Tea Parties and Prayer: A Dad Reflects on His Vocation

Written by Patrick Sullivan

“Dad, do you want to play Legos?” I’m asked this question pretty often – in fact, it’s one of my favorite questions, and I almost always say yes. I’ve never responded with, “Well what will I get out of this?” or, “Technically, the plural of Lego is Lego.” If I’m handed an 11 x 18 piece of paper and instructed to color in the spaceship the “right” color, I don’t think, “What’s in this for me?” When invited to a tea party with Lucy, Mr. Fox, and Noodle the giraffe, I don’t weigh the decision against my always busy schedule; I change into my shirt and tie (the invitation did say formal) and enjoy my perfectly prepared cup of tea. 

Becoming a parent has pushed me to adapt the question from, “Do I have time for…” to “What is my time for?” Between snack runs, episodes of The Magic School Bus, fort building, and meal prepping, there is certainly a significant demand for my time. But when I look at these tasks through the lens of my vocation, I see more clearly that my time is for these very things. 

So, what is my time for? Ultimately, it is for my pursuit of holiness – both that of my family and myself. Do I have time for a daily rosary? Do I have time for spiritual reading? Do I have time for mass on Sunday? It’s not so much that the answer is a definitive yes or no, but rather that my time is for these things. This paradigm shift makes it far easier to maintain a robust yet grounded spiritual life. I know the exact exit on the highway which, if I begin my rosary as I pass, will have me wrapping up my prayer as I arrive home. Reading a spiritual text for 15 minutes is far more edifying (and way less stressful) than doom-scrolling on Instagram for the same amount of time. Mass can quickly turn into a circus with little kids in the pew, but I know that the grace I receive from the Eucharist – and the example of faithfulness I’m setting for my children – is worth it.

St. Paul instructs us to “pray at all times.” He understood that our time is for the Lord and, as such, we ought to act accordingly. Because of my fatherly vocation, I am unable to retreat to a monastic cell and recite the daily office. However, the gift of time that I give my children – in the form of Lego castles and tea parties – more readily disposes me to make the same gift to my Heavenly Father, who, in turn, provides me with the grace to joyfully spend more time with my family. 

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