Saturday, August 9, 2008

Pray for us, now and at the hour of our death!

I don’t know if this is true of all Catholics or just those who become priests, but my experience this summer gives me the impression that Catholics are always asking for prayer.

“I’ll be praying for you,” my seminarian friend told me the afternoon of my second day of class; “will you please pray for me?”

Lest I should think it was his particular quirk, the next night when we were leaving my pub his friend said the same: “Will you pray for us?” he asked as we parted. I gave him the Protestant response of “How can I be praying for you?” and he thought I was being sassy. Evidently, Catholics pray for people without asking for specific details.

In case I might be tempted to imagine it was something they had picked up in their country of origin, the Irish priest I had lunch with the next week said goodbye in the same way: “I will pray for you; please pray for me.”

And before I could assume that in all three cases it was just a component of my particular situation as a Protestant visiting the Catholic Church, I wandered into mass early one day and an old collared Irishman hobbled over to me and whispered in my ear, “Let me make a deal. How ‘bout I pray for you, and you pray for me?”

By that point I was starting to realize how little I actually pray for people other than myself. Maybe some of it is a component of my seminarian-friend’s observation that each Protestant has the responsibility to be his own personal pope, and I can’t take the mental pressure of knowing what to pray for each friend I might pray for. But the people mentioned above did not seem to expect that of me; no matter who I might be, it couldn’t hurt to have me mentioning them to God. It couldn’t hurt me either.

So I did. Two or three weeks into my trip, I took to making prayer for people part of my regular rhythm of life. And with Latin having turned my brain to mush I couldn’t put much thought into the prayer. For now, all my mental exhaustion could handle is a simple, “Dear God, I pray for Mom… and Dad… and my brother…” During my 20-minute walk to class every day, I list the names of members of my family, friends back home, people I’ve met in Ireland, friends long-gone… whoever comes to mind. I don’t have to know what to say for them; for now, the discipline is just stand before my God and love them.

To my family and friends out there, I’ve been praying for you a lot this summer. Please pray for me.


Wonders for Oyarsa said...

Hi Em,

I really liked some of the things father stephen had to say about this here.

Clifford said...

That's really cool. :) I've kind of picked up on this, too, starting in...March or April or something, but it's cool to see it manifesting in someone else's life in *IRELAND* of all places (I mean that in a good way - as in, I want to go).

I yam interested in discussing this more in-depth upon your return if you'd be so willing...