Monday, June 02, 2014


Over the summers I spent serving with The Missionaries of Charity, I logged many an hour in their chapels. Let me tell you, those women pray. And pray. And pray.

Their primary prayer is to radiate Jesus, to be so united to God that people look up and see no longer Sister Paul Jose or Sister Miriam, but Jesus.

One of their oddest prayers is for regularity.

Yes, regularity.

They're not talking about their personal habits, but rather about a life of rhythm and routine. They get up at the same time six days a week (that would early); they eat lunch at the same time; they have recreation at the same time.

They live a life of order.

Of course, I should point out that they are, in fact, an Order. Many of us who have served with the sisters returned to our lives and found ourselves frustrated that we couldn't maintain the rhythm of prayer and devotion that we had grown to love. But the lives of the laity are not structured around prayer and liturgy and service. Though many of us incorporated aspects of the sisters' spirituality into our lives, a simple fact remained: We were not Missionaries of Charity.

But lately I have been thinking about regularity -- to the avoid the giggles, we'll call it rhythm -- and pondering how to bring it into my life to a greater degree.

We have had seasons during which the only rhythm was no rhythm at all. When you have babies in the house, two things seem to be constant: a) inconsistent sleep patterns and b) sickness. Even if A is going swimmingly, if B rears its head, A goes right out the window.

Sometimes rhythm is foisted upon us. When my oldest started school, wow!, what a shock compared to the laid-back days of toddlers.

We have to be there by 8:30?

Like, everyday?

The lunch thing alone seemed daunting. And then there was vacation. You mean I can't up and head to the beach on a Wednesday morning? Not that I really ever did that. But when suddenly  I couldn't, well, I felt my wings had been clipped a little.

I laugh now looking back on all those constraints I felt when Tim started school. Making a lunch -- that would be one single lunch. -- seems pitiful compared to making considerably more lunches while proof-reading a son's newly programmed website and picking up lemons and galvanized nails to make a battery for chemistry class and shuttling people to and from swim team and getting home barely on time for a music festival and then rounding up uniforms for the next day.

A friend of mine asked if I look forward to the end of school.

Yes, oh yes, I do. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

Mostly because I enjoy a change of pace. (And come Labor Day, I will be delighted to snap a photo of all four cherubs in their crisp uniforms and shiny new shoes heading off to start a new year).

But today, the first day of vacation, I am delighted that Kolbe's spending the night with a friend, that Tim is still sawing logs in the next room.

We attended a high school honors banquet last night, a neat event to cap off what has been, for the most part, a good year. The faculty recognizes achievement in a wide variety of areas -- academics, sports, fine arts, leadership, character, service.

Can I hear a shout out for my friend Rachel whose five boys (five!) all received perfect attendance awards? Forget the kids; I think they should have given Rachel a plaque. Believe me, that says as much about the mother as it does about the boys.

The principal began the evening with a prayer and a scripture passage. It may have been Proverbs 21:5: The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage.

The Bible says plenty about fortitude, about diligence. I love Saint Paul's admonition to run the race set before you and to run it to win.

Last night rewarded diligence: the boy who studied violin for twelve years, the MVP who logged innumerable hours practicing free throws, the girl who maintained a 99% average, the parent who has been a classroom volunteer for fifteen years.

On our recent trip to Disney, my niece was undone by the number of times we stopped by McDonald's on the way in and out of the parks. (Believe me, dear Hannah, I avoided the Golden Arches for about a month afterwards). But, really, it's not the three-day overload of fast food that clogs the arteries and devastates the waistline. Your bones don't grow brittle when you don't run for a day or a week or even a year. You don't become valedictorian by cramming off and on. You don't radiate Jesus by attending an amazing retreat once a year.

No, it's all about diligence, habits, rhythm. The sisters are right to pray for regularity.

1 Corinthians 9:24 -- Run in such a way as to win the prize.


christinelaennec said...

Such an interesting post, Kelly. Recently I was talking to a friend who doesn't get much notice as to what his work shifts will be every two weeks. I said "Oh I would hate not to know what I was doing" and then burst into semi-hysterical laughter because for the past nearly three years, with our daughter too ill for school, we have been making it up day by day by day... The regularity of a daily routine is vitally important for healing - and making up what you do within that routine has been good too.

Kelly Dolin said...

Christine - I read something recently that said when things aren't normal, do normal things. I think we all derive healing and comfort from routine.You have had to be so tremendously flexible making it up day by day.

When we had that crazy ice storm, I kept thinking, "This would be fine if I just knew when it would end." But we don't always know when normal will be back.

Kris said...

This is why I like swim team at the beginning of summer - it gives us some semblance of a routine to follow. Sort of easing into the crazy, lazy days of July.

Kelly Dolin said...

Kris - I totally agree. I think by August the heat and monotony would make bums of us and we'd never be able to pull off swim team.