And I thought, What good is that?
How on earth can you help this world if you are cloistered with like-minded people? How is that working for the common good to hide yourself and your talents away?
I'm a little wiser now, and though I do not at all believe this is the only way to serve the way of truth, hope, love and life, I now believe it is one excellent way.
I don't think for one moment that I am the only one who has underestimated the power of prayer. Of silence. Of contemplation. But because I am naturally a restless person who detests sitting for too long, perhaps I have been more prone to underestimate it. My prayer reminds me of my son Berto"s gesture when the priest asks us to lift up our hearts, and we pronounce at Mass, "We lift them up to the Lord," and we all raise our hands palm up. For a while it was like Berto was tossing God a football with how quickly he threw up his hands and then dropped them: "Here! Catch my heart, God!" It made me smile. So, too, my prayer. I toss God footballs several times a day, prayers for that homeless man or my sick relative or of my desperate need for some spiritual buttresses to be erected posthaste. And I believe with all my heart that God catches those erratic balls, because my words are fervent. Well, most of the time.
I cannot imagine, however, really getting down deep with God in prayer. For an hour or more, for hours each day in and out of Mass. And, yet, I think how marvelous would be the results of such efforts, because prayer is, as my parish priest said recently, our act of being in the presence of God. Even if we nod off while doing it, it is our endeavor to walk and sit in his presence, to hold his hand, and to accept some real nourishment. What might we learn about ourselves if we made that decision more often, if we were very still and knew that he was God?
So I no longer think shallowly about contemplative lives. If I am honest with you, I think a community of nuns or monks praying for this world is doing a great deal more for us than all the words of politicians could ever do. I even think now - and this is shocking to me - that a community in God's presence by the exertion of their own free will on a routine basis, asking for his grace and love and guidance to be poured out upon us, can move more mountains than many actions.
But then we see the connectivity, don't we? For some of us life in a small community praying is our service to mankind, and for some of us the work in this fractured world to be God's physical instruments of peace is ours. The two ignite each other in faith, and God weaves us together, helping us bear good fruit.
|photo by Daniel Hylton|
Today I said a rosary for France. It is a very Catholic thing to do, I know, but something I rarely do. I only meditate in this way when I am rocked by some great tragedy and realize that I need to really pray deeply, to do something more than usual to let my Heavenly Father know that I care and want to help and that we all need a heaping helping of faith, hope and love from His table.
I say rosaries when I am aching for others.
So I am praying. I know many of you are praying. And we know prayer is more than general good vibes. Prayer is standing in the presence of our loving Father with all our might.
"I want to be only a poor friar who prays...Pray, hope and don't worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer...Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to God's heart. You must speak to Jesus not only with your lips, but with your heart. In fact on certain occasions you should only speak to Him with your heart." - Padre Pio
"Everyone of us needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy - then we need an hour." - St. Frances de Sales
"For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy..." - St. Therese of Lisieux
Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, 'Render a just decision for me against my adversary.' For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, 'While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.' " The Lord said, "Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see that justice is done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" Luke 18:1-8