Praying for laughter

“I was close to giving up on prayer altogether. Instead, I started to pray for laughter.”   These words of Amy Julia Becker remind us that sometimes that is the perfect prayer to pray.  Read her guest post on Ann Voskamp’s blog here.  Good to read even if you don’t feel like giving up on prayer . . . ’cause some day you surely could.

This photo will make you laugh–if nothing else.  Me as a child. :-)

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I offer this stretch of path

I would like to introduce you to a Professor of mine, Dr. Antony Lilles.  (“Catholic theologian, married father of three, living in Colorado since 1992.  Having completed doctoral studies in ’98, his research is dedicated to the wisdom of the saints and mystics of the Church.  He has recently published Hidden Mountain Secret Garden, Omaha: Discerning Hearts (2012).”   You can follow him on his blog: Beginning to Pray.

Dr. Lilles is currently walking the Way of St. James in Spain.  Here is one of his reflections, written yesterday.  In it he gives some excellent examples of how to intercede in the midst of daily life:

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Faith on the Way

What does a pilgrim find in Spain?
A land of paradox.   Extremely modern communist style apartments can rise above very ancient and warmer architectural forms on the same street.  Miles of the old primitive path are interrupted by brand new roads or in other places bordered by electric fences (a deterrent for livestock or pilgrims or both).   Beautiful silence is sometimes swallowed by the droning of “power generating” windmills.  The spirit of Don Quixote and the spirit of materialism, idealism and cynicism, faith and skepticism, ancient Catholicism and new religions of drug culture, simplicity of rural living and the complexity of over technologized souls, joy and sorrow; all of these movements one picks up on while treading the via primitiva.
Asturias was very beautiful but the chapels and sanctuaries were all locked or else in ruins.   This made finding a place for daily mass very difficult and, really, our greatest hardship.  Now in Galacia, chapels and masses are a little more available.
The other hardship which we are still contending with is the walk itself … About 18 miles a day.  The body adjusts to this.   And there are only two days to go.  Still, more than half way and drawing closer to Santiago, I still find the last three miles always a little more difficult, but because of that, the very best for prayer.
It is not a deep mental prayer of insight, or or delving introspection, but a prayer of intercession that comes easiest, “I offer this hundred yards  in reparation for the scandal I caused in the hearts of others…please let them know your love and draw them close to you even in the face of my failure to witness- because no matter how great my sin, your love is greater.”
Or else “remember my friend who died.  His life was filled with so much ambiguity and difficulty, but you were with him through it all. Now, as he stands before you, let this little act of love I offer with my feet open up the floodgates of your mercy on him.”
Or again, “I offer this stretch of path in thanksgiving for all the blessings you have lavished on meand my family.  I did nothing to deserve them.  But you blessed us anyway.  Let these steps be for your glory …”
The one phrase however that returns time and again is “Into your hands I commend my spirit.  With this step, I give myself to you completely, I abandon myself to you, with all the love of my heart, with total confidence, for you are my Father.”
As I wrote this reflection in the Albergue, in the room next to me, graduate student Lucy Ridsdale’s voice echoed over the 1970s pop song playing on the local radio. It was paradox: sachrine tunes suddenly overshadowed by something deeper and richer, and more fully human.  Everyone stopped.  The radio was turned off.  One young man broke down in tears.
I will post that recording in the future but here is a rendition of the chant dedicated to St James, sung in Santiago almost 800 years ago, when Saint Francis trod this path during another age of paradox and contradiction, penance and renewal: O adiutor omnium seculorum

Be as a child with God

An excellent description of our relationship with God:

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A child has no dissimulation, no concealment.  As soon as he is capable of deceit he is no longer a child.  In like manner, nothing can equal the openness and candor of the spiritual child. He does not compose his exterior; his recollection has nothing constrained about it; his actions, his conversation, his manners, everything in him is simple and natural; when he says anything, he really thinks it; when he offers anything he wishes to give it; when he promises anything, he will keep his promise.  He does not seek to appear different to what he really is, nor to hide his faults; he says what is good and what is evil of himself with the same simplicity, and he has no reserve whatever with those to whom he ought to disclose the state of his soul.

A child shows his love with artless innocence: everything in him expresses the feelings of his heart, and he is all the more touching and persuasive because there is nothing studied about him.  It is the same with the spiritual child, when he wishes to show his love for God and his charity for his neighbor.  He goes to God simply, without preparation; he says to God without set formulas or choice of words all that his loving heart suggests to him; he knows no other method of prayer than to keep himself in the presence of God, to look at God, to listen to him, to possess him, to tell him all the feelings with which grace inspires him, sometimes in words, but more often without speaking at all.

(Father Jean-Nicolas Grou)

Progress in prayer

“Do not entertain the notion that you ought to advance in your prayer.  If you do, you will only find you have put on the brake instead of the accelerator.  All real progress in spiritual things comes gently, imperceptibly, and is the work of God.  Our crude efforts spoil it.  Know yourself for the childish, limited and dependent soul you are.  Remember that the only growth that matters without our knowledge and that trying to stretch ourselves is both dangers and silly.  Think of the Infinite Goodness, never of your own state.  Realize that the very capacity to pray at all is the free gift of the Divine Love and be content with St. Francis de Sales’ favorite prayer in which all personal religion is summed up. ‘Yes, Father!  Yes and always Yes!’ . . .

“Let us rejoice in the great adoring acts and splendid heroisms of God’s great lovers and humbly do the little bit we can.  We too have our place.”  (Evelyn Underhill)

Roma

I am in beautiful Roma for three weeks.  I thought I would have regular internet access, but that proved to be wrong.  So I will be scarce in posting until after August 3.  You are all in my prayers at every church we visit.