Sacrificial Prayer is living out your life in imitation of Christ

It’s FYI Wednesday and I have asked fellow Catholic moms for questions that they might have on such topics as motherhood and spirituality, children’s spiritual development, finding time for yourself, or just to learn more about Spiritual Direction; here is the latest question asked by Susan:

Hello! i got a question for weds..how can changing diapers and cleaning house be a form of prayer? How can it be used as a sacrificial prayer and how does sacrificial prayer work?

Oh My Gosh, let me rummage through and find my theologian’s cap!

First a note to the newest moms among us: It is so difficult for young new moms to see the end of the tunnel that is the sleepless nights of infanthood to have time to even think about their spirituality that they should take time to heal and rest.  I think God is hoping that these moms will attend Mass but spend a great of bit of time caring for their newest family member and for the moms to give themselves time to regain mommy momentum.  After they have regained that momentum that is enough time to begin to understand themselves anew as they have become new persons because of motherhood.

Most of us are familiar with the idea of everything you should do should be a form of prayer, it’s based on Philippians 4:6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. It is a very Benedictine way of life.  Well, what that means is everything we do from nappies to cleaning the house takes on a sacredness.

Saint Benedict was the son of a Roman noble of Nursia.  He was a young man of his time, but unlike his fellow companions he was more interest in a life of scholarly pursuits.  He became a monk and lived for several years as a hermit, and later created an order of monks whose motto and rule is ora et labora (“pray and work”).

His model for the monastic life was akin to a family, with the abbot as father and all the monks as brothers. Priesthood was not initially an important part of Benedictine monasticism – monks used the services of their local priest. Because of this, almost all the Rule is applicable to communities of women under the authority of an abbess.

The Rule organizes the monastic day into regular periods of communal and private prayer, sleep, spiritual reading, and manual labour – ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus, “that in all [things] God may be glorified” (cf. Rule ch. 57.9). In later centuries, intellectual work and teaching took the place of farming, crafts, or other forms of manual labour for many – if not most – Benedictines

Here are some blogs of moms who have taken Benedict’s rule and applied them to their family life:

A Mother’s Rule of Life A blog by Holly Pierlot in which she blogs exclusively about living Saint Benedict’s rule. She also has quite a nice book and program to go with it.

You shall accept all sufferings with love. Do not be afflicted if your heart often experiences repugnance and dislike for sacrifice. All its power rests in the will, and so these contrary feelings, far from lowering the value of sacrifice in My eyes, will enhance it.

—as told to Saint Faustina, Diary, 1767

As with all things spiritual there is a connectedness.  Seeing all things as subjects to bring to God, working so all things give Glory to God leads us to something we, as mothers, know very well; being selfless.

Now let’s try and tackle Sacrificial Prayer.  Sacrificial Prayer is not the sack cloth and ashes praying that Jesus rebukes in Matthew 6:16-18: When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,  so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. How is that important?  I believe it is important because we don’t want others paying more attention to what we are doing than what God does in our lives.  Like ALL things we do when we live out our lives we are showing people who we TRULY are, not just who we say we are; and making a huge show of anything isn’t going to make you look like a good person, in the long run it might just backfire.

What makes up Sacrificial Prayer.

There are several aspects of Sacrificial Prayer.  Let’s begin with the aspect of fasting.  Fasting is no joke, there are very proven psychological and spiritual effects on us when we fast.  First it focuses our minds.  I have had experiences with fasting.  I did a twenty-four hour fast for the intentions of my friends and family.  What happened to me was quite interesting.  At first it was a piece of cake, (I know it’s a pun), for about four hours, but as hungry built, prayer became a way of focusing my mind on what was important.
Secondly, fasting heightens our senses, sharpening our minds, making us awaken to God in a new and important way; without distractions we can now take time to “hear” God.  Here is an excellent post on fasting from the Catholic Education Resource Center

The virtue of Obedience is also part of Sacrificial Prayer.  We are asked to be in full obedience to the Church, but also to our imitation of Christ through our:

The Corporal Works of Mercy

  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Clothe the naked
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Visit the sick
  • Visit the imprisoned
  • Bury the dead

The Spiritual Works of Mercy

  • Admonish the sinner
  • Instruct the ignorant
  • Counsel the doubtful
  • Comfort the sorrowful
  • Bear wrongs patiently
  • Forgive all injuries
  • Pray for the living and the dead

And because we are imperfect humans our obedience is never going to be full and for those times and for those acts we must ask forgiveness, reuniting us with a God that is over the moon in love with us.

What finally binds all these together is prayer.

Prayer refers to our unceasing communion with divine will. Because our lives belong to God, not to ourselves, we must dwell in God’s presence in every moment of our lives. We must pray constantly for God’s mercy, for nothing else in life has any enduring meaning. And we must pray for the repentance and conversion of anyone who injures or insults us, lest our lives remain stuck in bitterness and vengeance.

Psychological Healing in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Sacrificial Prayer is a combination of living out our life in imitation of Christ, participating in the Mass, obeying the Church, praying and living in a sense of love of other and God.  As mothers our lives reflect Sacrificial Prayer when we understand that caring for our family is an imitation of the Holy Family, imperfectly trying to be as God calls us to be.

Susan, I hope this answers your question, let me know in the comment section below.

Is a spiritual director working helping moms find God in the everyday. She has been a spiritual director since 1998: worked as a Director of Religious Education for Holy Cross Parish(2000-2005), was Director of Project Rachel, a healing ministry for Post Abortive women(1999-2000). Patty worked a social worker for Catholic Social Services (1988 – 1995) Then studied for spiritual direction at the Dominican Center of Religious Studies, DeWitt Michigan

She is married 20 years and has four children

She has a BS/BA in social work from Aquinas College, CSD Certified Spiritual Director

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