So what it is to be this year? One big penance or several small ones through the day, to remind me that I am dust and to dust I shall return? Or a combination of both? I know that something I need to do, and this will definitely factor into my Lent, is to establish a definite prayer time. I'm 36 years old, I've been Catholic all my life, I follow the precepts of the church, I don't eat meat on Fridays, I read the Bible with my children -- and I don't have a regular daily prayer time. I say little ejaculations throughout the day and I do try to meditate and pray at night in bed, especially when I can't fall asleep -- but I don't set aside time during the day for regular prayer.
Something I have done in the past months is to take on a small permanent penance. It's not too big or exciting -- no sugar in my tea except on Sunday. I only name it so no one thinks it's more onerous or challenging than it is. But what seems to matter more than the size of it is the regularity. I drink tea several times a day, and although I don't reach for the sugar anymore, or even want it that much now, I still remember that I'm not taking it, and that helps me turn my thoughts even for a moment. Pavlov's non-sugar for the spiritual life, perhaps.
I wish there were a good way to make the prayer look shorter, but the formatting really seems to help. It looks like it will take forever to say, but it doesn't.
For Ordering a Life Wisely
St. Thomas Aquinas
O merciful God, grant that I may
and bring to perfect completion
whatever is pleasing to You
for the praise and glory of Your name.
Put my life in good order, O my God
Grant that I may know
what You require me to do.
Bestow upon me
the power to accomplish your will,
as is necessary and fitting
for the salvation of my soul.
Grant to me, O Lord my God,
that I may not falter in times
of prosperity or adversity,
so that I may not be exalted in the former,
nor dejected in the latter.
May I not rejoice in anything
unless it leads me to You;
may I not be saddened by anything
unless it turns me from You.
May I desire to please no one,
nor fear to displease anyone,
May all transitory things, O Lord,
be worthless to me
and may all things eternal
be ever cherished by me.
May any joy without You
be burdensome for me
and may I not desire anything else
May all work, O Lord
delight me when done for Your sake.
and may all repose not centered in You
be ever wearisome for me.
Grant unto me, my God,
that I may direct my heart to You
and that in my failures
I may ever feel remorse for my sins
and never lose the resolve to change.
O Lord my God, make me
submissive without protest,
poor without discouragement,
chaste without regret,
patient without complaint,
humble without posturing,
cheerful without frivolity,
mature without gloom,
and quick-witted without flippancy.
O Lord my God, let me
fear You without losing hope,
be truthful without guile,
do good works without presumption,
rebuke my neighbor without haughtiness,
and -- without hypocrisy --
strengthen him by word and example.
Give to me, O Lord God,
a watchful heart,
which no capricious thought
can lure away from You.
Give to me,
a noble heart,
which no unworthy desire can debase.
Give to me
a resolute heart,
which no evil intention can divert.
Give to me
a stalwart heart,
which no tribulation can overcome.
Give to me
a temperate heart,
which no violent passion can enslave.
Give to me, O Lord my God,
understanding of You,
diligence in seeking You,
wisdom in finding You,
discourse ever pleasing to You,
perseverance in waiting for You,
and confidence in finally embracing You.
that with Your hardships
I may be burdened in reparation here,
that Your benefits
I may use in gratitude upon the way,
that in Your joys
I may delight by glorifying You
in the Kingdom of Heaven.
You Who live and reign,
God, world without end.
translation by Robert Anderson and Johann Moser