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Faith Column: Despite the circumstances, we must continue to pray

"And being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly." (Luke 22:44)

Recently, on some education channel, a middle aged man freely shared with his wife and friends how much he loved prayer. As the story unfolded, it described how he had a severe accident; one that killed his body. Even though his body was dead, he did not feel dead. Rather, his life continued on in a beautiful and comforting experience. He survived however, or shall I say, his body survived this death experience, but not right away. Obviously, his very self, his soul outside his body - its earthly home - went to the realms of the eternal. This man, when later sent back into his body, told his wife and friends some things about his visionary soul experience.

Two struck a curious nerve in me. One - when his soul left his body he saw hundreds of lights of various diameters and brightness being carried by angels up to the Heavenly Father. The angels told him that these were every prayer, which he had carefully offered while in his body on earth. The man was surprised and yet delighted. Two - when a saint had led him into the realms of the Holy of Holies, he learned that he could not stay there, but rather he had to return to his life on earth that he did not want anymore. Upon being thrust back into his body (which later fully recovered) however, he had a hard time not being angry with God.

He felt rejected by the Holy of Holies. He took quite a long time reconciling to our tremendous and all wise God. Blessed be He. Nonetheless, though he felt cheated out of an eternal experience of heavenly bliss, he never stopped praying. Although he felt angry at the Thrice Holy One God, he disciplined himself to pray and pray and pray. From his youth, he acknowledged that God had given him this unimaginable gift: a love for prayer. Throughout his entire life, he actively cultivated this unmerited gift.

St. John Mary Vianney (1786-1859), better known as the Cure of Ars, (sermonized on the value and importance of prayer. Himself a man of prayer and strengthened by much fasting, Fr. Vianney taught his people the importance of prayer. Like many of the Saints before and after him, St. John Vianney spent his day in prayer. Not satisfied praying just during the day, he also prayed for many hours during the night. Offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, hearing confessions for hours at a time and praying, were the three pillars of his priesthood. It was his way to prove his love of God, Who is the Most Holy One.

Father John Vianney in his sermons admonishes what the unfortunate consequences are for the lack of prayer. Here are a few examples.

Without prayer, a sinner is not converted. If a Christian is damned to hell, it is because of his lack of prayer. When he wants to steal a soul from the hands of God, He Who is most Holy, the devil gives the soul a distaste for prayer. "However good a Christian may be, if the devil succeeds in making him either say his prayers badly or neglect them all together, he is certain to have the Christian for himself."

This Cure of Ars also taught that when we are careless with our prayers, saying them from habit, by routine to just get them done and not to please God the Most Holy so we can get on with our many activities, we have made great steps to enter hell. "We shall never return to God, if we do not have recourse to prayer," the Saint insisted.

Pope Leo XIII often worried about us Americans with so much hustle and bustle in our activities. He often cautioned us that we are very active, even doing acts of charity, but these are often frivolous time occupiers so we do not have to look at ourselves and examine our consciences. As to us Americans, so too to the rest of the world. Pope Leo admonished that we spend more time in prayer and thus stop worrying so desperately about the things of the world.

Recently I finished rereading the encyclical letter of Pope Paul VI titled "Priestly Celibacy," published June 24, 1967. What moved my priestly heart was his words at the end of this document, "Now with fatherly love and affection, our heart turns anxiously and with deep sorrow to those unfortunate priests who always remain our dearly beloved brothers and whose misfortune we keenly regret: those who, retaining the sacred character conferred by their priestly ordination, have been or are unfortunately unfaithful to the obligations they accepted when they were ordained. Their sad state and its consequences to priests and to others move some to wonder if celibacy is not in some way responsible for such dramatic occurrences and for the scandals they inflict on God's people. In fact, the responsibility falls not on consecrated celibacy in itself, but on the judgment of the fitness of the candidate for the priesthood, which was not always adequate or prudent at the proper time, or else it falls on the way in which sacred ministers live their life of total consecration." (No. 83)

This pope continued his reflections: "If these priests knew how much sorrow, dishonor and unrest they bring to the holy Church of God; if they reflected on the seriousness and beauty of their obligations and on the dangers to which they are exposed in this life and in the next, there would be greater care and reflection in their decisions, they would pray more assiduously (emphasis added), and would show greater courage and logic in forestalling the causes of their spiritual and moral collapse." (No. 86)

I do not know to whom I should ascribe the following quote. I only know that I read it sometime ago. At any rate, someone said it and wrote it. The quote stands for itself.

"Burst open the gates of heaven with thrusts of prayer."


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