Thursday, June 18, 2009

Catholics and All Those Wordy Prayers

I alluded to this conversation in a post a couple of days ago. Since today's Gospel reading contains the core of my son's concerns about Catholics and their repetitious prayers, it's a good day to talk about it.

Some translations call it "vain repetition" - and some non-Catholics immediately think of the Rosary or a Catholic whose lips are moving through the prayers of the Church, but the heart and soul are off to the grocery store or the swimming pool or what's for dinner tonight.

But here's the thing (and what I told my son who was not raised in the Catholic Church - as I converted just a few years ago):

Do not judge the heart of the one praying. How can you know what is in her heart. Maybe she is praying with more fervency and zeal in the quiet of her heart than anyone you have ever met. Maybe she is praying for her child with the anguish only a mother can feel, but all we see on the outside is the moving of her lips.

It is not the repetition of her prayers that is wrong. In fact, the prayer Our Lord gives as the perfect example of prayer is probably the very prayer she is praying.

No, the problem is meaningless repetition - vain repetition - and God alone knows if there is purpose in her heart, longing in her soul, true communion and communication with God. Or whether she is merely repeating words.

Be careful. Spiritual judgmentalism is a big, big deal. The worst form of pride.

My son nodded his head. He agreed. We cannot know what is deep within the heart of another. Brief conversations (Q & A) moments like these with my older children are precious. I am glad for these moments. I consider it a great blessing to be able to share what I have come to see as beauty and truth in this new faith - and to share it with those I love most.

Because, you see, I am that woman who prays like the woman I described above - and he is the son I'm praying for - and my grown daughters, too. My son loves God with his whole heart. And I think, God willing, he will see what I see in Mother Church, one day. And so, I pray. Our Father. . .

Mt 6:7-15
Jesus said to his disciples:"In praying, do not babble like the pagans,who think that they will be heard because of their many words.Do not be like them.Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
"This is how you are to pray:
'Our Father who art in heaven,hallowed be thy name,thy Kingdom come,thy will be done,on earth as it is in heaven.Give us this day our daily bread;and forgive us our trespasses,as we forgive those who trespass against us;and lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from evil.'
"If you forgive others their transgressions,your heavenly Father will forgive you.But if you do not forgive others,neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."


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