Morning Prayer for Dummies

originally written on 1/30/08

It's about 8AM, and I did something highly unusual this morning: I spend about an hour in prayer.

I wasn't on my knees, prostrate, in front of a bed or knelt in front of a statue or candle; I laid on my buddies couch, arms folded and the hood of my Michigan hoodie pulled up for warmth, talking with God then spending time in contemplation.

Morning prayer is something I've always had an issue with, not because of my spirituality but because I'm not a morning person. Cognitive activity right after waking up is not a strong suit for me, and I could never imagine saying anything truly important or worth-while when I was still trying to get the sleep-gunk out of my eyes.

That's not to say I thought the idea of morning prayer was not important. I still have memories of my Grandfather saying prayers at the family alter (something I rarely see outside of a Mexican household) early each day before going to work. While Grandma was in the kitchen making tortillas, the TV was off and everyone was quiet as my Grandfather, one of the most stoic and hardworking men I've ever met, knelt before the alter and prayed for 15-20 minutes. I didn't know Spanish, so I never knew what he talked to God about, whether it was free-flowing prayer or if he was reciting the Rosary, but each day before work he got down and prayed.

As I laid in prayer, I also began to think about some of the reasons why I felt called towards the Capuchins, both Divine and worldly. Lately I've felt the need to be honest with myself and accept how I see certain "opportunities" by joining a religious order. I feel bad even thinking about those ideas, but it's better to face my thoughts now rather than later.

If you read the exerpts from my autobiography, you'll see a concern that I never mentioned before: my mother. She has been whole-heartedly supportive of my decision and has never pushed me either way, at least not consciously. Yet while I worry about becoming my mother or trying to live up to some expectation, I recognize existing patterns in life, mistakes my mother and my Grandfather already made - mistakes I've made myself.

Like my mother, I did not finish college. I simply didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I'd been told to get to college, but not what to focus on once I got there. After a few years of college, I simply dropped out. To this day I still have dreams of returning and feel remorse for not trudging through and getting some kind of degree. My mom has shared those same feelings with me when asked about why she never pursued her art career.

Also like my mother and grandfather, we have never worked in any specialized field. While my grandfather was a migrant worker and my mother had me, I've had the opportunity to become something specific, something important. I contact others from my graduating class and see the degrees, the accomplishments, the high-paying jobs and wonder where I screwed up. Where could I be had I "buckled down" a little more?

For about half an hour I sat with the thoughts of my mistakes, how I mirrored the same mistakes of my mom, and how that's affected my desire to become a priest. Maybe I'm not really called...maybe I just see the Catholic Church as a means to get me educated and doing something specialized and important. Perhaps I'm looking for the most "over-the-top" career so that at the class reunion, I can tell everyone that's a CEO or software engineer that yes, I finally did make something of myself.

The question I asked myself was whether or not I'd truly given up my own definition of success: the one where money, status, and power prove one's importance. I admit feeling jealousy when I saw how others were making much more than I did or doing jobs I once wish I could do. In my heart there is still jealousy, but I think I've gotten over the small stuff. I feel jealous that people are where they are, where they felt called to be, and I'm still back here, jobless and living at home, trying to decide where exactly my calling is leading me. I know it's not right to be jealous of others, but I am human.

I can't say I came to any catharsis on the matter, I simply sat (actually laid) with those thoughts until finally getting out of bed (couch). Is that jealousy still there? Probably. But I feel better having recognized it and being able to sit with it. I feel better seeing how beneficial morning prayer can be. I feel better that I am joining the Capuchins for my reasons alone, and not to appease others. And I feel better simply because I've been "more" awake this morning than I have in a long time.

Perhaps it's time to start making my own small alter for my room.

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