it becomes second nature your food will taste better (or worse, since your senses are heightened...not joking) and you will never forget, since it becomes a physical and mental response.

4narnia said...

nice reminder to us all on how to really go deeper into an examination of conscience, Fr. C! i agree that Sundaay afternoon & evening can be a very "quiet, unstuctured time," as you mentioned-especially after a busy weekend. so, most of the time i try to make Sunday afternoon/evening a time dedicated to personal spirituality, rest & renewal, especially since the week and beginning of the weekends are so busy. the way i spend this time is by maybe fasting; reading some Sacred Scriture; i start reflecting on the next Sunday readings so that i'm prepared if i'm lectoring; i might watch a spiritual dvd, etc... i really try to dedicate at least the later part of most Sundays to God. circumstances change sometimes that might pull us away from certain ways we normally spend our time, so don't be too hard on yourself for forgetting to pray-maybe you prayed in a different way or maybe were present for someone who needed your company. occasionally, i miss saturday morning prayer with all of you at SH, but that only happens because i might not be feeling too well or it might be weather-related. so, we can't be too hard on ourselves. we are people of prayer. PEACE! ~tara t~

pennyante said...

Qualis Rex: unfortunately, the problem is still there. Because then I would have to remember to cross myself. Maybe I need to do the thread tied around my finger! Actually, I'm serious... maybe that's what it will take... I'll give it a try...

Perhaps, all is not lost though since when I do remember, I pray much more deeply in thanksgiving for my blessings and remember in prayer those who have nothing.

Bless said...

Father C. All of us get into this situation sometimes. Please do not be hard on yourself. Our good Lord understands all the things in our life. It will be a good idea to put an alarm in your room's clock or lay your book by your bed so you will not miss your prayer.I put mine beside my laptop so it always reminds me to pray before opening my computer.Peace!