Sunday, July 29, 2007

17th Sunday - homily

We’re going to have a little poll today in Church: a survey on prayer. Now, don’t worry, you won’t have to raise your hands. In fact, we’ll go right to the results which are based on conversations I’ve had with many of you since I’ve been at St. Andrew’s. If I were to ask you, “how many of you pray?”, almost all – if not all – of your hands would go up. If I asked you “how many of you pray every day?”, less hands would be raised, but still it would be many. If I asked “how many of you pray every day from your hearts?”, there would be even less hands, but still a good number. It’s usually a question that catches people by surprise. Nevertheless, I have been impressed with how much of a praying community we have here.

Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel to pray. Pray! He says we are to ask, to seek, and to knock. He says we are to ask the Father to send the Spirit. Many of us want to do this, but don’t know how to ask, to seek, to knock, or to ask for the Spirit. Jesus, how do we pray? This is the same question that the disciples ask our Lord. We want to talk to God regularly, but don’t know how.

I think the question of how to pray is the same question of how to talk to a good friend. We don’t need to know how to talk to a good friend; we don’t look up in the “Best Friend’s Guide Book” to find the answer. We just do it! Prayer is the same thing. It’s talking to God from your heart. St. Jose Maria Escriva once said prayer is “to get acquainted” (with God and self). This is what happens when we talk with our best friend; we get to know the other and our self.

So, many of us want to make prayer a habit, but might be afraid to take the first step. We just need to do it! I did this fifteen years ago when I first began to pray. I was helping out at the youth group at St Mark’s in Hyattsville. At that time, St. Mark’s had Perptual Adoration where the Eucharist is exposed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a chapel. With Perpetual Adoration, someone needs to be there every hour during the day and night. They needed someone from 6-7 am on Thursdays; so, I (foolishly) signed up. It was early!

I drove from Bethesda to Hyattsville every Thursday. I had no idea what I was doing when I went in the chapel. No clue! I had never done Adoration before. I got on my knees, but didn’t know where to look. I looked at the Crucifix, and then started to notice all the lights and candles in the altar area. I finally recognized the Host (in the monstrance), and got it. One of my first prayers there – after 21 years of ignorance about the Real Presence – was, “Jesus, I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was you. All these years, I thought that the Eucharist was just a symbol”. That was the Holy Spirit leading that prayer. I didn’t know how to pray. I just put myself in His Presence, and the Spirit took over. The Spirit shows us how to pray.

Now, some practical suggestions on how to pray. The greatest prayer is what we’re doing right now – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The next best way to pray is Adoration which we have every Friday night here from 7-8 pm. The people who come love it. It’s great, even if you come in for just a few minutes! We can also pray in our rooms, as Jesus tells us elsewhere in the Gospel. Reading Scripture is a great way to get to know God and us. Finally, going to Jesus through Mary by praying the rosary is an excellent way to pray. We can turn off the car radio and pray a few decades of the rosary, or go for a rosary walk or something. These are all ways for us to make prayer a part of our day, and to men and women of prayer.

Finally, a plea to our parents: please pray for your kids. Every day. I just spent a week in Florida with a couple who are dear friends. Before every meal, they pray Grace, then a Hail Mary for their daughter who died at 28, and then a prayer for their other (grown) children which I will close with. It’s a powerful thing when parents pray for their children, just like Abraham in the first reading; Abraham is our father in faith who is interceding for his children to God. As your spiritual father, I will pray this prayer (of my friends) every day for you:

Lord, look kindly on your children fashioned by you from the womb
Keep fear, trouble, and harm far from them
And when life’s storms come, guide our children to safety
In days to come, give us all faith, hope, and love
And keep us always by your side


At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a thing about devotions. I go to Adoration, and it is one of my most valued hours of the week, and I have realized a stronger relationship has developed as a result. However, with some of the other devotions- the rosary in particular- I have not had the same experience. Thank goodness for the anonymity here, so I’m just going to say it- I find it a chore! I don’t understand what this brings to people, and my grandmother would pray the rosary every chance she had when I was smaller, and I didn’t understand why then either. Maybe it’s an attention span thing, but my mind will wander and I forget what I’ve said or I find myself getting irritated with the process. It bothers me that I have this reaction, for, especially as a mother, I think I should have a sense of closeness with Mary that would make me want to pray the rosary. I have no problem with worship, I feel called to worship God, but veneration is something else. I can “talk” to Jesus as I would a friend, but offering devotion to another like the Blessed Mother or any of the saints doesn’t make sense to me.

At 6:33 PM, Anonymous Tom said...

The Rosary is a chore for lots of people, including some saints (St. Therese, for example).

For me, the key was to see that the Rosary isn't a prayer that you say, but a way of prayer that you adopt. You can finish a Rosary in fifteen or twenty minutes, but the Rosary is a daily meditation on the Gospel that is never really "finished," since the mysteries are never really fully comprehended.

If you think of the Rosary, not as something you do in a quarter of an hour, but as something you do your whole life long, then the fact that your mind wanders is not such a big deal: there's always tomorrow.

Now, you can have a devotion to Mary without being devoted to the Rosary; just ask the Eastern Catholics or the Orthodox. I'm not so sure, though, that you can have a devotion to the Rosary without having a devotion to Mary, at least not for very long. She has a way of making herself home in a heart given the slightest opportunity.

At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"For me, the key was to see that the Rosary isn't a prayer that you say, but a way of prayer that you adopt."

