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Pray Without Ceasing

A few days ago on July 11th we celebrated the feast of one of the greatest saints on the Church’s calendar, St Benedict. His influence on the Church and her spirituality cannot be exaggerated. He is known as the Father of Monasticism since most monastic communities around the world follow the rule written by St Benedict. Even active religious orders like the Jesuits were inspired by the wisdom of this great spiritual father.

 

Every year when I make my spiritual retreat I search for a monastery. As this column goes to press I will be making my retreat at St Meinrad Archabby in Indiana, another Benedictine monastery. Over the years I have made several retreats at the Benedictine monastery in Collegeville, MN. It is always a special privilege for me to spend four days all by myself in silent prayer and reflection and I am helped in the process by joining the monks in prayer. There are almost 140 monks in the community in Minnesota. I was delighted to see that there were also several young monks who had joined recently.

As I looked at those men, young and old, of all shapes and sizes, I could not but recognize that they really got it right. They know what life is all about. They keep God as their first priority. Everything they do revolves around God. St Benedict gave his followers a simple motto: “Ora et labora” (pray and work). They pray several times a day as a community and when they are not praying, they are working. Many of them are professors at St John’s University while some are working in different trades such as carpentry and bread-making. However, all that they do is turned into prayer.

Even as we enjoy our summer it is good to remind ourselves that our focus must always be God. Our faith and our spiritual life must be our first priority. We need to set aside time for prayer and the sacraments. We need to commit ourselves to bringing our children to Sunday Mass not occasionally but regularly. Those of us who work for the Church must constantly remind ourselves that we work for the Lord. It is easy to lose sight of why we do what we do. God must be first in all things and at all times.

Just like the Benedictines, we need to “pray and work.” As parents who take care of their families, it is not easy to pray all the time. It may be even difficult to be in church every single day. However, we need to try to transform everything into prayer. When the day-to-day chores become heavy and you feel unappreciated, just offer it up to the Lord. When your spouse or your children make you mad and you want to say something, whisper a prayer asking God to help you keep your cool. When people do not give you due credit and instead blame you for something you never did, bear it patiently. Your silent suffering becomes prayer. Start the day offering the whole day to God and end the day begging Him for forgiveness. Raise your mind to God several times during the day telling Him that you do all things for Him, out of love for Him.

In a special way, find time to talk to God. He is always listening. He is never asleep. His secretary is not going to say that He is away from His desk. Talk to Him in all circumstances. If you are a student, ask God to give you the motivation to study and the ability to learn. If you are a parent, pray for your children, especially the difficult ones. Pray for the sick and the needy in our community. Remember in prayer those who are looking for jobs or struggling economically. Be an intercessor. Let your prayer rise before God like sweet incense.

Jesus said to His disciples, “Pray without ceasing.” Jesus did not ask His followers to spend all their time in Church. All of us have distinct duties to perform and people to take care of. We are not called upon to neglect our responsibilities. However, we strive to transform the performance of our duties into prayer. Let us do everything out of love, just as Little Teresa of Child Jesus did.

May God bless us all as we renew our spirits and refresh our bodies! May He bless all our endeavors! 

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

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Sunday

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