At 6:10 a.m., I begin my day driving to the train and praying the rosary, the Joyful Mysteries followed by the Luminous Mysteries, and by the time I reach the train station at 6:37 a.m., the real action starts and I’m prepared to face the day – well, almost.
Half the problem with praying is finding the time to do it, and with so many distractions, from the Internet to family responsibilities and work, quiet time is hard to come by.
But I have a lot of it, more than I can profitably use, because the train ride into the city is over 90 minutes long, and I spend that time finishing up with the Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries followed by morning prayers. Then, it’s off to the workaday world, the world where our faith gets put to the test in ways we never thought possible.
After my prayers, I feel pretty good about myself, and I like to think I’m ready to face the spiritual challenges the day brings – at least for about 15 minutes until my resolve falls flat, and it’s back to business as usual. It’s easy to get discouraged because despite the praying, I’m not all that much better a person. Nevertheless, I keep trying because we move toward perfection at Jesus’ pace, not our own, and that’s probably good because it keeps us humble.
The challenges come quickly. The air conditioning on the train is broken, and a woman sitting next to me is drenched in perfume and my allergies start acting up. Code Red: I forgot to put a handkerchief in my pocket.
At 8:14 a.m., I get off the train, and somebody cuts me off in the race to the escalator at Grand Central. Then, a young woman with her eyes glued to her smartphone is text-messaging while I’m rushing through the terminal, and I can’t get around her.
I sense it’s going to be a bad day, and I haven’t even arrived at the office. These are the little building blocks of daily life that test our patience, kindness, fortitude, honesty, purity and all the rest.
When I get into the office at 8:20, I see an avalanche of problems and stressful situations looming. Sometimes I think those Trappist monks have the right idea because all they have to deal with is making preserves, getting up early to pray the Divine Office and milk the cows and whatever else they do.
By 10:17 a.m., I’ve usually forgotten my resolution to be a better person and I’m openly complaining about the fellow who didn’t finish the project I needed, about the client who didn’t appreciate all the effort I put into the speech I wrote for him, and about UPS because I can’t find the letterheads that were supposed to arrive. Workplace anger and gossip take over, and I’m transformed into a corporate zombie. Whatever happened to the guy who was praying the rosary when the sun was coming up?
By 12:02 p.m., I offer a desperate prayer, just like St. Peter sinking into the stormy lake – “Lord save me! I’m going down!”
As the second half of the day begins, the boss surprises me with an unexpected project or two or three, and I feel frustrated, resentful and helpless – I’m running out of adjectives. Then, at 5:30 p.m., I’m free – at least in theory – and make my way through a packed Grand Central again, dodging young women who aren’t watching where they’re going because they’re text-messaging. I feel as if I’ve just finished my third New York City Marathon.
By the time I get off the train and stumble to my car, there’s still one very important thing to do, perhaps the most important thing of the day. I pray my last rosary while I drive home. It’s a rosary I don’t really feel like praying because I’d rather listen to CBS Radio or turn on some easy listening music so I can wind down.
But I don’t because I need this rosary more than the others. It helps me acknowledge the countless times I dropped the ball and missed the mark. With this rosary, I pray for a very special intention – for all the people that day I argued with, insulted, thought bad of, neglected when they needed me, avoided, cursed and maligned. I also pray for the people who insulted me, neglected me, angered me, avoided me, pestered me and cursed me. (Did I forget anyone?)
I pray for them and their families. And I certainly can’t forget those countless young women and men who wander around Grand Central with their noses buried in their smartphones and the lady wearing the horrible perfume that gave me an allergic reaction.
When my late father was in Alcoholics Anonymous and he resented someone in a way that he couldn’t overcome, his sponsor in the program always had the same three words of advice: “Pray for them.” And you know what? It works.
J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.