Generally, I write about the lighter side of life … activities in which most of us are involved or to which we can relate.
For example, in the seven years that I’ve contributed to this quarterly section, I’ve written about enjoying retirement, health and exercise, leisure time activities, aging gracefully, along with a few book reviews. In several columns, I compared my childhood and youth experiences with those of my four grandchildren.
This time, however, I wish to ascend to the pulpit to reflect on the role of spirituality in our lives. (When a priest or deacon speaks on Scripture readings, it’s a homily; for a layperson, it’s a reflection.)
The thought came to mind at morning Mass at St. Roman on Thursday, June 17, when Fr. Javier Bustos, the celebrant, preached on Matthew 6:7-15, in which Jesus tells his disciples, “This is how you are to pray … ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name….’”
The Lord’s Prayer is the only formula of prayer traced directly to Jesus. It is preserved in Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
In his homily, Fr. Javier described prayer as an activity that defines our relationship with God, which gave me the idea for this column.
We pray according to how we’ve been taught … by our parents … by parish priests and sisters, especially if we’ve attended Catholic grade and high school … and/or by others. Our prayer reflects what we’ve learned … our lifetime experiences … our faith.
Our former pastor, Fr. Bill Burkert, now pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Milwaukee, often reminded worshippers of three characteristics of a Christian: spirituality, community and action.
As we laypeople have become active in the church – extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, lectors, catechists and in many other ministries – it would seem that we are expected to develop a healthy and active prayer life, an important part of that spiritual characteristic.
Pope John Paul II, in his book, “Crossing The Threshold of Hope,” describes prayer as conversation with God, suggesting we follow his examples in the Bible … that we can and must pray in many different ways.
How many times in the Gospels have we heard of Jesus taking time to pray?
Pope John Paul says we achieve fullness of prayer not only when we express ourselves, but when we let God be fully present in our lives. He urges that our prayers should be more spontaneous … more conversational … telling God how we feel at a particular time and place. God prefers sincerity, not vocabulary.
For many of us, popular (formal) prayers which we offer regularly are the Our Father, Hail Mary, the rosary. But, too often, these prayers become habitual, routine. We say the words without concentrating on their meaning and we’re easily distracted.
When praying the rosary, the beads we use merely are a method, a counter. We don’t have to use beads to pray a rosary. We can pray a rosary using our fingers. I have, many times. Haven’t you?
We offer prayers of praise, thanksgiving and petition. We have favorite saints to whom we pray. We offer prayers for special needs.
When we pray, we include many intentions. We pray for ourselves, others, our deceased loved ones, success, peace, good health and the list grows. At times, rather than list each individual need, it’s just as fruitful to say, “Lord, I offer you all my petitions; you know what they are.”
Prayer can be quiet time during the day, just meditating on what’s happening around us, not actually saying anything, just thinking, reflecting, wondering how the Lord might answer a particular petition or need. Quiet time for prayer can happen at home, driving, walking. Prayer is exemplified in daily activities and/or good deeds we perform. We can pray in song.
Prayer is a mystery when we remind ourselves that all prayers are answered. Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes the answer is no. And, sometimes the answer is not yet, just a while longer.
I recall St. Roman senior associate Fr. John Pulice saying that a prayer for healing does not mean we will be cured, but it reaffirms our faith that God will be with us every step of the way.
A lighter note on spirituality.
I’m reminded how sports fans pray that their favorite team beats any and all rivals. One example: a competitive and closely fought football game in which the home team, down by a field goal, is on the opponent’s 45 yard line with seconds to go. And, what do we hear from an announcer: “It will take a Hail Mary (pass) to win this one.”
I cringe when I hear this. I wonder how did this expression originate and what does the Hail Mary have to do with a desperate situation? The Hail Mary is an angelic salutation. At times we may call on Mary as the only hope to answer our prayer, but I do not believe Mary has anything to do with a desperate situation in football, baseball, basketball or any other sport.
A more appropriate “prayer” in these situations would be a petition or intercession to St. Jude, the recognized patron and helper of hopeless and desperate cases and causes. So, let’s call a desperation pass play “a St. Jude mood … interlude … or necessitude.”
Let’s give Mary a break. She has enough worthwhile direct or intercessory prayers to keep her busy.
Another example of spiritual interference: in baseball, how often do we see a slugger hit a home run and then, as he drops his bat and begins his trip around the bases, looks upward, pointing his index finger skyward.
Obviously a spiritual gesture but what’s he trying to tell us? Somebody up there likes me? Thank you, Lord, for that sudden burst of power, gee it felt good? Praise the Lord and pass that power to my teammates?
Generally, the topics on which I write come from what I read or hear. But I must confess that when I finish a column, I have no idea what the next one will be. I tell myself it should be appealing to all with similar experiences. Then I pray.
The answer? If not from a desperate “Hail Mary” or “Jude” prayer, maybe it’s divine inspiration.
(Out and About is a regular feature of Mature Lifestyles that looks at issues affecting the older adult community. Horn, a retired Catholic Herald reporter, is a member of St. Roman Church, Milwaukee.)