Monday, May 21, 2007

"Prayer is like brushing your teeth"

The following is a reflection on prayer from the book, “From the Pastor’s Desk”, which is a collection of spiritual reflections given by Msgr. Thomas Wells when he was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Bethesda from 1994-1999:

“A number of people (well, actually two of them) have asked me to share some thoughts on how to pray. I often mention the importance of prayer in living the Christian life, so perhaps it might be useful for some to give at least a few suggestions on how to pray.

I begin with two notes of caution. In a society that craves instant gratification, prayer – like most really important activities – goes against the current. Prayer is the principle means for drawing close to God, but that drawing close takes place over the course of a lifetime, and, most often, we do not notice it as it happens. Secondly, there is no “right” way to pray. Because each of us has a different personality, each relates to God differently. For any Catholic, of course, there can be no authentic prayer life where the Mass is not the center, because in the Mass, in a perfect way, we pray with Christ who leads us to the Father. As for prayer outside of the Mass, what I suggest are only basic principles that, I believe, have served me well over the years.

First, prayer is like brushing your teeth: do it each day and at a regular time and it will become a habit. God is Spirit; we are active in the material world and, therefore, most of us are not inclined to turn off the obvious material world in favor of listening to the much less obvious spiritual. In addition to a regular time, try to find a place for prayer, perhaps before a Crucifix or favorite religious image. The reason for this, of course, is simply to put ourselves into a prayerful frame of mind. Russian Orthodox homes, for example, have a special corner where an icon is placed and before which a candle is lit at time for prayer. Obviously, at (Our Lady of) Lourdes, the adoration chapel in the church is an ideal place for prayer. However, if it is not practical to come daily, why not schedule a period each week to come before the Blessed Sacrament?

Finally, the heart of prayer is listening to God. Obviously, what He has to say in prayer is more important than what I say. Equally obvious is the insight that I cannot hear God as I hear another person. That is why I recommend praying with Scripture. Each day, the Church selects passages from the Bible for use at daily Mass; but, even if I cannot get to Mass, I can still use the readings as a way to hear God’s Word each day. No, if I give the Lord five or ten minutes each day and quietly try to hear what He is saying in these passages, I probably will not “hear” anything. But, if I make this listening a daily habit, I guarantee that over time His Word will sink into my life and I will find it gradually shaping the way I live. God may be subtle; but He most certainly is powerful in those who listen to Him!”


At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whew- new day, new topic- good thing! Often I kneel quietly in church and bow my head just to clear my mind. I used to think- I should be thinking about something in paricular and my mind will wander to what I should be thinking about- silly, huh? Lately, I've come to appreciate the silence that I'm able to create in my head. No, I don't "hear" anything, but I still feel guided. It leaves me with a sense of peace.

At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Kat said...

So if we don't pray daily our souls get gunky like our teeth would if we don't brush? ewww.

At 12:36 PM, Blogger fran said...

10:48 Anon-
You can say that again! Isn't it great to have the gift of a new day?

I like your analogy. On occasion, I actually say a prayer or two, while brushing my teeth! Hey, seize the moment!

At 1:20 PM, Blogger webster said...

Prayer and teeth – a great duo.

Today’s Your posting made me think of prayer and Confession as a way to bleach my soul to whiteness and bring about a true sense of peace – certainly much more important than having a dentist bleach my teeth.

Thanks for the posting and resulting comments.

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the 5th graders who was at the DC Hood game, told me that Cardinal McCarrick came over to talk to her and her group of friends. He recognized them from another game that they had been to and praised them for supporting the priesthood. This girl responded that they were really there to cheer for FG, but she guessed, while she was at it, she could cheer for the other priests too. He chuckled and talked with the kids a while, and they were really impressed with how friendly he was with them. They asked if he'd be back at next year's games. I thought it was sweet- they think they're "friends" with the cardinal. Just thought I'd share...

At 9:40 PM, Anonymous Missing FW said...

Father Wells' words of wisdom left behind are timeless. Also he led many to belief in the Eucharist and some to the priesthood. He was a dear funny authentic priest. I find great comfort when I think of him as part of the communion of saints. I know he must look out for FG from up above. What a loss for all of us. What a blessing for all who knew him. Father Greg, I beseech you to keep his writings on your blog site at times. Thank you for sharing this one.

At 10:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I have faithful Catholic friend who has many children. She has had cancer and it was cured or in remission! Thank God! Well her doctors have advised her to abandon NFP and to turn to sterilization for her husband or herself? The drs' reasonsing is that the cancer could recur and that my friend's body has been through some trauma. Although she is still fertile. Isn't this kind of complicated? How would you apply the church's teachings to this situation. They family has several children and they are currently utilizing NFP.

