How committed are we to prayer? During Lent, we are to turn our attention to prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
The church in her wisdom aids us in the preparation for the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. She instructs us during this liturgical season to break from our normal routine and recognize the significance of the event which has refashioned the world — the great Paschal Mystery.
There are various prayer opportunities, i.e., the Stations of the Cross, rosaries and daily Mass to assist us.
Especially during Lent, there should be an intensity in our actions. Prayer forms our actions in an intentional manner. We should become aware of why we do what we do.
This is true for many of our relationships. In marriage, we do many actions out of routine, but there are those moments when we realize we are doing these tasks because we love our wife or husband.
Even a priest or bishop does many of the assigned functions because of the ordained office he occupies, but there are those special moments when he realizes it is the love of God, the church and the people he serves that direct his life.
When we pray, we are forming a relationship with God. There is an intimacy in prayer. God, who knows the very depth of our being, is the one who truly keeps us honest with ourselves. We can fool the world. We can fool ourselves, but we can never fool God.
This is the “humility” we must possess in our relationship with God. The sacrament of reconciliation offers an opportunity to honestly look at our lives and should be a part of our spiritual life, especially in Lent but also throughout the entire year.
When the theologians formed the Catechism of the Catholic Church, they divided the Catechism into four parts: 1) The Profession of Faith 2) The Celebration of the Christian Mystery 3) Life in Christ and 4) Christian Prayer.
Some argued that Christian Prayer should be first, because it is such an essential action in maintaining the Mystery of Faith.
Others argued it is important to understand what we pray and why we pray in the manner that we do (lex orandi, lex credenda, lex vivendi). The Catechism states:
“’Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God’ (St. John Damascene). But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will or out of the depths of a humble and contrite heart? He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer.
Only when we humbly acknowledge that we do not know how to pray as we ought, are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. Man is a beggar before God.” (CCC 2559)
In prayer, we understand we are placing our reliance upon God. I have encountered many individuals throughout my years as a priest and bishop who have been confronted with tremendous personal problems — “life and death health issues,” “tragic loss of loved ones,” “financial or legal problems.” In every case, they became living witnesses as believers who submitted to the will of God with a trust that “his will be done.”
The saints are prime examples of men and women who, through prayer, turn their lives into instruments of God’s presence in the world.
Now that I have personally met a saint, actually I have met many saints, but John Paul II has officially been recognized, I have come to understand how a saint’s relationship with God is one of total submission.
Fr. Joseph Walijewski, a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse whose cause for sanctity is being promoted, would often say that I am just a pencil in the hand of God and with it he writes his story.
I am always grateful when people throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee approach me and tell me that they are praying for me. Some will even add that they pray for me by name. I know their prayers work.
There have been many times I received a sense of personal strength in decisions which needed to be made or a sense of energy in pursuing a particular course of action. I could only attribute that surge of energy or strength to the Holy Spirit.
We add to our Lenten prayers those also for the preparation of our Archdiocesan Synod to be held on Pentecost 2014. Join the Synod Preparatory Commission in deepening the relationship we have with one another and our dependency upon the Holy Spirit to guide us.
We must never forget that all we do, we should do for the “love of God” who has generously gifted us with the faith we share.
Our vision for the future will be embodied in the priorities we will establish in the Archdiocesan Synod, which will express our efforts to fulfill his Gospel through the church he has instituted. Prayer will remind us that we are his instruments fulfilling his will. Amen