Letter from the Fellowship of Saint John – Susan Harriss

Surprising Advice to a Newlywed

When I was first ordained I confided to Sr. Andrea, at the Order of St. Helena, that I was having trouble finding time to read Morning Prayer. I was a newly wed at the time. She responded quickly and fervently: she didn’t think it was a good idea to roll out of bed early leaving the husband behind for the sake of my spiritual life. She wasn’t sure that I needed to read Morning Prayer at all.

I was taken aback: this was not advice I was expecting from a nun, and especially not from a nun to a priest. But her gentleness set a tone for me which I have kept: my rule ought to be kind, to myself and to those I love. Certainly a spiritual practice warrants solitude, but it had best not be an escape. Husbands, lovers, babies, dogs, teen-agers – all have to hold their places in our regard. Sometimes, surprisingly, putting God first means tending to these others now and praying later. Or praying differently. Or, oh joy, praying together.

We’d love to hear and share your reflections of the challenges, hesitations, rewards, decisions, and questions that have informed how you have (or haven’t!) created and lived your own Rule of Life!   We invite you to email your reflections to friends@ssje.org.


  1. Jose Latour on March 18, 2011 at 11:25

    Susan, I can certainly relate to your thoughts on this subject. My law practice is such that from the moment I arrive early in the morning until I sprint out of there in the late afternoon, I am so overloaded that I rarely remember to eat lunch. My challenge has been with my midday prayer, which, like compline, are the two big “reality checks” of my day. Once in a great while I can make a quick noon service in the Episcopal Cathedral in Downtown Miami, but most of the time there is no real opportunity to meditate in the middle of the workday.

    When I joined FSJ and wrote my personal rule, it was ambitious: I did my best to practice the full Daily Office. Over time, the reality of my world kicked in and now, every day at noon, my calender dings with instructions: “PRAY!”. Sometimes I actually find that I can detach from what I’m doing and spend some real time with God; most of the time all I can muster is the Lord’s Prayer or a quick personal prayer. But in the same vein as Sr. Andrea’s response to you, I’ve got clear spiritual feedback that our sincerity in keeping the lines of communication open with the Divine is what counts.

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