Today is the International Day of Prayer, so today I want to steal a page from Tom McDonald’s book and talk about how I pray. For the purposes of this post, I’m gonna act as if Tom is interviewing me for his How I Pray series. So here I go.
Who are you?
I’m Buffy, the Vampire Slayer! And you are?
Taken from a convention I went to. That’s James Marsters, by the way.
In reality, I am Monique Ocampo, a cradle Catholic and somewhat of a revert to the Church. I grew up in a huge extended Filipino family, moved around from New Jersey to California, and currently live in the heart of Texas. (Well, southeast Texas, actually.) I have recently taken on the job title of freelance writer. I’ve contributed to a series of Bible study meditations published by the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship , which offers online Bible studies for free. When I’m not writing Bible study meditations, I dabble in fanfiction and spend way too much time on Instagram and fangirl over shows like Doctor Who and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
What is your vocation?
Ask me again in 10 years. Sorry, but I’m still figuring that out. I haven’t found a convent that I would be a good fit with and I haven’t gone out on a date since college.
Right now, God wants me to continue the life that I have now. For me, that means writing. A lot. I aspire to write and publish a novel, but currently write poetry, Bible study meditations, and this blog. I also teach Catechism at my parish and volunteer for young adult retreats.
What is your prayer routine for an average day?
I wake up every morning and write “The Morning Pages,” as described in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Back in my high school days, I started the Morning Pages as part of my creative process. Now they have become my morning prayer letters to God.
I also pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet with my dad at 3PM or whenever we’re out running errands.
I visit the Blessed Sacrament often. In my most recent year of teaching Catechism, I took my second graders to the Adoration chapel at the end of class.
I end my nights by praying the Examen using a separate journal. I write 3 things I’m grateful for in another journal. (Noticing a pattern here?) Then, I pray the Rosary as I go to sleep.
How well do you achieve it, and how do you handle the moments when you don’t?
I make the Morning Pages most of the time, but writing about what I’m grateful for is more hit and miss, especially on days when I feel like nothing major or interesting happened. I often fall asleep praying the Rosary, which I consider to be good.
Whenever I don’t particularly feel like praying, I write it out or talk to someone or just pray anyway. Usually after praying, I feel a sense of relief.
Do you have a devotion that is particularly important to you or effective?
My favorite thing about being Catholic is having Adoration. I recently visited the Blessed Sacrament and stayed there for an hour and a half. I didn’t pray so much as let myself be in God’s presence and all the melancholy I had from yesterday just disappeared.
Going on retreats is also important to me, but being on staff is very different from attending retreats.
I subscribe to PrayMoreNovenas.com, but I’m picky about which novenas to pray, nor do I know for sure if my prayers received an affirmative answer or not.
Also, Marian Consecration. I made my consecration a year ago on the feast of the Annunciation. I feel like it’s had a profound effect on my life. I highly recommend it but will also tell those who are interested to proceed with caution.
Do you have a place, habit or way of praying?
I usually pray in my room, but I also have a home altar in my living room. I go to Adoration at various churches in my area. I also love praying spontaneously. I “free verse” my prayers a lot, venting to God about anything and everything, not really saying anything. I don’t usually think about what physical position I’m in unless I’m at Mass. I can’t kneel for long periods of time.
Do you use any tools or sacramentals?
Aside from the Rosary and Holy Water, not really. I collect medals and place them on this beautiful crystal Rosary from Czechlosovakia that I got at a college retreat.
What is your relationship with the Rosary?
It’s not as easy for me to pray as the Divine Mercy Chaplet, but it’s also the only thing that helps me get any sleep. I picked up that habit from my dear friend, Fr. Keon.
I learned how to pray the Rosary in Catholic school, but by the time I started college, I totally forgot the Mysteries and had to relearn them again. I bought Fr. Dwight Longnecker’s book Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing and prayed a 54-Day Rosary Novena, which helped me get into the habit of praying the Rosary on a daily basis.
Are there any books or spiritual works that are important in your devotional life?
My parents gave me my first Bible and I bragged about being an expert at the ripe old age of 8. To say I was a pretentious girl growing up is a vast understatement. Nowadays, I feel like I’m learning about the Bible all over again and being part of Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship helps.
In California, I read The Imitation of Christ, which was way beyond my reading level, but kept me afloat. There were times that I didn’t go to Mass during those times, but I still read Imitation. I feel like it helped me cope when it came to bullies.
I also cite The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and Anne Lammot’s Bird By Bird as having a big influence on my spirituality. Although neither of these books are written by Catholics, my writing is very much linked to my faith and these two books helped me in that process.
But the biggest influence as of recently is 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley. I read his book as part of my preparation for Marian Consecration and I loved what he wrote about the saints who were devoted to Mary.
What is your most recent spiritual or devotional reading?
In recent years, I read the book version of Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism, Fr. James Martin’s My Life With the Saints and The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, and Between Heaven and Mirth.
Books I often go back to include God I Have Issues: 50 Ways to Pray No Matter How You Feel by Fr. Mark Thibodeaux and Geekpreist by Fr. Roderick.
As of this year, all of the books I read have been something Catholic related: Hail Holy Queen by Scott Hahn, My Sisters The Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell, Chastity is For Lovers by Arleen Spenceley, Angel and Saints by Scott Hahn, St. Francis of Assisi by GK Chesterton, Everything is Grace by Fr. Joseph Schmidt, St. John Paul The Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert, and The Way of Serenity by Fr. Jonathan Morris.
I’m currently beginning St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle.
Are there saints or other figures who inspire your prayer life or act as patrons?
My Confirmation saint was St. Monica. Incidentally, people call me “Monica” a lot. Although I don’t ask for her intercession all the time, I credit her with keeping me out of some bad relationships and for keeping me afloat during the California years.
As stated before, I made my Marian Consecration last year and renewed it last Lent. I gained a devotion to the Holy Family while staffing a recent retreat. St. Teresa of Avila was so right about St. Joseph when she said “I never asked him for anything which he did not obtain for me.”
But right now, my go-to saint is St. Therese of Lisieux. I relate to her the most and ask for her intercession a lot more. But unlike a lot of others who ask for her intercession, Therese’s answers to me are always more subtle or answered in ways I didn’t expect.
Have you had any unusual or even miraculous experiences as a result of your prayer life?
Nothing that I would call the Vatican to investigate, but whenever I consider what could’ve happened to me if I wandered any further from my faith than I did, I consider that a type of miracle.
Last year, my purse got stolen and I got the job offer to write for Patheos on the same day. I wouldn’t call it a miracle, but it was definitely unusual.
There was also a recent incident when I found myself in a bout of melancholy. I credit my guardian angel for helping me get out of it through a song coming on at just the right time.
I would like to see ___________________ answer these questions.
All my online Catholic friends, especially those in New Catholic Generation
Anything else you’d like to add?
Recently, my favorite Bible verse has been Philippians 4:13. I feel like Christ has strengthened me through what Thomas Aquinas calls “secondary causes.” These secondary causes came in the form of fandoms, particularly Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and being part of retreats. I feel like I still have a long way to go when it comes to this whole “being an adult” thing, but learning new things every day helps.