Monday, June 3, 2013

Discipline and the Battle of Prayer

I am the Queen of Novena Dropouts. I've tried many times since my teens to do a Little Flower Novena, and I have only made it all the way through once.  St. Therese must be pretty sure that I am a hopeless case. I can just see her:
St. Therese (shaking her head and chatting with St. Joan of Arc and St. Catherine of Siena, my patron saints):  Here she goes again...
SJ: This time she'll make it!
ST: (grimace and facepalm) I don't know. She's remembering later and later in the day.
SC: Well, we'll pray for her anyway.
ST: (sigh)
She usually sends me a rose by day three or so, because she knows that by day five, I will have completely forgotten what I was doing. I know that it's a lack of discipline and that lack is one of my biggest failings.
Currently, I am in the midst of praying a Novena to the Sacred Heart using with the Pray More Novenas community. If you don't know about these folks, you should. (Go on: click the link and sign up.) They'll send you email reminders to say your novena prayers. Apparently, this is the only way I can remember my novena prayers.

Madonna and Child by Il Sassoferrato
Since, I've been using it, it's helped me a lot, but has not completely cured my lack of discipline. Despite the daily reminders, I dropped out of the Holy Spirit Novena in May so I am determined to make it all the way through this one.  The Catechism describes prayer as a battle. That's certainly the case for me. I guess having St. Joan of Arc in my corner is not such a bad thing, then, eh?

Every now and then, while praying a novena, I have a breakthrough. It's some little nugget of bright light that pierces  the dark fog of my busy life and kind of changes my perspective. Usually, these nuggets come late in the novena, so I kind of look at them as achieved objectives. You know, sort of like the left flank offensive worked and now the tide is turning in the battle. Today I had a revelation like that.

I was saying the Hail, Holy Queen and I thought: Wow! She held that baby, with his heart burning for love of all of us, right in her arms! Can you just imagine holding Pure Love?  And suddenly, I had a flash of holding the infant Jesus. Having an infant grandson, I do a lot of infant holding as of late.  But sitting in my office chair, with no baby handy, this sensation was palpable.

Just imagine the pure joy of those moments for Mary and Joseph: holding the very Incarnation of Love in your arms, cradling him to you and humming him to sleep... well, it was overwhelming. I felt like my heart would burst. ( I am sure many of you are saying, "Well, duh!" but this was all a new thought for me.)

Having celebrated The Feast of Corpus Christi just yesterday, I recalled my pastor's homily: Words change things. We are not simply called to "personal relationship with Jesus". The words of Jesus changed everything  so we are called to be much more than that. In the Eucharist we are called to be in communion with Him. We are called to be One with Him. We are called to be Christ.

Giving my heart to God in prayer changes who I am and how I see the world. Even if I don't, can't or won't make the effort to understand what I am saying at any particular moment, inspiration pours over me like a flood at the moment I need it and not before. But it's up to me to open my heart and discipline myself to say those words. Even if they seem "old and tired" or "rushed and distracted", the words of prayer change things. God uses them to make us new.

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