Today's entry in the Pictorial Lives of the Saints told the story of St. Ludger. He was called to the court of Charlemagne to answer baseless allegations. Attentive to his Liturgy of the Hours (or Opus Dei as St. Benedict calls it, the Work of God) he ignored the summons for his audience with the king until he had had finished his prayers. The king was quite angry at the impudent bishop until St. Ludger explained to him God came before even the king.
Reflection.—Prayer is an action so sublime and supernatural, that the Church in her canonical hours teaches us to begin it by a fervent petition of grace to perform it well. What an insolence and mockery is it to join with this petition an open disrespect and a neglect of all necessary precautions against distractions! We ought never to appear before God, to tender him our homages or supplications, without trembling, and without being deaf to al-creatures, and shutting all our senses to every object that can distract our minds from God.
Praying the Hours FAIL
One of the duties of oblates is to pray the Hours, the same prayer for which St. Ludger delayed his meeting with the Charlemagne. The reflection is not pleasant. The Bear shall now confess what an unprofitable beast he is.
He says his prayers not according to a schedule, but whenever he feels like it. Sleep in? (Bears do that a lot.) 11:30 a.m. is technically morning, right? Compline never seems to get done at all because it is just too hard to coordinate bedtime prayers between a lark and a nightowl. If he has court or some other engagement, instead of waking up early enough to do them, he does them in the car while his driver, bodyguard and factotum Red Death drives. St. Benedict would not approve.
Hostage Negotiations With Terrierists
If he does them at all, the Bear is very careless. He always forgets to put the dogs up, and they immediately become possessed, barking and rattling their dishes. Sometimes Buster presents himself, growling softly with a high value hostage in his teeth, like Red Death's drivers license. So then prayers stop for hostage negotiations, usually involving cheese. (You think the the Bear jests? Yorkies are evil geniuses. He knows when he has us at a disadvantage.)
Even without such distractions, the Bear's mind wanders. He is deep in the Bavarian woods, chasing imaginary ponies before he's halfway through the first strophe of the invititory.
Prayer has become another box to tick off any old way. Same with another duty, our Bible reading. Isaiah goes on and on. We're almost done though! Mark him off the list and on to the next inspired book.
I'm not going to compare times. I have no real idea how pressured people felt in the 7th century from moment to moment. But things sure seem... busy now. Even when you're not doing much in particular. We have internalized busy-ness so that it is a personality trait, rather than being engaged in activities. When prayer isn't squeezed out, it still suffers from our daily checklist mentality. That can't be right! The Bear knows he should be more like his big brothers at St. Meinrad. But he's just such a Bear.
Sometimes it's hard not to just give up. But dissatisfaction has to be a good sign, right? Prayer is spending meaningful time with God, if it's anything. Sure there's something to be said for following a rule, even imperfectly, even if I don't "get anything out of it." To be the dumb beast, St. Teresa's "dolt." But I think that presupposes making a credible effort.
Lock up the dog. After two years, that's the advice the Bear can give about prayer. (Feel free to interpret that metaphorically if you wish.) Check back in two more years. ("Get out of bed first.")