We can pray anywhere we want, but generally, if we want to sit down with the Liturgy of the Hours or the Rosary, the television and all other distraction needs to be shut off. Some will pray the Rosary from a recorded tape of the Rosary, and while this helps the elderly or homebound sick people, the Rosary is best prayed by saying the whole prayer, or at least the bottom half. Ideally, another person in your home can participate, and then it becomes a family prayer. This is of course also true in monasteries, convents and seminaries. Unfortunately not in all. Many teach that the Rosary is a personal devotion and not meant for communal prayer. I'm not sure I agree with that reasoning.

Although the Liturgy of the Hours can be, and often is said in community, most Secular Franciscans, apart from Fraternity meetings, will pray it alone. If this is the case, it is a wonderful practice to say these prayers of the Church in front of the Blessed Sacrament, be it at Adoration in an Adoration Chapel or Church, or in front of the Tabernacle. However, NOT during Holy Mass, please. Some older folks pray the Rosary during Mass, and if they're used to this for years, I won't dissuade you, although the norm is to say the Rosary apart from Holy Mass. Holy Mass has its own prayers, readings, hymns, etc., and we're kept pretty active with those, so I cannot quite see how any other prayer can be done at the same time while concentrating on the Mass.

While I was in religious life, as a monk (about 5 years), we were an order of brothers. Having no clerics in our midst, we daily attended Liturgy with a group of Benedictines at their Abbey. Benedictines, particularly the cloistered ones, sing the Liturgy of the Hours in Latin, in Gregorian Chant. They do this with great zeal and accuracy, and it is extremely conducive to meditation or contemplation. It is, in fact, beautiful, if Chant goes along with your musical tastes. Personally, I love polyphonic chant, which are groups of voices singing different tones together, music in which separate voices sing together, not in unison or octaves but as diverging parts. That is very special. These same Benedictine men did that also, jointly with a group of Benedictine nuns.

Jesus refers to private prayer as that done in your private room. ...When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. [Mat 6:6] Here, "inner room" does not necessarily refer to a physical room, but more as "apart from other people." One can just disconnect from conversation, and move to the street away from the house you are in, and there you can pray in secret, too. I used to go take long walks in the woods, where I was alone with God. Or, you can sit next to the pool, or on a terrace, and you are alone with God.

Have you ever heard the term "Controlling the Senses?" That is what we have to do, when we are receiving numerous distractions while praying. The senses I mean are those of hearing, seeing, smell, taste, and feeling. Let me give some subtle examples of these. Suppose we are distracted from our prayer, or listening to God, when someone comes in the room, and our ears attune automatically to what is spoken ... so we must control our hearing and just forget that the other person is there. Yes, it can be done.

Stop looking through windows, at people (e.g. what they are wearing, if they are fidgetting or not), in short control your eyes. Keeping your eyes focussed on the Tabernacle will assure that you stay with the prayer you have begun. Or, a lovely lady comes in, and your nose instantly becomes aware of the perfume she is wearing, and you begin to think of other perfumy smells, that may have led to less noble ideas. And now, the fat is in the fire again, for your prayer is interrupted by your concentration on what you are smelling. Taste works in a similar way, I won't get into that one, but I am sure you get the picture. And, of course, feeling is worst of all. A supposed innocent touch or even a handshake can take your thoughts away from prayer and church totally, especially if you do not have firm control of your senses.

Let's face it, we are all sexual persons. No one can deny that because it is part and parcel of how we were created, but if we check our senses through some solid self-control, you'll be able to live a life of greater purity and you won't get constantly distracted in prayer.

Keep praying, and may God bless you. Next time I'll reflect on: 3. Prayer of Reparation


Fred Schaeffer, SFO
16 January, 2009