My Reading Challenge Pick for…”A Book on Catholic Prayer”

Are you participating in the 2018 Catholic Reading Challenge? If not, it’s not too late to start — join us! I share my picks for each category about once a month. So far, my choices are spot on for me, and my second read gets a universal recommendation if you want to improve your prayer life…

Category: “A Book on Catholic Prayer”

My Pick: Time for God by Jacques Philippe

My husband had read this book a couple of months ago and highly recommended it to me, and what do you know…it checks off a box on the reading challenge. Boy, was he right; it is good. But apparently everything by Jacques Philippe is great, according to a friend of mine. This was my first time reading one of his books.

Two motivations to read this book:

#1 — It’s really short — about 100 pages.

#2 — It may be the most helpful book on mental prayer that you ever read.

I say the most helpful, not necessarily the best. Philippe references all of the great works by saints who were quite advanced in mental prayer (Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales, St. John of the Cross, St. Catherine of Siena, etc.). But sometimes, as Philippe notes, in our modern times we have trouble getting to the root of what these great contemplatives teach us about communing with God.

Philippe’s definition of mental prayer:

“…facing God in solitude and silence for a time in order to enter into intimate, loving communion with him.”

His bottom line:

“Mental prayer is basically no more than an exercise in loving God.”

Philippe was exactly who I needed to read on mental prayer, because he concisely and beautifully gets to the heart of why and how this type of prayer should be a daily habit. He essentially reminds us that silent, mental prayer is all about loving God. There is not a magic “technique” that you can manipulate, he says, because communion with God is a grace, a gift, from God. It is not something that we conjure up. Philippe says that we have to simply come to mental prayer with the intention of loving God, with humility, out of our poverty, and be faithful to continue coming daily.

I think this excerpt from the book puts it well:

“What ensures progress in the life of prayer, what make it fruitful, is not so much how we pray as our inner dispositions in beginning and continuing it. Our principle task is to try to acquire, keep, and deepen those dispositions of the heart. God will do the rest.”

Before this book, I had recently read Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life, and I was inspired by his detailed account of the steps of mental prayer, and I wanted to begin this habit in earnest. (Previous descriptions of mental prayer hadn’t be so clear for me.) However, Philippe’s book is just what I needed to read on the heels of that. It helped me develop the correct attitude toward silent prayer, to remember the ultimate purpose of loving God and entering into a deeper communion with him — as he leads.

What did you read for “a book on Catholic prayer”?


Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey

Need a kid-paced Stations of the Cross routine?

I love the tradition of praying the Stations of the Cross on Fridays during Lent, and I love doing it in our home around our prayer table. Sometimes it’s just our family, and other times it’s us and another family or two after sharing a simple soup super. But those of us with lots of young kids can find instituting the practice of praying the Stations (and other prayers) a bit daunting. It’s hard for them to sit still for that long when they are at young ages. They just don’t have the attention span and patience (especially in the evening) for the full blown version.

We have all littles (6 and under) right now, and I really desire for them to embrace this beautiful prayer practice and have it grow with them. So, a couple of years ago I created a kid-paced routine for praying the Stations — pieced together from various resources and practices I had observed other families doing. I use the children’s book The Way of the Cross as the guiding resource, which was a gift from godparents a few years back. It is so beautiful!

My kids love this routine. It can be as short as 10 minutes, which is often just the right amount of time when kids are young and learning to adopt this prayer practice. When you start small, it is easy to build on a practice with time and let it grow with your family. We want our children to love prayer — not be overwhelmed by it. After all, loving should be the goal of all of our prayers anyway.

Our family and friends have really enjoyed this routine, and I’m sharing it with you — just fill out the form below and you will get a PDF copy to use in your home. God bless your family’s Lenten journey!


Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey

Guest Post: Decluttering and the Spiritual Life

I’m excited to welcome a guest post on the blog today from author Mary Elizabeth Sperry. Mary has worked for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops since 1994, and is the author of five books. Mary’s brand new book, Making Room for God: Decluttering and the Spiritual Life, was just released two weeks ago. Anyone who knows me knows that I can get quite excited about *decluttering*. 🙂 I appreciate Mary’s perspective on the topic, and I’m happy to have her on the blog talking about decluttering in our spiritual lives. Enjoy!

There’s no question that clutter is a real problem for a significant number of Americans – whether they need to rent a storage space, pay late fees on the bill, lost in the pile of unopened mail, or leave the car out in the weather because there’s no room in the garage. Decluttering has become a social trend. (For once in my life I’m part of a trend! Who knew?) Books about tidying up and Swedish death cleaning (!) sit on the best-sellers chart. With the beginning of Lent, my newsfeed is full of people taking the challenge to give away forty things in forty days. Some go even further – seeking to remove forty bags of possession from their homes during the Lenten season.

But using Lent as a reason to declutter doesn’t make decluttering a spiritual practice. People of any faith – or no faith at all – can decide to deal with the stuff that they trip over every time they need to do laundry. Does decluttering have a spiritual side? Does the state of our closets have anything to say about the state of our souls? Does God really care that we’re storing half-finished craft projects in the dining room?

Of course, he does! The God who has counted every hair on our heads and who knows when a sparrow falls cares deeply about the things that matter to us and that shape our daily lives. The most fundamental claim of Christianity is the Incarnation, that in Jesus, the all-powerful God who is the source of all beauty and goodness became a human being – just like us, except for sin. Jesus entered into the messiness of everyday life, preparing and eating food, learning a trade, and doing the chores necessary to keep a house running. Because of that, even the humblest task has meaning in the eyes of God.

Being a person of faith isn’t something you can keep in a box, taking it out for an hour or so on Sunday mornings, when it’s time to say grace before meals, and on the occasional holiday. The relationship with God that is at the heart of the Christian faith has to expand so that it reaches every aspect of our lives, even what we keep in our closets and what we give away. It’s more than saying a quick prayer before we begin decluttering or praying for the strength to finish (and to get the box of unused toys out of the house before the kids decide they are favorites – despite the fact that they haven’t been outside the toybox in eight months).

Decluttering as a person of faith means setting the reset button on our relationship with our possessions. We have to look honestly at what we’ve accumulated and humbly recognize the sinful tendencies (envy, greed, etc.) that lead us to acquire more than we need. We need to nurture gratitude for the things we have, regarding them as a gift of God that we can share generously with those in need.

Changing our relationship with our possessions will change the way we interact with other people as well. When we break the pattern of acquiring more than we need and tossing things away when they are no longer useful, how much easier will it be to recognize that people aren’t disposable and that they always take precedence over things? Freed from the race to acquire more and to protect what we have, we can take more time to be with others, to listen, and even to be silent. And as we learn to be more generous with what we have been given, we learn to trust that God will provide for all our needs.


Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey