When we allow prayer to hold us steady in faith, we experience the ups and downs of daily life with significantly greater peace.
Faith and prayer. These sisters of my spiritual journey walk hand in hand. Faith draws me to prayer, and prayer reactivates my faith. One nurtures the other.
My faith was birthed within a farming community who worshiped at a small parish church. Amid that congregation I was baptized, made my first Communion, and received Confirmation. It was not in church, however, that I learned to pray in a way that nourished and strengthened my religious faith. This took place in the schoolhouse next door.
There, a young Franciscan sister taught me that prayer is about relationship. She encouraged her young students to “talk to Jesus, who is always with you.” I never comprehended this tremendous gift until my younger brother drowned at age 23. Amid the shock and grief of that death, I turned to my belief in a God who stays with us when life goes well and continues to be there when life goes miserably. I didn’t stop praying during that bleak-hearted time, because faith assured me of God’s compassionate closeness.
Trappist monk Thomas Merton insisted prayer is often the best when “our hearts have turned to stone.” When we least feel like praying, it’s the very time to do so. That’s when faith takes us by the hand, lifts us up, and urges us to go to the One whose love strengthens and sustains us.
Etty Hillisum, a young Jewish woman who died at Auschwitz, knew how faith and prayer intertwine. One day she knelt to pray. She had never knelt before. It was a powerful moment of surrender. Etty didn’t ask to be released from her situation. Instead, she gave herself over in faith, trusting that, whatever happened, God would be with her. I have come to see how I need this kind of faith to bond me daily with the heart of God. And I need prayer to keep me there.
When I allow faith to hold me steady in prayer, I bring a richer and fuller awareness to liturgical worship. Likewise, when I allow prayer to hold me steady in faith, I experience the ups and downs of daily life with significantly greater peace.
Thomas Merton: A Prayerful Life
Thomas Merton has been called one of the most influential Catholic writers of the 20th century. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has sold over one million copies and has been translated into more than 15 languages. Merton converted to the Catholic faith in 1938 and entered the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky, four years later.
During his time at the abbey, Merton traveled a path of self-understanding and became involved in a number of political issues, such as civil rights and the nuclear arms race. In his later years, he worked to promote East-West dialogue. In 1968, Merton traveled to the Far East, where he met with the Dalai Lama for numerous discussions. It was during this trip that Merton died.
But it was his thirst for God that lingers with us still. He once wrote, “As Christ said, the seed in the ground must die. To be a seed in the ground of one’s very life is to dissolve in that ground in order to become fruitful. One disappears into Love, in order to ‘be Love.'”
Be with Us
each day you make your
presence known to us
in so many ways. Help us to be
open to that presence.
Help us to remember that,
regardless of what happens,
you are always at our side.
In times of sorrow and times of
joy, you wrap us
in your tender, loving embrace.
Let us be open to that embrace.