ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT, I was asked to speak to the our batch of soon-to-be Confirmands (around ten, one of whom I am sponsoring) about Prayer, Liturgy and Worship. Of course, this is entirely too broad a topic for fifty minutes, but I tried my best. Why exactly I
was was asked, I'll never know. However, nobody fell asleep, so it must have been tolerable, at least.
JOKINGLY, I WROTE on The Book of Faces
that I wanted to cover three things related to the topic: 1) Why Jesus is mad at you, but His Mother is not; 2) "When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from Purgatory springs"; and 3) Why it is better that you don't know what is going on at Mass. These three topics are shockingly similar to the aims of the Frankly Unfriendly Catholics group.
Of course, I could have just spent five minutes teaching them their Pater's
and their Ave's
, telling them to mind their beads during The Eucharist, only looking up when the bells ring
. Then, we could have then gone out for a drink and called it a day. But, alas, twenty-first century Northeast Tennessee is not twelfth-century England -- no matter how hard I want it to be
. (This whole paragraph is sarcasm, if you couldn't tell.)
ACTUALLY, I STARTED with a general discussion on the subject of "Why do we pray?" Prayer is such a common experience across all of humanity, that I think it is easy to forget that it has a purpose and a meaning. Using Scripture and the Mystics as my guide, I suggested that we pray because God desires a deep, abiding union with us and prayer was a powerful way to reach that union (this should sound familiar to long-time readers
). I quoted this wonderful little paragraph from one of the devotions in St. Augustine's Prayer Book
, that expresses it quite nicely:
[God] does not come as a stern Judge or a God outraged by my unfaithfulness. He comes as a Friend whose Heart longs for me and my companionship. His delights are to be with the sons of men. His joy is to have me come to him, to speak with him, to talk to him of my wants and troubles, my hopes and fears, my longings and desires, all that is in my heart.
We pray because God likes us -- God loves us! -- and we are His own. As one of the Collects puts it, " . . . you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve . . ."
BUT, WE MUST remember that God is not your dear Great-Aunt Mildred who -- bless her heart! -- is a little lonely and chats your leg off every time you go to her house. No, God is a consuming fire! If prayer is about unity with God, then it is also about transforming us to becoming more like Him. As the old Evangelical saying has it, "Prayer changes things" and, indeed, it does! Prayer changes you! We should be wary of anything "Christian" that does not do this nor seeks it as its aim.
THE REMAINDER of the class was talking about the nuts-and-bolts of the three-legged catholic approach to a balanced spiritual life: 1) Private Devotions (meditation/contemplation), 2) The Daily Office and 3) The Mass. A lot of this was just exploring the Prayer Book Rites for these things, especially the Daily Office
. The three of these transform us into Christ when we engage them faithfully over a long time. But, the Holy Eucharist does this most especially, as it is the apex of the Christian life and the foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet. We finished by praying together the words of St. Thomas Aquinas in Hymn #314 in the '82
, which sums it up all very nicely:
Humbly I adore thee, Verity unseen,
who thy glory hiddest 'neath these shadows mean;
low, to thee surrendered, my whole heart is bowed,
tranced as it beholds thee, shrined within the cloud.
Taste and touch and vision to discern thee fail;
faith, that comes by hearing, pierces through the veil.
I believe whate're the Son of God hath told;
what the Truth hath spoken, that for truth I hold.
O memorial wondrous of the Lord's own death;
living Bread that givest all thy creatures breath,
grant my spirit ever by thy life may live,
to my taste thy sweetness neverfailing give.
Jesus, whom now hidden, I by faith behold,
what my soul doth long for, that thy word foretold:
face to face thy splendor, I at last shall see,
in the glorious vision, blessed Lord, of thee.
If you'd like a copy of my outline that I used, let me know (It has copious amounts of scripture references that could only be gathered by a former Baptist)! Y'all have a great weekend.