A number of months ago, I encountered an article from Aleteia titled “The Swedish secret to being happy at work.” As someone who has been working from home for over two years, I immediately read the article, hoping to learn about a habit I could pick up to improve my work life.
The article explained the Swedish custom of fika, a twice-daily time set apart for coffee and socialization with coworkers. Usually taking place around 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., the tradition began in the early 1900s when factory employers realized that giving their workers mandatory breaks at these times would help reduce incidents or issues on the factory floor. Over a hundred years later, these daily coffee breaks are inseparable from Swedish culture.
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As I read this article, I was struck with a thought: Why don’t we, as Catholics, have more customs that we add into our days, rituals that are inseparable from being Catholic? Yes, we have Sunday Mass, but there isn’t a daily habit that Catholics are known for. While there are many devotions individuals take up, there are very few that Catholics as a group live without reservation. True, the diversity of such practices is beautiful, and sure, we don’t live in a Catholic society, so implementing certain devotions can be difficult — but not impossible. Maybe this is dreaming big, but I wish this was the case.
Even if this dream is a little impractical, it still placed in my heart a desire to begin my own daily custom. Not just my normal prayer life, but something additional.
The reason this article and the Swedish fika stood out to me was because it reminded me of a practice I’ve seen catching on in a small corner of Instagram. Each week, I love seeing the images that Carolyn Svellinger posts on her account of the afternoon tea time she celebrates with her six boys — yes, you read that correctly — every day. Sometimes their table has flowers and candles, and goodies of some sort are always part of the ritual. They always start with prayer and then ease into some sort of reading (usually audiobooks, like the Narnia books or “The Hobbit”) unless one of the older boys wants to read. They even use tea cups, saucers and a teapot (all very pink and floral, despite the boys drinking from them), and from what I can tell, they don’t care. In fact, the ritual has become such an important part of their family routine that the boys look forward to it — pink, floral and all!
While I currently work from home and have no kids of my own, I’ve marked this ritual as one I would love to implement with my kids one day. But I also didn’t want to wait for “someday.” That’s why I’ve been — slowly and imperfectly — setting aside time each afternoon for a little tea and prayer time with myself — and God, naturally. Right now, it looks like a short Divine Mercy Chaplet (which takes 5-7 minutes) and maybe 10 minutes of spiritual reading. I don’t have a teapot that I always use, and my apartment is not always the tidiest, but by starting this habit now, I’m hoping to cultivate this ritual as a time set aside for the Lord. Instead of the busyness of a lunch break — where I’m usually unloading the dishwasher, doing laundry, meal prepping, running errands or even side-hustling — it’s quiet and still, letting my heart and mind recenter for the day.
From similar examples shared on social media along with conversations I’ve had with many friends, I noticed that there appears to be a revival within the Catholic faithful of reclaiming and even reenvisioning Catholic culture within our non-Catholic world. Many people — myself included — have a desire to find ways to inculturate our daily lives, from the art we display in our homes to the designs on our mugs to the bumper stickers on our cars. All of these are great, but it needs to go deeper. Our homes can only be a domestic church if we pray in them. Our families can only be holy families if we pray together. Our relationships with friends can only be sanctifying if we place a desire for God and virtue at the center.
This doesn’t mean it will look like all Catholics everywhere praying a Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m. every day — though, that would be pretty cool. But it is a beautiful opportunity for us to get creative. Here is a short list of ideas to create rituals of your own:
- Pray a Rosary. Pick a time each day that works with your schedule. While there is nothing wrong with praying it in the car on the way to work, consider finding a time where you can be quiet and still; maybe it’s first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee, or maybe it’s after dinner or before bed. If you are married, pray with your spouse; if you have littles, involve your kids in some way. Even if it’s only a decade every day or one Rosary on Sundays, begin. Simply invite the Blessed Mother into your home.
- Add the Divine Mercy Chaplet into your day. The hour of mercy, 3 p.m. (when Christ died on the cross), is a great time to do so. Even if you have an office job, it’s possible to fit this prayer in your schedule as it only takes 7 minutes.
- If you are home with littles, find a time each day to pray with your kids. Use a specific corner of your house where you gather to pray. Experiment with which prayers work depending on age levels. The Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet are great because kids like repetition.
- Follow prayer time (or even begin it) at the table with some sort of ritual, like Carolyn Svellinger’s tea time. As Catholics, our life is centered around the Eucharist. In a different way, we can center our family life around the table. If tea isn’t your thing (or your kids’ thing), change it up. Chocolate milk or juice in cups reserved for this ritual can be special enough for kids. Take Carolyn’s idea of prayer and audiobooks, or listen to some reflective music or a podcast. (There are some about the saints that are great for kids). Whatever you do, center it on Christ, and make it unique for your family.
- If these suggestions seem too ordered for you or your family life, get creative! Pull out your Rosary while outside.
- Create a prayer corner in your home. This can be as simple or lavish as you like. Start small — an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary — and add as you desire: rosaries, saint statues or prayer cards, etc. Use whatever space is available, like a wall, or clear off a cluttered side table and dedicate it as a sacred space.
- Install little holy water fonts near your front door or bedroom doors. Bless yourself as you come and go. Additionally, bless yourself before bed; for you married ladies, consider asking your husband, as the priest of the household, to bless you and/or the kids each evening.
- Have a crucifix in each room. Especially have one in a place that is easy to reverence, touching your hand to Christ’s hands or feet as you pass by.
There are so many ways our homes and routines can center our lives around Christ and the Faith he has given us. By adopting any of these practices, we are reminding ourselves of the bigger picture: that the life we have now is a foretaste of heaven, if only we take the time to cultivate our gaze heavenward everyday.