In any event, if there is something I can say to help others, especially those overwhelmed with trying to balance work with family life, I’m happy to share some thoughts on the subject of prayer.
I could mention the obvious; make time for prayer, even 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night as suggested by Fr. Larry Richards. Also obvious is the need to make it habitual, like exercise. We are creatures of habit and we love our routines. Unfortunately, many of our routines and habits begin when we are doing something we consider fun, interesting, or intriguing. Prayer, the Sacraments, and Mass attendance don’t seem to be motivating people to develop those routines and habits in quite the same way that other things do. Sports, social media, television, and a host of other things become habitual for us because they interest or intrigue us; they’re fun, interesting, or exciting. Before we know it, we’d rather be doing those things than fulfilling our duties. Philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell once said that we love our habits more than we love our life. So developing a habit and routine of prayer is more difficult than it seems. Most people simply don’t find it interesting or exciting or fun…at least not at the outset.
A far stronger motivator is fear. Fear is probably that which has me praying more and more the older I get. But why would I be afraid? Jesus tells us not to be afraid. I’ve been told to “let go, let God.” I know that Jesus and His saints were amazingly strong in turning everything over to the will of God. I remember the words of our Blessed Mother, “Be it done unto me according to Thy will.” But I’m not afraid for myself (though I am horrified at the choices I’ve made and am capable of making), and that is the sort of fear I think these sorts of exhortations are referring. No, the fear that motivates me to pray increasingly more is a fear for my children. I know I can’t live their lives. Two of the three are now adults. They will “live and learn.” They have their own free will. They have to make their own choices and be held accountable for them. I’ve heard all of these things, I don’t doubt any of them. But I do continue to fear that they will become a statistic; you know, the increasing percent of young people who leave the Church, who choose cohabitation over marriage, who develop addictions, who endorse things like abortion rights and homosexual marriage, who say they don’t need to attend even Sunday Mass to be a good person, who say that everyone except just a few get into heaven, or who pride themselves on being modernists (progressives?) without knowing that modernism was condemned by Pius X over 100 years ago.
This is the type of fear that motivates my prayer life on a daily or near-continual basis. I am motivated by a dreadful fear for my children; the thought of them losing their salvation or even trying to bear the challenges of this life without Grace. Every time I am able to attend a weekday Mass and offer a Rosary before or after that Mass, I am doing so entirely for my kids. That is all of my motivation; fear is a powerful motivator though maybe not a positive motivator. But that is the focus of my spiritual life; my kids and their salvation; and I very often feel I am at odds with a culture that is pulling them in the other direction. I have tried talking, modeling, encouraging, arguing, debating, etc., etc., etc., but my greatest comfort and confidence comes through prayer. If I can offer one more Mass, one more Rosary, one more Memorare, one more act of sacrifice for the reparation for or penance of my own sinfulness (thereby possibly making my prayers more efficacious), then I am motivated by fear to do so for their benefit.
Though this may be indicative of an immature or superficial spirituality, or simply just bad theology on my part, it is the reason behind my prayer life. I got it from my parents, so some would call it “Old School”; but I have come to experience real results, and that also keeps me going. Now, if I knew their salvation was guaranteed, I’d likely spend my time differently; but it’s not and so I do what I do entirely for their benefit. Like I said at the beginning, it’s a struggle, but one with which I’ve become both comfortable and hopeful. Next to my faith, I think they are quite possibly the best thing that’s ever happened to me; I don’t want to fail them.
AUTHOR: MARTY SHUDAK
Marty Shudak has been married to Suzanne for 22 years. They have three children, Elizabeth (21), Martin (18), and Danny (14). He is a life-long member of Holy Family - Corpus Christi. Elizabeth and Martin are graduates of St. Albert ('13 and '15 respectively) and both currently attend Iowa State University and the St. Thomas Aquinas parish in Ames. Danny is a freshman at St. Albert. Both Suzanne and Marty work for Council Bluffs Schools where Suzanne teaches first grade at College View and Marty works with assessments, testing, and program evaluations.