I’ll pray for you

Some saints are easily recognizable by their inspiring works or words. Other saints are hidden, but their holiness upholds us through their prayers. Anna was one of these saints, a woman well on in years. Though ravaged with health issues that limited her activity and mobility, Anna was a permanent fixture in our church pews. She not only attended every mass and prayer service, she came early and left late. If there was a day-long Eucharistic Adoration, she was present for each and every minute.

Anna reminded me of the the prophet Anna, in Luke’s gospel story of the Presentation, who “never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.”  I asked her once, what do you do during all those hours? Her simple answer, “I pray for each and every one of you.” Every temple, every church, every community needs an Anna.

I belong to a wonderful online faith community, Our Lady of the Round Table. We are eight women from around the world; the USA, Ireland, France, Kenya, Australia and Canada. Each day, we bring many prayers to the table…so many prayers. The list of names and needs grows daily. I get overwhelmed, forgetting whom we are praying for. Thankfully, we have our own “Anna” among us. 

Susan is a woman who not only remembers each and every intention, whether formally requested or mentioned in a passing comment, she lovingly lists the names each day. Her list becomes a prayerful litany, inviting us all to speak the name in our heart and lift their need to the heavens. Susan is our community’s memory. She nudges us to be faithful to those words, sometimes too easily rolled off our tongues, “I’ll pray for you”.

One of the first requests that Pope Francis made of us was “pray for me”. There is power in our prayers, whether we ask for them or promise to offer them for others. The mission of the communion of saints is to pray with us and pray for us.

God bless all the everyday saints here on earth who love and support us with their prayers.

catholic intercessory prayer

Catholics have a well-stocked arsenal of prayer tools to bombard the heavens. There is no one, magic formula or process. We can pick and choose based on our own prayer style, personality, or mood. Here are just some examples.

The Mass is the `source and summit` of our prayer. During the Eucharistic prayers, we lift up all our intentions as we pray for the needs of the world and the Church. While each Mass is prayed for all, it can also be offered up for a special intention.

In our small town parish, the intentions are often for the deceased. We remember them by name. We pray for eternal rest for their soul. And we pray for those who mourn their loss. Mass intentions are also offered in times of need and illness, or in gratitude and thanksgiving for gifts received.

The tradition of `offering up a Mass` has been abused in the past. The sale of Masses and indulgences filled clerical coffers and helped build grand edifices. Today, the voluntary stipend offered will make no one rich. Here in Canada, mass stipends are often sent up north to help support missionary priests. In exchange, the prayer intention is remembered at the Mass.

The Rosary is probably the most recognized of Catholic prayer traditions. When sorrow is deep and words fail, the rhythmic cadence and tactility of praying the beads can bring a meditative calm. The simplicity of the rosary lends itself to uniting family and friends in group prayer without the need for a formal structure.

Novenas consist of specific prayers and devotional practices repeated for nine successive days. There are almost as many different novenas as there are needs.

Prayers to the Saints allow us to send our intentions to a heavenly specialist! Lost something? St. Anthony is your man. Have a tooth ache? St. Apollinia is your woman. Got a problem child? St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, will understand.

Are these just superstitious prayer practices? If you believe that prayer, itself, is a superstitious practice, then the answer is obvious. But if you believe in the power of prayer, then why not embrace the diversity of prayer forms available to us? Try one out that feels right for the moment. If you are a contemplative soul, a rosary can quiet the mind and heart and help lead into meditation. If you like organization and order in your life, try a novena. If you want a heavenly prayer partner, Google your intention and find a patron saint to pray with you.

At the heart of prayer, whether it is quietly sitting in the presence of God or using a more structured format,  is the actual intention to pray. And this is a good thing!

oh God, hear our prayer…

In our small town, death notices are posted on a bulletin board at the Post Office. Folks slow down on the way to their mail boxes to scan the names on the little cards. Being a small town, the odds of knowing the person are pretty high. After looking at the name, one looks at the age. Oh, this one lived a long life! Death is always sad, but easier to accept if the person had been blessed with the gift of many birthdays.

This past week, one card stopped many in their tracks. It announced the sudden death of a young, 28 year old man. He was a school friend of my eldest son. Hubby over-heard two elder gentlemen of the community wondering out loud about this too-young-to-die notice. What happened? Another told the sad truth. He had taken his own life.

We never have to look far for intentions to pray for.  But, sometimes our lives are hit with a tsunami of sadness. It`s one piece of bad news after another. A young father, a friend of a friend across the ocean, dies suddenly leaving behind a stunned and grieving wife and young children. Young and old battle the scourge that is cancer. Some win the battle. Too many lose it leaving behind incredible sorrow for family and friends. On Saturday, a young mother from a neighboring town slid into an oncoming semi-trailer on a winter highway and was killed instantly. Her 4 year old twins were with her, and are still in hospital.

It is easier to give a moment`s notice to sad news, and then try to let it go. Why dwell on it and make ourselves miserable? Why bring all this negative energy into our day? We have enough stresses of our own to worry about! 

Nothing we say or do will take away the horrible pain of deep loss. And, yes, thinking about the reality of loss can make us feel pretty low, even if our relationship to the person is at arm`s length or more. What, then, must the pain be like for those directly involved? The thought of losing my 28 year old son is too much to bear. How does the mother who is living this reality bear it?

Sometimes, the only thing that we can do is pray.

Praying for another is to commit to entering into the sadness, even if for a moment. It means offering them up to a loving God who always hears our prayers. It means giving words to another`s wordless grief. It is a hope that the pains we feel from a distance may in some way lessen the pain of the one who is experiencing the immediate hell and agony of suffering and loss.

It is offering a spiritual shoulder to lean on, even if the person has no idea that you are praying for them. It is joining hands with a compassionate communion of saints in circling the suffering soul with love and support.