At 6:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is the concern that the cancer could reoccur while she could be pregnant or that he body is so weak from the cancer that she couldn't withstand a pregnancy? Perhaps her cycle has been disrupted b/c of cancer treatmenst or from the trauma to which you referred, but, I have found NFP just as reliable as my friends' methods of birth control. Has she received a 2nd opinion, or third...?

At 7:11 AM, Anonymous Kat said...

Saint of the day:

May 22, 2007
St. Rita of Cascia

Like Elizabeth Ann Seton, Rita of Cascia was a wife, mother, widow and member of a religious community. Her holiness was reflected in each phase of her life.

Born at Roccaporena in central Italy, Rita wanted to become a nun but was pressured at a young age into marrying a harsh and cruel man. During her 18-year marriage, she bore and raised two sons. After her husband was killed in a brawl and her sons had died, Rita tried to join the Augustinian nuns in Cascia. Unsuccessful at first because she was a widow, Rita eventually succeeded.

Over the years, her austerity, prayerfulness and charity became legendary. When she developed wounds on her forehead, people quickly associated them with the wounds from Christ's crown of thorns. She meditated frequently on Christ's passion. Her care for the sick nuns was especially loving. She also counseled lay people who came to her monastery.

Beatified in 1626, Rita was not canonized until 1900. She has acquired the reputation, together with St. Jude, as a saint of impossible cases. Many people visit her tomb each year.


Although we can easily imagine an ideal world in which to live out our baptismal vocation, such a world does not exist. An “If only ….” approach to holiness never quite gets underway, never produces the fruit that God has a right to expect.

Rita became holy because she made choices that reflected her Baptism and her growth as a disciple of Jesus. Her overarching, lifelong choice was to cooperate generously with God's grace, but many small choices were needed to make that happen. Few of those choices were made in ideal circumstances—not even when Rita became an Augustinian nun.

At 11:45 PM, Anonymous pvojrdon said...

Off Topic: response. The concern is the cancer could recur due to the surge in hormones caused by pregnancy. NFP has worked for them, but 2 ob/gyns concur that it is riskier. Kind of a murky question? Should she consult with a priest?

At 6:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a friend who is a WONDERFUL mother and I really admire in the way she is raising her children.
So loving and patient. She has several children and the other day a neighbor criticized her for her large family. She was crushed. I asked her why didn't she tell that neighbour what a beautiful thing a large family was. She said she was too hurt to say anything quick enough.

At 7:34 AM, Blogger fran said...

The mean spirtited, gossip thing can be summed up in just a few words:

"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

Make it a point to say something nice to someone today. It may just what they needed to hear.

At 7:36 AM, Blogger fran said...

Oops! Should have read " mean spirited."

And "It may be just what they needed to hear."

At 11:09 AM, Blogger Fr Greg said...

To Anon who asks about a friend battling cancer and NFP:

Through the help of a friend, an expert from the Archdiocese has generously (and quickly) provided solid comments regarding your friend's situation. They are below. Also, I can refer your friend to one of the best gyn/oncologists in the area; you or she can email me for his info (my email can be found in my profile).

"While she may want to consult a priest for moral support - a priest does not have the authority allow her or her husband to get sterilized. Sterilization is not an option since it is immoral unless not having it would endanger the woman. It sounds like woman already knows what the Church teaches.

My recommendations are:

1. Pray.

2. Go see a good "NFP knowledgeable" OB/Gyn - this is different than "NFP friendly"

3. Strictly follow the NFP method that you were taught. DON'T "mix" NFP methods. Doing this decreases the effectiveness of NFP. This is especially important as the woman enters her 40s since she will at some point near menopause. Often I hear women say "I know my body" and I am sure they do. However, their bodies change as they age and as a result they could be caught off-guard if they are not following a method of NFP correctly.

4. Meet with your NFP teacher again, review the rules and get a refresher. If your NFP teacher encourages you to mix methods/rules - get a new NFP teacher. Once a person mixes methods they have developed a new method of NFP that does not have the required medical studies behind it. In the Archdiocese of Washington NFP program we immediately terminate teachers who mix methods.

In my experience, it is in situations like this, where people are most likely to mix methods (and why I am emphasizing the point). The couple meets with a teacher, the couple seems nervous, the teacher is a really nice person, wants them to be happy and says "well, you could also do this". The couple feels better, the teacher feels better but the reality of the situation is that the method has been compromised.

5. Talk. The couple should be sure they talk about this a great deal. If they are not being physically intimate with one another and then they reduce non-physical intimacy (because they are stressing) the whole thing will become more difficult. Talk, talk, talk. Turn of the TV and talk. Pray together. If they don't know how to pray together get someone who can teach them.


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