Praying by Name.

By: Jen Shoop

A few weeks ago, we hosted an old family friend at our home. Amidst playful jabs and walks down memory lane, he asked after Mr. Magpie’s family, and Mr. Magpie — who typically tends toward the taciturn on family matters — shared that his aunt had been unwell for some time and that his mother had been tending to her with the kind of selflessness only possible in a saint or a sister. Our friend was rummaging through his pockets as his listened. I sat on tenter-hooks. It was so unlike Mr. Magpie to open up like this, and I worried his candor would be permanently shunted in the shadow of this apparent indifference. But our friend retrieved a small pad of paper and a pen.

“What’s her name?” he asked. Mr. Magpie blinked. “I’ve made it a habit of praying for people by name.”

I think often of the fact that the nuns of the Visitation have prayed for me since my birth. Not necessarily by name, but as a future, then current, then former student of their school. I think also of the intercessions read out in Churches across the globe every single day at Mass. Often, without our ever knowing it, we are included in those supplications, as congregations routinely pray in aggregate for those in any kind of need, whether those in grief, those struggling with addiction or mental illness, those caring for loved ones, those alone or forsaken, those in a rough spot of any kind.

Neither of us could answer our friend for a beat. We were overwhelmed by the gesture, by the goodness. I feel the same way when I realize that there are absolute strangers praying for my well-being on any given Sunday. I was thinking of this the other day as I talked to my sister, who is navigating (beautifully!) the first few weeks of motherhood. I was remembering how, sometimes out of nowhere, amidst a day of postpartum exhaustion and nerves and emotion, a wave of calm would wash over me. I would be looking at mini, then micro, and I would think: “This is all I need. I want for nothing. Sleep will come. I am OK. I am OK!” At the time, I attributed these swells of tranquility to motherhood in the sense that I thought to myself, “Ah, here is that motherly instinct kicking in. I’m in a good place, doing what is natural. All the noise and nerves are quiet. Mother and child, as it should be, as it has been since the dawn of time.” I distinctly remember those thoughts because I took the picture above while experiencing them exactly seven days after my son was born so that I would never forget. The other day, as I spoke with my sister, I was hoping that she would experience those same pockets of peace looking at her own baby, because it is a lot being a new mom. It feels like being asked to perform a complicated athletic feat while injured and simultaneously calculating complex math equations with numbers that constantly change — and all the while, your entire emotional world is upside-down. But it occurred to me then that maybe those lifts I experienced during those bleary and beautiful early days of parenthood were prayer. A shopkeeper in Barcelona, a farmer in Cajamarca, or a businesswoman in Nyanza might have prayed “for new moms everywhere” at that moment, and across the globe, I pocketed that energy.

Every morning, my mother, sister, and I participate in a digital prayer group. If you have a loved one who is a new or expecting mom, know I’ll be thinking of her during our virtual daily prayer this week. If you’re so inclined, email me or leave a comment with her name — I was so moved by my friend’s insistence on this matter that I am compelled to do the same.


+On being “bad” at prayer.

+How do you start your day? (Do you start with prayer?)

+On the significance of the Hail Mary to me.

+On motherhood.

+Practical advice on preparing for a second child.

+9 things that surprised me about having a c-section.

+How to build a layette for a newborn.

Shopping Break.

+Our carseat was just restocked in the popular gray color. These can be strangely hard to find/on back-order. The main thing I will tell you: you can throw the entire carseat cushion into the washing machine. I was sold when I discovered that. (Mini is prone to carsickness.). I also love the sleek styling. We got ours in solid black (one for each child) and it looks fantastic with the black interior of our SUV.

+If you need to do 3 carseats across — well, first, God bless you — but second, people rave about these Cleks. Narrow enough to fit three across and I think I might prefer the styling to the Nuna. So chic! (However, in my case, function trumped fashion — I just needed something washable.)

+For travel or if you need an extra car seat for grandparents/caregiver use on occasion, these inexpensive travel carseats are AMAZING. They get really good reviews for safety but are extremely lightweight and therefore easy to carry through an airport. We have two.

+These adorable and reasonably-priced earrings are back in stock. The pink are SO good.

+More great velvet hairbows for you or your little one in the best fall colors.

+Still obsessed with this wreath.

+I am seriously contemplating a silk slip skirt ATM to pair with cashmere crewnecks. I have heard good things about the ones from Vince, but I love the colors from L’Agence (some of which are on sale — that gold color would be so, so chic for holidays) and the pricepoint at Madewell.

+I feel like I’ve been seeing a lot of feather clutches out there this holiday season. This one is reasonably priced! So chic with one of the silk slip skirts above and a cashmere sweater for a night out.

+Drinking coffee out of these beautiful mugs would bring me such joy. Another possible candidate for a “collector” type gift recipient.

+My son recently wore a plaid fair isle vest (from Ralph Lauren, no longer available) and it was absolutely adorable. This one is super similar. I layered it over this RL oxford in white and paired with these green cords and his beloved yellow rain boots.

