Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Deep Faith Of Many

The last few days I've given a number of talks on prayer to adults. I've shared with them and they've shared with me. It's not always easy for adults to talk about their relationship with God and their prayer life. It's very personal and I understand that. So I'm always grateful when people offer to share their thoughts, feelings, struggles and aspects of their faith journey. Many people have insecurities and fears in relating to God and drawing closer to God in prayer. I remind them of how often the words, "Do not be afraid," appear in Scripture.
One woman, who is studying and preparing to be a Lay Leader in the Church expressed to me and the larger group, "I feel unworthy when I come to prayer, I feel a certain unworthiness." It reminded me of a quote from St. Teresa of Avila, and I paraphrase, "We should always remember whom we are addressing when we come to prayer." Good advice from the great Doctor. I said to the woman, who shared part of her struggle that, "We all feel that way, to some degree, who can be totally worthy of a deep, abiding relationship with God?" But God does indeed want to have a deep relationship with each soul. Many saints have said that over and over again. And each soul is unique and special to God. I also reminded the retreatants that we always have to depend on the unconditional mercy of God, which is always present in our seeking of God. I also mentioned my devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. St. Therese, knew the depths of God's mercy, she wasn't afraid. She knew she was "little, weak," and unable to "reach" God on her own, she depended on the mercy of God to lift her to heights she couldn't attain on her own. For Therese, being "little, frail and weak," was to her advantage, she could then call upon God to help her. She knew Scripture well, "Let the little ones come to me...." and "Blessed are those who trust in the Lord." Depending totally on God's merciful love and God's abundant mercy is what Therese's famous "little way," is all about. Her little way served her well, after her death, she became not only a canonized saint, but years later was declared by Pope John Paul II, to be the youngest Doctor of the Church. She accomplished much in 24 years and I believe it was because of her deep relationship with Jesus, which bore great fruit and continues to do so. 
Whenever I give talks to adults, I'm always uplifted by their deep faith, their desire to serve the Church. They love the Church and want to grow closer to God. They know as I do that the Church provides a "vehicle" to grow closer to God, to experience God and commune with God through God's word and the Sacraments, which is unique and life-giving. We also speak about saying "yes" to God and our response to God's will and all that entails. 
As I tell adults when I speak about faith or prayer with them, I always get something as well. I'm sharing my deep faith and I spend a lot of time preparing and praying beforehand, but I always receive more than I give. I'm always given new ideas from the faithful which I then share with others. And what is it that I pray before I give a talk? I simply pray, "Come, Holy Spirit, Come." In English and Latin I pray that simple but powerful prayer,  as well as the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.