What do Mother Teresa, Fulton Sheen, and J.R.R. Tolkien All Have in Common?

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September 23, 2017

By Philip Kosloski, Sept. 22, 2017

n our busy, hectic world it is a marvel that anyone gets anything done. Our days are filled to the brim and sometimes we wish we didn’t have to sleep in order to get things done. Add prayer into the mix and we barely squeak out an “Our Father” before our eyes close at the end of the day. The proposition of praying more than 5 minuets seems daunting. Yet, if we look at the lives of Mother Teresa, Fulton Sheen and J.R.R. Tolkien, we see that even the busiest people in the world were able to find time to pray not just 5 minutes, but more than a full hour.

How did they do it? Well, let’s look at each of their schedules to find out.

First, we look at Mother Teresa and the daily schedule of the Missionaries of Charity.

4:30-5:00 Rise and get cleaned up
5:00-6:30 Prayers and Mass
6:30-8:00 Breakfast and cleanup
8:00-12:30 Work for the poor
12:30-2:30 Lunch and rest
2:30-3:00 Spiritual reading and meditation
3:00-3:15 Tea break
3:15-4:30 Adoration
4:30-7:30 Work for the poor
7:30-9:00 Dinner and clean up
9:00-9:45 Night prayers
9:45 Bedtime

In particular, Mother Teresa always stressed the importance of the daily holy hour. It was a vital part of her daily schedule. She wrote:

“I make a Holy Hour each day in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. All my sisters of the Missionaries of Charity make a daily Holy Hour as well, because we find that through our daily Holy Hour our love for Jesus becomes more intimate, our love for each other more understanding, and our love for the poor more compassionate. Our Holy Hour is our daily family prayer where we get together and pray the Rosary before the exposed Blessed Sacrament the first half hour, and the second half hour we pray in silence. Our adoration has doubled the number of our vocations. In 1963, we were making a weekly Holy Hour together, but it was not until 1973, when we began our daily Holy Hour, that our community started to grow and blossom.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen as well devoted himself to a daily holy hour and made sure he never missed it. He made a resolution the day of his ordination to make that a priority. He writes in Treasure in Clay

“I resolved also to spend a continuous Holy Hour every day in the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.”

For such a busy bishop and popular speaker as Fulton Sheen, this was not an easy task. He admits that it was hard,

“The Holy Hour. Is it difficult? Sometimes it seemed to be hard; it might mean having to forgo a social engagement, or rise an hour earlier, but on the whole it has never been a burden, only a joy……

One difficult Holy Hour I remember occurred when I took a train from Jerusalem to Cairo. The train left at four o’clock in the morning; that meant very early rising. On another occasion in Chicago, I asked permission from a pastor to go into his church to make a Holy Hour about seven o’clock one evening, for the church was locked. He then forgot that he had let me in, and I was there for about two hours trying to find a way of escape. Finally I jumped out of a small window and landed in the coal bin. This frightened the housekeeper, who finally came to my aid……

At the beginning of my priesthood I would make the Holy Hour during the day or the evening. As the years mounted and I became busier, I made the Hour early in the morning, generally before Holy Mass.”

Then we have J.R.R. Tolkien. He may seem to be an odd one to include in the bunch. However, this professor, creator of the vast world of The Lord of the Rings, was also a devoted father and strong Catholic. For most of his life he worked full time as a professor and at the same time wrote the entire mythology of The Lord of the Rings in his spare time. When did he do it? When everyone else was in bed, Tolkien put more coals on the fire and went to work. He didn’t want to let his adventures in Middle Earth to infringe upon his duty as a husband and father.

He tried to strike a balance between his familial duties, deadlines at work and his desire to create a vast mythological world. Here is a peak into his daily schedule:

“It started off bright and early by biking to a nearby [Catholic Church] with his sons Michael and Christopher. Afterwards, they biked home to eat the breakfast Edith had prepared.

The morning would pass by after meeting with various pupils and lecturing at Oxford, then he would return home to have lunch with his family. Tolkien would be keenly interested in the activities of his children and made use of the time to have genuine conversations with them.

After lunch, Tolkien’s time was caught up in various meetings with dinner being short and the day ending in his study working on his latest adventure in Middle-Earth. In fact, the majority of his stories were written well into the early hours of the morning when the rest of the family members were fast asleep.” (Crisis MagazineJ.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography)

And of course, there is the famous quote by Tolkien in regards to the Blessed Sacrament:

“Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament… There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth” (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien)

So as you can see, these three very different and busy people had a very deliberate schedule and stuck to it throughout the years. The trick is how can we imitate their examples and make a daily schedule that balances faith, family and work? 

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