+More of his exact fall wardrobe here, but I neglected to mention I am about to buy him some boots for winter, and I think I am going with classic Sperry Saltwaters in navy/brown. These look adorable paired with any outfit, in any fall/winter weather (not just snow/rain), including the everyday overalls looks I shared here.

+I’m thinking this ribbed tube scarf is amazing, especially for my Chicago/Boston Magpies. Layer underneath your puffer. Chic and functional, too!

+This illuminating primer is in my cart. I love this brand’s clear (literally, no tint) highlighter for adding a little “glow” on cheeks, brow bone, cupid’s bow, etc.

+Personalized roadie cups. Fun for a big birthday celebration/weekend getaway/etc.

+This plaid dress is nearly out of stock but SO adorable for a fall festivity.

+Just a reminder that this dress exists. (!!!!). My top rec for a winter wedding.

+This maxi skirt sold out in like one day last time it was released. Absolutely gorgeous with a white blouse, denim button-down, sweater, etc. I am so into the maxi skirt at the moment!

+This boat tote with plaid lettering is ADORABLE. I’m thinking through my gift list — would be a good gift for a family with small children, or a newlywed, or as a dramatic “wrap” for some holiday treats (i.e., fill with wine, tin of popcorn, etc.)

+I know I’ve mentioned this dress before, but I keep coming back to it. I need it. It is so saucy and chic.

+Cute Christmas-themed Peter Pan collar top for a little man.

+Sweet shawl-collared sweater for a baby boy (on sale!)

+Fun smocked and embroidered dress.

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20 thoughts on “Praying by Name.

  1. I appreciate your posts on prayer. While I myself am not a Mom, several of my friends are. One of my friends recently had her 4th. I can’t imagine how she does it. I think all women, those who are mothers and those who aren’t could all use some more prayers. Especially the women with chronic health conditions such as lupus or multiple scoliosis. Having a chronic condition myself it has been challenging to manage and while I don’t have a kiddo having someone praying for me would be really appreciated. Navigating this during a pandemic and now with a new job and new health insurance has been rather rough waters. Since I started reading your blog I got back into saying daily prayers and novenas.

    Thanks for a lovely post.

    1. Hi Michelle — You are on my list! This stretch sounds extremely challenging for you. So many moving parts and complications. Thinking of you. Glad that you’ve found prayer again! I love novenas, too — there’s something reassuring about the finiteness of the sequence that keeps me focused. xx

  2. I myself have a newborn – not a first time mom but each time feels like the first time. Would love to be added to your list!

  3. This post put into words something I think about so often – how many people are praying for me daily, those who I know and those who I don’t! I went to Notre Dame and often think of the prayers at every Mass for “the Notre Dame family.” I’m being prayed for every day, how blessed am I?
    Add Andrea to your list please!

    1. Added Andrea to my list!

      I agree — it is overwhelming to think about being included in the prayers of strangers! So moving.


  4. My two closest friends are both expecting their first babies (boys!) early next year. We had a wonderful girls/babymoon trip a few weeks ago to celebrate, and we were all together when I discovered that I was also expecting. Unfortunately, I miscarried last week. It is heartbreaking </3

    1. Oh Taryn — I am so incredibly sorry to hear this. I am thinking of you and making a space for your grief. You are on my prayer list, too, my friend. xx

  5. Oh this made me cry this morning. How beautiful and how powerful. It reminded me of something I’ve forgotten in recent years: grandparents (grandma is deceased, grandfather has severe dementia) used to keep a physical prayer list. They prayed by name for all sorts of people – closest of friends and strangers alike – by name, every single day.

    I’ve long kept a “virtual” list (aka in my head) but in your friend’s example, I think I will start writing down some names. “Mr. Magpie’s Aunt and Mother” will both go onto that list, along with the new and expectant mothers named here!

    Thank you so much for sharing – it made my morning!

    1. I love this, Molly – thank you for sharing. I am so moved to hear about your grandparents and Kathleen’s practice of praying by name. You are kind to include Mr. Magpie’s family on your own list. I just learned that his aunt passed away yesterday, so this post and your comment here couldn’t be timelier. Now praying for her peaceful repose.


  6. Hi! Would you please add my best friend Emma to your prayer list? She is a new mom and is having a really rough time. <3

  7. Well, this gutted me in the best way. My week is better because of this post. I will add Mr. Magpie’s aunt and your friend to my prayers.

    My grandmother kept a handwritten list of those she was praying for on her kitchen table, underneath the table runner she had quilted. A few days before she passed last year, my aunt sent a photo of her in bed. The list was on her nightstand. Even facing death, she prayed by name. She no longer considered herself Catholic in the last decade of her life, but she is forever my example of faith.

    1. Kathleen – This is so exceptionally beautiful. Thank you for sharing this! What a lovely woman your grandmother was. So moving.


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