Catholic Treasure Chest

The Need to Kneel

When I returned to the Catholic Church in 2013, it truly felt like a homecoming. I was back in the once-familiar sacred environment I hadn’t even realized I had missed. Back among the statues, the artwork, the stained glass windows, the choir music and all of the sacramentals that add layers of beauty and meaning and value to our faith. And it was as if I saw everything with a fresh set of eyes. I was drawn to the mystery of the tabernacle. I studied the face of Mary in the Pieta. I learned (for the first time?) that the mammoth stained glass windows in our church actually depict the mysteries of the rosary. And I filled a bottle with holy water to take home for my newly-purchased font, like I had when I was a kid (and which, btw, would often have a thin layer of ice on the top of it on the extra-cold winter mornings in my unheated upstairs bedroom!). None of these holy elements were present in the Protestant churches I had attended for 25 years. And my soul had missed them dearly. It puts a grateful lump in my throat just to write about it five years later.

But do you want to know the most surprising item in Church that I never knew I missed and craved and needed in my spiritual life all those years away?

The kneelers.

That’s right. When I came back to the Church, I also returned to the custom of kneeling on a regular basis: Kneeling during Mass. Kneeling during Adoration. And kneeling to pray every morning before the crucifix that hangs near my prayer chair.

I missed kneeling to worship my God. When I was a lukewarm cradle Catholic, using the kneelers was an automatic response to certain words and moments in the liturgy. I put no thought into it (other than when the kneelers would slip and make an embarrassingly loud crash on the marble floor!). I took it for granted. And the Protestant church we attended had no kneelers whatsoever, so the practice simply faded away.

But, oh, my dear friends, how we need to kneel.

That thought came rushing back to me this morning as I read Laura Kelly Fanucci’s reflection in the Blessed is She Advent Journal, “In the Beginning.” She was pondering the visit of the three wise men, and their instinct to fall down and worship the infant Christ Child when at last they found him. She surmised it was an overwhelming mixture of awe and wonder and joy that compelled them to fall to their knees.

I can name several times in my life when I fell to my knees, but it was not in awe and wonder and joy. It was in desperation: When my father-in-law coded after his heart surgery. When my dad died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. When my first baby was lost to miscarriage. Those are times when we involuntarily kneel because we can no longer support ourselves and we need the arms of Jesus to hold us, lift us, carry us.

But now, in this holy season of Advent, as I consider anew the coming of the Savior of the World, I want to fall to my knees more often. In awe and wonder and joy. But also in utter thankfulness. And in surrender. When I am on my knees with my head bowed, it is a posture of humility and surrender and reminds me that this is what my Lord wants from me.

“All He wants is us—not our wealth, or achievements or status or power. Just the open gift of ourselves. We can give Him this. There is nothing to achieve this Advent. There is only ourselves to surrender. He only wants you,” says Laura in the journal. “Sink to your knees. Turn to wonder and worship. Bow your head and let your heart rest in His in joy.”

She knows it. The three wise men knew it. And after decades away, I figured it out too.

We need to kneel.

Sink to your knees–at your bedside, at Mass, during a walk in the woods–wherever!–and give yourself to your Savior this Advent. It’s the best gift you could give him.

Praying with a Pen

Jump Those Prayer Journaling Hurdles! Hurdle #4

The fourth in our series of prayer journaling hurdles is for you folks who assume you need to have writing talent in order to prayer journal—not true!

Prayer journaling hurdle #4: I hate to write; I just hate it. Don’t panic or hyperventilate over this one, my friend. Prayer journaling is a low-stress form of writing—no brown paper bags will be needed to keep you calm. Your writing is never graded, it doesn’t require those tedious footnotes that made us all despise writing term papers, and it doesn’t have to follow any particular style. It’s just you and the pen and the paper and whatever you want to write, however you want to write it. You don’t even have to write in sentences! Now that’s not something your high school English teacher would approve of, but believe me, God doesn’t care about spelling or grammar or sentence structure or the legibility of your handwriting. Neither should you. And breathe even easier, my friend: no artistic talent is necessary in prayer journaling. All those new, trendy journals that promote drawings and decorations and multi-color pens and pencils are not the point here. It says “stress-free” in this book’s subtitle, right? We’re going to keep it simple. It’s about heart-to-heart communication with God, not creating a work of art or writing a best-selling novel.




Praying with a Pen

Jump Those Prayer Journaling Hurdles! Hurdle #3

Are you ready to take on the third common objection I hear when I suggest the practice of prayer journaling? It’s probably the most popular one of all, and with good reason. It’s legitimate!

Hurdle #3: I just don’t have time—I can barely manage to brush my teeth every day. I hear ya. I recall when my first child was born and I was on maternity leave. My husband would return home from work at the end of the day and find me still in my bathrobe—I had two college degrees but I couldn’t find a way to take a shower while I was caring for my newborn. Happily (for all of us), I settled in to a routine and managed to figure out how to fit in appropriate personal hygiene. Here’s the ugly truth, girlfriend: For most of us, it’s all about priorities. And taking that first intentional step. And maybe setting your alarm a few minutes earlier, or giving up some social media time, or asking for a little help in the mornings if needed. In later chapters of my book, we go over some tips and tricks to finding the time to spend with Jesus. Prayer journaling will soon become part of your routine.

Praying with a Pen

Jump Those Prayer Journaling Hurdles! Hurdle #2

We are on to hurdle #2 of our series of 6 Prayer Journaling Hurdles we can all overcome. Take a big breath and leap into prayer journaling! You won’t regret it!

Hurdle #2: I’m afraid I’m going to mess it up somehow. You are God’s beloved child. Remember? Beloved! This is your time to just sit back and be his daughter while you journal. If you stumble and fall and stop journaling for a while, forgive yourself (He does!) and get back to it as soon as you can. No one is keeping track or tallying the score. Just the fact that you’re reading this post and have a desire to talk more to God already makes him smile. He is delighted by your effort and intention. You can’t mess it up.

(Taken from my new book, “Praying with a Pen: The Girlfriends’ Guide to Stress-Free Prayer Journaling” available October, 2017. ) 

Praying with a Pen

Jump Those Prayer Journaling Hurdles! Hurdle #1

Have you always wanted to try prayer journaling but have had reservations? Are you uncertain how to begin? You’ve come to the right place, sister! This is #1 of 6 objections/concerns I hear frequently when I discuss prayer journaling. Let’s jump these hurdles together, OK?

  1. This is just too weird. “Writing to God” could be something really foreign to you, I know. Many Catholics, especially those of us who are—(cough, cough)—middle-age, are unfamiliar with this notion of talking to God beyond using the prayers we were taught as children. During the twenty-plus years I spent away from the Catholic Church, years when I attended a Protestant church with my husband and children, I learned many wonderful things from my Christian brothers and sisters. One of those blessings was the importance of unscripted conversation with Jesus. They made it all so…simple. Uncomplicated. Personal. I had missed that lesson in my Catholic upbringing, and unfortunately, many from my era did too. Younger Catholics may find it just as challenging. Let’s face it: In a world that increasingly seems to barely recognize God, informal prayer can be challenging no matter what age we are. But through prayer journaling, informally conversing with Jesus eventually became more comfortable for me, and it will become more comfortable for you as well. After a few weeks, all of the “weirdness” will disappear, I guarantee it!

(Taken from my new book, “Praying with a Pen: The Girlfriends’ Guide to Stress-Free Prayer Journaling” available October, 2017. )