Good Zeal


Open breviary on a pile of boxesAfter vigilant discernment, we sold our house in Alabama and moved to Mississippi, where we lived part-time for eighteen years. Although this was our twenty-third move, there was no Army moving coordinator or corporate relocation team to assist with packing, storing, and moving our stuff. As older adults, major moves are challenging and costly events requiring grit, physical stamina, and systemized planning. At our age, it is a decision that usually means there is no turning back.

Preparing to list a house for sale involves lots of decluttering, cleaning, repairing, and troubleshooting. Caulking, spackling, touching up paint, mopping floors, dusting, washing windows, removing cobwebs, shining appliances, replacing light bulbs, cleaning carpets, putting down new mulch, trimming bushes and trees. All of that and more is required to enhance curb appeal and make the home inviting to potential buyers. Living in a sparkling clean and staged home until the right buyers come along is the second hurdle, as a one-hour warning before they arrive is quite common. As the realtor cautioned, “Be ready on a moment’s notice.” That advice paid off, as the house sold quickly to a couple who had been praying to find a home that was not cookie-cutter and checked all their boxes. I told them that we had been praying, too, and our collective prayers were answered.

I learned a lot about self-advocacy during those months leading up to the move. During the weeks of cleaning, sorting, donating, and packing, I reflected on the struggle of finding quiet time for praying the Divine Office and maintaining my devotional customs. Early in the process, while sorting through my oblate files and materials, I stopped to read my notes taken at various gatherings and seminars, finding inspiration and encouragement on every page. But at night, I tossed and turned in bed thinking of all the tasks looming ahead the next day. I prayed my way through it, overriding obsessive thoughts of what needed doing by reciting my favorite prayers and eventually embracing sleep. Every morning, I was consumed by thoughts of what needed to be accomplished that day to stay on schedule for the closing. I learned that my determination to stick to my morning prayer schedule was key to getting it all done in a systematic and organized manner. To my amazement, my faith deepened, and I found untapped strength and spiritual growth. I experienced God’s presence in a new way.

I packed everything away except my notes from an oblate gathering in 2020, which I have been carefully studying and gaining a greater understanding of why oblates do what we do and how important it is to maintain an active prayer life. Reviewing the old notes was serendipitous and enlightening. I was reminded that the Gospel documents Jesus praying morning and evening and he “kept vigil.” In Acts, the apostles embraced praying at fixed times. According to Sister Anita Louise Lowe (2020), “all prayer is personal,” a conversation with God, and that “Jesus prayed before every significant event.” (Selling a house and relocating to another state qualifies!) She reiterated that “prayer nourishes and strengthens us… and makes the day holy.”

Setting aside the time every day with an ambitious deadline looming was a personal accomplishment. Every day, the familiar interior voice suggested I had too much to do…. “No time for prayer… get cracking on the cleaning and packing…. stay busy.” With God’s help, I advocated for myself by setting aside prayer time every day no matter what. The routine and rhythm of praying the Divine Office instead of succumbing to the busyness of home selling was a daily challenge but self-advocacy won over. A notation from an oblate meeting summed up the experience: “Be humble and be watchful for God’s presence.”

By Jan Vinita White, Oblate OSB
Bradshaw, P. F. (2008). Two ways of praying. OSL Publications. Claremont, CA.
Lowe, A.L. (2020, January 28). History of the liturgy of the hours. Video. Viewed at Sacred Heart Monastery.

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