Jeff Miller has sent me a meme on favorite spiritual devotions. My answers won't be as good as Jeff's, but here are my responses anyway.
I'm tagging Amy, Gerald, Thomas, Father Z, Mark and Jimmy.
These questions are specific to Catholics, so I won't tag my non-Catholic friends with the same meme. Nonetheless, I'd love to see them post on their own daily personal spirituality habits. In particular I'd love to hear from Scot McKnight, Joel Willitts and Michael Bird, and other scholars for whom faith and study go hand-in-hand. Those without blogs should feel free to use my comment box.
1. Favorite devotion or prayer to Jesus. Of course, the Liturgy of the Mass. In addition, I would have to say the Divine Office (a.k.a. the "Liturgy of the Hours" or the "Breviary"). I love the way it helps focus your day around Scripture. The psalms, the Scripture readings, the early church fathers' homilies on Scripture--what better way is there to pray than to read Scripture with the Church. I love knowing what the Pope prayed each day. And you're not just reading with the Church today--you are also praying as Christians have prayed for centuries.
My prayer life is so wrapped up around the breviary that if I don't get morning prayer in the rest of the day usually falls apart.
2. Favorite Marian devotion or prayer. The Rosary--again because it focuses the mind on Scripture. Of course, many people do not realize the Rosary is not about simply repeating prayers--the set prayers provide a set time frame for meditation. One is not to reflect on the words of the Our Father's and Hail Mary's--one is supposed to contemplate the Gospel narratives while saying the words. John Paul II explained this so well in his Letter on the Rosary (a must read!). He calls the Rosary a “compendium” of the Gospel (n. 19).
Contemplation is an absolute must for Christian spirituality (cf. CCC 2708). Prayer should be more than a monologue--a litany of requests. As I tell my students, we need to talk to Jesus more than we talk about Jesus. But if your idea of prayer is simply rattling off requests, you miss the point. Spending time in his presence through contemplation helps us remain with him and helps us hear his voice so that our prayer is not simply about what we say to him.
We need to be still. We need to place ourselves in God's presence. We need find ourselves living in the Gospels. The Rosary helps us use our imagination the way God intended us to use it--we get lost in the Gospel stories, placing ourselves there, witnessing Christ's life with Mary and the apostles.
John Paul II explains: "The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary's own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer. Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning, as Pope Paul VI clearly pointed out: “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: 'In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words' (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord."
3. Do you wear a scapular or medal? I can't wear things like that--they just are too uncomfortable and distracting for me.
4. Do you have holy water in your home? Yes. I have a little holy water font in my bedroom.
5. Do you "offer up" your sufferings? Yes. Jeff cited Col 1:24. Let me cite two passages I think about almost everyday:
Romans 8:15b-17: "When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."
1 Peter 4:1, 13: "Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin...rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed."
I include frustrations as "sufferings." I am so absent-minded--Kimberly Hahn used to tell me that it would make me a great professor some day. Added altogether, I think I spend a total of 30 minutes a day looking for my wallet, glasses, keys or cell phone. It's God's way of keeping me humble.
6. Do you observe First Fridays and First Saturdays? In general, yes, but it's not a priority. Fridays are usually very hectic days for me.
7. Do you go to Eucharistic Adoration? How Frequently? Three doors down from my office at John Paul the Great Catholic University is our Blessed Sacrament chapel. I also live five houses from the local church. God keeps me close by I think because he doesn't trust me to get too far away--I suppose I'm on a short leash.
8. Are you a Saturday evening Mass person or a Sunday morning Mass person? I can't do evening Mass--I have to start the day with it or else I'm too distracted during Mass. It also helps me get the day off on the right foot. We also have an amazing Sunday morning choir here--it's actually one of the highlights of my whole week.
9. Do you say prayers at mealtime? "Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ, Our Lord. Amen."
10. Favorite saints. Thomas Aquinas, Stephen, Paul, John, King David, Anthony of Padua (refer to #5), Francis De Sales, Peter, Michael, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Augustine, Josemaria Escriva, John Chrysostom, Miguel Pro, Maxamillian Kolbe, Irenaeus, and Jerome. I'd also add my grandfather, Papa, George Peter Irving II, who was saintliest man I ever knew.
11. Can you recite the Apostles' Creed by heart? Yes, but I think my version is a little unique--I'm not very good with "sitteth" and "thence".
12. Do you usually say short prayers (aspirations) during the course of the day? Yes. Here are a few regulars:
"Dear Lord, help me to find my keys."
"Lord Jesus, help that cop to not have had his radar gun on."
"Father in heaven, please let bookfinder.com have this book."
"Bountiful God, help my credit card to not be declined."
"Jesus, teach me to offer prayers others than these."
13. Bonus Question: When you pass by an automobile accident or other serious mishap, do you say a quick prayer for the folks involved? Yes. However, sometimes I feel real guilty about it when I finally do. Let me explain.
I often drive 4 hours a day (from LA to San Diego). When there's terrible traffic I usually assume (correctly) that it's because there's an accident up ahead. Sometimes it's because some person lost a ladder he carelessly attached to a car or because some rude person cut someone off causing a minor fender bender. The result of these avoidable mishaps is hours of backed up traffic. If I'm sitting there for a long time, I sometimes think to myself: "When I get up to whatever this is, there better be dozens of bodies strewn all over the highway for this." But when it is a serious accident I then feel guilty for thinking that.