Can you elaborate? I'm not exactly sure what you mean, but at least in part, I think I like where this is going. Talk more...

At 1:41 AM, Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

I used to have to say the rosary at school.... and it always seemed such a chore. Its other old association for me is during the service the evening before a funeral.
Anyone who has seen me posting here knows I am not much of a Catholic. But last year I went to Lourdes and I had a very different experience of rosary. Each evening there is a candlelit procession where the rosary is said, along with some hymns etc, a very multilingual affair. Each evening after I had taken part in the rosary procession, I felt a feeling of profound peace. I woke the next morning with the same peace. It is not something I really understand but I know it was 'real'.
I have returned home and haven't been able to get myself along to Church at all much, but I have bought some rosary beads. I find that other forms of prayer seem a bit 'hard' for me at present: my doubts and questions seem to surface too easily. But with the routine of the rosary, I just 'say' it, while thinking about some intention for each decade. It seems like I have really prayed for someone when I finish.

At 7:41 AM, Blogger fran said...

From "The Pieta Prayer Book," under "Why Pray the Daily Rosary" -

"The rosary is a treasure of graces." - Pope Paul V

St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort wrote: "The rosary is the most powerful weapon to touch the Heart of Jesus, Our Redemmer, Who so loves His Mother."

"To Recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ."
Rosarium Virginus Mariae, Pope John Paul 11, Oct. 16,2002.

I don't know if it is correct to infer this or not, but considering the words of JP II, could not the rosary be another form of adoration? Just a thought...

Also, there were pamphlets in the back of St. A's a few weeks ago, tilted "Pray the Rosary Daily." The pamphlet outlines how to pray the Rosary and includes Papal reflections of the Mysteries. In addition, it lists the Mysteries and provides a brief gospel passage/reflection for each. Each Mystery is accompanied by a gorgeous illustration. Might be something you would like to pick up.

At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Tom said...

The Rosary is by nature a prayer to be said daily. But it's not simply repeated, like grace before meals. You don't so much pray it each day as pray it over time (ideally for a lifetime).

As I see it, the purpose of the Rosary is to be always turning over the mysteries of salvation in your mind. You're never more than a couple of days away from meditating on any of the mysteries.

And when you do meditate on one of the mysteries, you're never more than five minutes from moving on to something else. How accomodating toward human nature this is! Ten "Hail Mary"s worth of seconds in a row may be more than most of us can spend focused on one thing, at least when we first start. But when those seconds are up, we don't go back and do it over till we do it right, we go on to try our best with the next mystery.

If you pray the Rosary every day, a dry or distracted Rosary on one day is not a big deal. The big deal is that you are turning your mind and heart toward the Gospel and imprinting your life with the life of Christ. The cycle repeats twice a week, but it is not mere repetition; it is a means of drawing closer and closer to Jesus by understanding his life (and therefore His love) a little better each day.

At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been trying to build a prayer life. I have gone to Adoration a few times and have concluded that I need to be alone there in order to enter a state of prayer. St. A's does not do perpetual adoration, that I know of. Do any of the parishes in our area do that?

At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure St John the Evangelist on Georgia Ave. has perpetual adoration.

At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Kiwi-

I'm a visual person, meaning things capture my attention by what I see first. It's one of the reasons I'll read along to the Gospel reading rather than just listen to it. It's also one of the reasons I think Adoration is special for me; everything is focused on seeing the real presence. I would imagine observing and participating in what you described would be something I could easily connect with, and I tend to do that better with when others are present. When I am surrounded by people who believe and are open in their expression of it, it definitely affects me. When I'm alone, it's harder to keep a focus.

At 1:02 PM, Blogger fran said...

"......while thinking about some intention for each decade. It seems like I have really prayed for
someone when I finish."

An eighth grade teacher, who was also a nun, instructed us to insert the name of someone for whom we wished to pray, when saying the Hail Mary.
i.e. "Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with thee.......Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners (especially for - name here-) now and at the hour of our death." I think this helps keep one grounded in the prayer, giving it a bit more direction, so to speak, and a little focus.

On another note....
A couple of weeks ago, I was examining my own prayer life and a few quesitons came to mind. I wondered if it was adequate (of course one can never pray to much,) if I should change some aspect of it or maybe even pray differently. I could hardly believe it when the Sunday gospel reading addressed "how to pray," which was then followed by Msgr Mellone's beautiful homily and Fr. Greg's equally beautiful post.

"For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." How true!!

At 2:04 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

I liked the part of FM's homily when he talked about how our prayers are always answered, but sometimes the answer is just, "No." As a parent, I can appreciate that.

I also appreciated the part when he spoke about praying for certain things- his example was asking for more patience. In his example, God may very well respond to that prayer by giving us ample opportunities to practice patience. It made me really think about what I ask for.

At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

bsezixk"A hymn is the praise of God with song; a song is the exultation of the mind dwelling on eternal things, bursting forth in the voice."
-Thomas Aquinas

Just wondering- are hymns thought of as a form of prayer? On the similar note, why does the church seem to frown on modern music in the church. If it's all about worship, why isn't this form also considered sacred? There definately is something about hearing the traditional hymns with which we all grew-up, but I also appreciate the more contemporary musical liturgy as at our Sunday evening service.

At 9:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The book,"the secret of the rosary," will make you understand it's great value and you will say it if you read this book..


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