A call to prayer from the monastery’s bell-- prayerful disciplines for Lent

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What comes to mind when you hear the word “discipline?”

Punishment? Do you think of those times as a child when you were disciplined by your parents for doing something wrong?

Dull, repetitive actions such as practicing a musical instrument or working out to keep in shape? Perhaps even prayer, like reciting the rosary, feels like such a discipline, an endless repetition of Our Fathers and Hail Marys.

The scriptures say, “… for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines;” But it also says, “At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” Hebrews 12: 6, 11

The latter half of verse eleven is the key. Discipline acts as a teacher. Sometimes it needs to be administered by a parent or from God himself. However, as spiritual adults I believe we are asked to discipline ourselves. At first it may seem like punishment but with perseverance we can establish good habits that will aid us in our spiritual growth. After weeks of such discipline, we will wake up one day and experience that “peaceful fruit” of which the scriptures speak, making it all worthwhile.

I was resistant at first to applying discipline to my spiritual life. How can a discipline be heartfelt? I remember watching “The Nun’s Story” with Audrey Hepburn and noticing the way she chafed at the bell ringing for prayer. She hated the interruption and even openly complained to her superior that the bell disrupted important spiritual conversations with patients or interfered with her work as a surgical nurse.

Yet, in the end, I ended up establishing a regimen of prayer with that bell in mind. And like Hepburn’s Sister Luke, I too chafe sometimes at the interruption of that bell. In the end, however, that discipline has proven to be my lifeline to God, showing that prayer runs far deeper than my fickle and fleeting emotions.

Lent offers a wonderful opportunity to establish a prayerful spiritual discipline. I would like to offer my regimen as an example.

I use technology to assist me in my daily prayer discipline:

  • Building reminders into Google calendar I set up my iPhone to chime like the bell of a monastery as my reminder to pray. The bell chimes at the top of each hour between 9am and 3pm. Each short prayer is devoted to a specific theme or intention:
    • 9am—dedicating my day to God using the Prayer of Charles de Foucauld, prayed each day by Henri Nouwen. I have set aside this time to pray for myself.
    • 10am—prayer for the unemployed
    • 11am—daily readings from at the USCCB website accompanied by a short meditation from The Word Among Us website.
    • 12 noon—praying the Angelus and offering petitions for clergy and consecrated lay persons.
    • 1pm—praying for those in need of healing.
    • 2pm—prayers for those who don’t know Jesus; also for Christian martyrs.
    • 3pm—Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

Even though a busy work schedule can sometimes get in the way of meaningful prayer, the discipline always serves as a reminder that God is with me. At times I feel a surge of consolation in my prayer, a sweet and “peaceful fruit.”

As you establish and grow into your ritual, be prepared for dry times as the foundation is built. Habits established over time become ingrained and indispensible. It’s when they become second nature that true prayer begins.

copyright 2015 Susan W. Bailey

Art/Photography:  Manastirea Neamtului – July 2008, Name – Cristian Bortes, Flickr Creative Commons;

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About Author

Susan Bailey is an writer, speaker and musician. She is the author of River of Grace Creative Passages Through Difficult Times, published by Ave Maria Press, and Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message, part of the Literary Portals to Prayer series published by ACTA Publications. Along with her own blogs Be As One and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion), Susan frequently contributes to CatholicMom.com and the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers. She has also contributed to Catholic.net and Catholic Online. Susan writes articles and a monthly column known as Be as One for the Diocese of Worcester newspaper, The Catholic Free Press. Bailey, who works as a marketing/advertising assistant for a local real estate firm, is an associate member of the Commission for Women of the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts, where previously she served as chair and secretary, helping to organize the biennial “Gather Us In” women’s conference, one of the first major Catholic women’s conferences in the country. As part of her duties she wrote the monthly column for The Catholic Free Press known as “Concerning Women” and appeared on CatholicTV’s “This is the Day” to promote the conference. A professional musician and graphic artist, Bailey released four CDs, performed on EWTN, CatholicTV and World Youth Day 2002, and worked as a cantor in her parish of St. Luke the Evangelist for fifteen years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education (with concentrations in US History and Music) from Bridgewater State University. She and her husband, Rich, have two grown children and live in North Grafton, Massachusetts. Susan invites you to join her email list where you will receive updates on exciting professional developments and speaking engagements. Email subscribers also receive special giveaways and previews of new projects. Susan loves a good conversation and looks forward to corresponding with you! Join here.

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