If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you may have noticed that all the rides have one thing in common. At the end of each ride, there is no way for you to immediately get back into the open, where you’re allowed to roam around and look for another ride. Before you can do that, you have to walk through a gift shop. The end of each ride is set up so that you are forced to exit into a gift shop.
Disney does a masterful job of controlling the flow of its customers, who are forced to walk past merchandise that is related to the ride they exited from. At every opportunity, Disney tempts and entices its customers to purchase items for themselves and their loved ones. Of all the businesses in the world, Disney is the best at extracting large amounts of money from people.
But Disney isn’t the only company that has the money game figured out. If you’ve ever been in a casino, you know that if you have to go to the restroom, there’s no easy way to get there. Instead of taking a direct route to the restroom, you have no other choice but to walk through a maze of slot machines, video poker machines, and other gaming devices.
Like Disney, the casino owners know that people can be tempted to take part in one more money-extracting event before proceeding to their final destination.
It’s no secret that people can easily be distracted and their attention diverted so they can engage in an activity that they believe will be more enjoyable and pleasurable than what they are doing at the moment.
Some of the highest paid professionals in the United States are the men and women who write advertisements and sales letters for the top companies in the world. These professionals are called “copywriters” and they are experts on human nature and the psychology behind why people buy.
With one compelling headline and sub-headline, a good copywriter can figuratively grab people by the collar and pull them into an advertisement or sales letter and then convince them to buy a product or a service that they may not actually need.
So I have a question for you. Have you ever gone into a confessional and confessed to the priest that on most days, several hours can go by without you saying a prayer or thinking about God?
How many times during the day do you actually think about your Creator? Four times? Six times? If you say a morning offering and a prayer before each meal, those count as occasions when you may have thought about God. I say “may have” because most of us usually say those prayers just to get them out of the way. We don’t take the time to think about what we’re saying.
I wonder what the brilliant minds who designed the customer-flow models for the Disney attractions and casino floor plans would do if they were asked to design a way for devout Catholics to put a plan in place in which they would be reminded to stop what they’re doing several times every day, so they could pray and think about God.
I don’t know what they would do, but I can tell you what I’ve done to achieve my goal to pause several times a day to pray and show gratitude to God for what he has done for me.
The best way to accomplish this goal is to develop several rituals that are triggered by certain events that take place throughout the day. These rituals are designed to remind you to pray and think about God.
A “ritual” is defined as “an act or series of acts done in a particular situation and in the same way each time.” Most of our daily behavioral habits eventually become rituals. Examples of daily rituals include shaving or showering every morning and drinking coffee at the same time every day.
Here are some of the rituals I’ve developed so that I can accomplish my goal to pause several times a day to pray and show gratitude to God for what he has done for me:
1. First Action of the Day – Immediately after I shut off my alarm clock, I ask Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to be with me throughout the day and to help me to follow God’s plan for my day.
2. Morning Shower – When I’m in the shower, I always pray an Act of Contrition, Act of Love, Act of Hope, and Act of Faith. I also pray seven Hail Marys while meditating on each of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the loss of the child Jesus in the Temple, Mary’s meeting with Jesus on the way to Calvary, the death of Jesus on the cross, the piercing of the side of Jesus and Mary’s receiving the body of Jesus in her arms, and the burial of the body of Jesus in the tomb).
3. First Time in the Car – When I get in my car to go to work, I start my rosary. I’m usually able to get half of my rosary done by the time I arrive at my office.
4. Other Trips in the Car – Every time I get in my car, I make the sign of the cross and pray a Hail Mary for my own safety and the safety of my family.
5. Daily Mass – During the week, I go to daily Mass at Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria, which is located three blocks from my office.
6. Working at my Desk – I have a six-inch wooden cross that sits on my desk next to my computer keyboard. The cross is there to remind me that our Lord is with me at all times, and I can reach out to Him for assistance while I’m working.
7. Light Switch in my Office – Above the light switch in my office is a framed picture of the Divine Mercy of God. The picture is at eye level, so every time I turn on or turn off my light, I see the picture and say the short aspiration, “Mercy of God, I trust in You.”
8. End of Work Day – When I leave the office in my car, I finish my rosary while I’m on the way to the adoration chapel. At the adoration chapel, I always make sure I pray the Litany of Humility and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
9. Last Action of the Day – Before I lay down to go to sleep, I pray an Act of Contrition and think of three blessings that I received from God during the day. I then thank Him for the blessings. It’s good to show gratitude toward God for what He has done for you at the end of each day.
I have other rituals I could share with you, but I think you get my point. The development of rituals in which you are able to pray and keep God in mind as often as possible throughout the day is one of the keys to true holiness.
Food for thought as we enter into Advent and prepare to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Our Savior.