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Monday, 3 August 2015

Thoughts on Prayer

In this post, I look at two aspects of prayer. The first part is self-explanatory. The second revolves around understanding stigmatics.

Firstly, this post comes from a discussion I had with a friend on intercessory prayer. She is involved in doing reparation for members of her family who have fallen away from the Faith. As Christ told us, some prayer needs to be coupled with fasting, or, to extrapolate, other penances. My friend and I discussed how real prayer, entering into the spiritual world in order to do reparation, or intercede for others, is downright exhausting. (Actually, doing manual labor, such as laundry, or cleaning, or gardening, is a rest from intense prayer, and if one is doing this in silence, prayer continues, but at a lesser intensity.)

This is why scheduling and pacing prayer, as in the Benedictine day, an example given below, is so important. One needs breaks of other work, but one needs to keep up the prayer by pacing it throughout the day. This idea came from the genius of St. Benedict. Here is an example from a monastery in America.

Through the Day

Sunday Schedule

4:00 A.M. - Vigils (choral office in church) lasts about an hour and fifteen minutes.

6:00 A.M. - Lauds (in church) followed by breakfast for guests from 6:30 to 7:10 am in the monastic refectory.

8:45 A.M. - Terce (in church) lasts about 10 minutes.

9:15 A.M. - Conventual Mass (Eucharist) followed by refreshments in the Guest Reception Area.

11:30 A.M. - Sext (in church) lasts about ten minutes, followed by Light Meal in the monastic refectory, 11:45 to 12:30 P.M.

4:00 P.M. - None (in church) lasts about ten minutes, followed by Main Meal in the monastic refectory.

5:30 P.M. - Solemn Vespers and Benediction (in church) lasts about 45 minutes.

7:30 P.M. - Compline (in church) lasts about 15 minutes, followed by Nightly Silence.

Daily Schedule

4:00 A.M. - Vigils (choral office in church) lasts about one hour.

5:45 A.M. - Lauds (in church) lasts about thirty minutes, followed by Mass. Breakfast for guests in the Guest Breakfast Room from 7:00 - 7:45 A.M.

8:45 A.M. - Terce (in church) lasts about ten minutes.

9:00 A.M. - Work meeting for guests outside the Gift Shop. Work for All.

12:40 P.M. - End of work period.

1:00 P.M. - Sext (in church) lasts about ten minutes, followed by Main Meal in the monastic refectory.

3:30 P.M. - None (in church) lasts about ten minutes.

5:20 P.M. - Exposition and Eucharistic Adoration (in Church).

5:50 P.M. - Vespers (in church) lasts about thirty minutes.

6:20 P.M. - Light Meal until 6:50 P.M. in the monastic refectory.

7:30 P.M. - Compline (in church) lasts about fifteen minutes, followed by Nightly Silence.

Most nights, I try to be in bed by half-past nine so that I can get up early, or as God asks, very early, like three or four, to pray intercessory prayers for certain people

Real prayer is not merely saying words or sitting in silence. although that can be part of the day.

Intercessory prayer reminds me of a wrestling match. One enters into prayer knowing that God asks for suffering for those for whom one prays. Intercessory prayer can be very tiring.

My friend recalled prayer times when she was drained. Sometimes, if God wants a concentration of prayer, He will allow her to become ill with severe arthritis, so that she cannot do anything for three days but pray.

Last week, when I had that histamine reaction, God wanted me to stop doing things, including talking, and be quiet in intercessory prayer. I had become too busy.

The prayer of quiet demands attention and focusing. I compare it to the August chorus of birds in the early morning, now about five.

Early in the summer, in late May, early June, the chorus resounds with the songs of hundreds of birds, starting about half-past three in the morning. Now, in late summer, the songs of a few birds, a cardinal or two, a few robins, sing in a schola rather than in a chorale. But, these animals focus on their songs, intent on praising God, as they do at this time of year. This focusing only lasts a short time, Then, these birds rest, do a few "chores", fly about, and rest again, eating as well in between singing. But, the morning chorus only happens once a day, a focusing of song.

Birds sing all day, but at times, their song is more intense than at other times.

So, too, with some intercessory prayer, which can be a real struggle. And, what those who do not understand the contemplative life do not know, is that even encounters with God can be exhausting.

Again, I refer to the limp of Jacob.

Why a contemplative does not "work" in the world is that he IS working, on the threshold of the spiritual world, praising God, interceding, listening.

This takes time and energy.

Secondly, some people with whom I have spoken, do not understand the life of the stigmatic.

The stigmatic has crossed over the threshold of the spiritual world because Christ has invited them to be one with Him in His Passion. Those who do accept these graces of complete union in the physical suffering of Christ mirror what the contemplative experiences spiritually, without the signs and physical suffering at this level of intense pain. The stigmata is a great gift of love.

The stigmatic intercedes when in union with Christ, carrying on, as St. Paul noted, the sufferings of Christ in this world. Such special souls allow their bodies to be one with Christ, for a day, or longer. The example of Padre Pio, Francis of Assisi, (the first recorded stigmatic), Marthe Robin, and many others provides an example of intense intercessory prayer of love.

They become one with Christ in love, not only for the Savior, but for those for whom they suffer in intercession.

I am astounded when Catholics think that the life of the contemplative nun or monk or priest or lay person is an easy life, without work. Prayer is work. And, it can be exhausting, as my friend said.

Those who only value work which is physical and has monetary reward simply do not understand the ways of God in deep prayer.

The stigmatic teaches us the extreme of the loving union of those who intercede for us daily.

UPDATE: After I wrote this post, I checked my e-mail, and lo and behold--synchronicity.

Here is the note:

Prayer Takes Effort by The Hermit

I may be wrong but I think nothing needs so much effort as prayer to God. If anyone wants to pray, the demons try to interrupt the prayer, for they know that prayer is the only thing that hinders them. All the other efforts in a religious life, whether they are made vehemently or gently, have room for a measure of rest. But we need to pray till our dying breath. That is the great struggle. ~Sr. Benedicta Ward, SLG; The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks