Posted by: sisterbernice | May 14, 2010

Our Father

I took a course on prayer when I was in high school – I went to Catholic high school.  We used a textbook by an Orthodox bishop in which he took apart the Our Father.  I have to say I don’t remember a word of that book or of the class.  I was in my own world waiting to graduate -the course was a requirement.  But I have always thought about the priest who taught the course.  I didn’t like him.  I don’t know why I didn’t like him.  He is still a priest in good standing doing good work.  At the time I would have told you I thought he was arrogant.  Looking back from the vantage of many years and experiences – I was the arrogant one.  I was a very good student and thought I knew more than he did.  Still, I have not forgotten this priest like I have other teachers.  If I had to say why now – I don’t think he listened. 

I wanted that priest to listen to me.  I wanted to be right, thought I was.    I still find that is my main pet peeve in life with the Church.  I am not listened to.  But my gripe is different than then — I want to be listened to, not because I think I know or have something to say,  but because – I know I don’t know.  I question, I search.  I find few priests who will listen to my questions and fewer still who will answer.  This is one of the many causes of the scandal and one the Holy Father has put his finger on – and which people MOCK.  There are few priests who are willing or know how to answer the questions, the doubt.  They lack the very faith you want them to have when you have questions.  And it is a faith answer one wants, not a knowledge answer.  The lack of true faith is really at the heart of the problem in the Church – for we find too many who belong to belong, to  have a job, to  have safety, etc.  That is not to say these religious don’t have a calling and aren’t doing good work. Many of them are.  The Lord uses them.  You just know that the fruit they could be bearing should be – really should be, more and could be more with more faith.  And the laity – in looking to be empowered look for this within the organizational framework forgetting their real power comes in the faith department.  We look for it elsewhere – in the social justice dept.  You can’t have the latter without the former.

How do I know if I am right about any of the above- I don’t.  BUT, there is abundant evidence that I am not off the wall.  One piece of evidence alone is the Our Father.  Why does the Our Father become Creator, Our Mother in any Catholic person’s utterance.  Jesus said “our Father“.  How many people believe in heaven – Jesus said – “who art in heaven“.  How many truly worship – “hallowed be thy name”.  How many make him in charge – “thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.  No we put ourselves in charge! Watch how often this is done at Mass alone.

Twenty years ago,, I found myself recognizing that I wasn’t doing His will.  I don’t think I do well at that now either. But at that time, there was a profoundness to my understanding and I started to pray the Our Father differently – Especially the “thy will be done”. 

So, finally getting to my point——- someone out there has to tell me how a priest or nun does not understand this phrase if someone like me does? Nuns have gotten off the abuse hook somehow but there are guilty nuns out there too.  They forgot this part of the prayer.  They acted against it.  It was willful.  The  “use of the will” has brought a lot of downfall to the world and to the Church –it’s a core part of the forgotten concept of SIN (also currently being mocked as a cause of the scandal when it is crucial to understanding it!)

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”.   How the believer clings to this hope and how a young child who believes in adults and in God believes in these.  The pain of learning that the effects of prayer aren’t concrete – maybe even the opposite of what is prayed for is hard on our journey to adult faith.  When it comes as a result of sexual abuse – it is spiritual, psychologically and emotionally devastating.  There isn’t a spiritual abuse category in our social science lexicon – but there should be.  It is real.

So, I may not remember what happened in the classroom thirty years ago but my childhood prayer, the one Jesus taught us, has always been one to which I cling.  There is a  reality and power of the prayer Jesus gave us especially when said reverently, joyfully, hopefully and lovingly.  And while I question if I am doing His will, I never question this prayer.  It has never failed me even if I don’t recognize its effects right away.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be they 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.

And, while I really don’t know if  my priest-teacher was or wasn’t a good listener,  the Lord is.   Let us pray the Our Father reverently from now on and let us do so in our Friday prayers to heal the sex abuse scandal.  As I pray my rosary tonight, I will remember to do so.  Tonight I will say the Sorrowful Mysteries as usual with my special emphasis.  I will also pray my modified St. Francis prayer and the prayer to St. Michael.  I hope you will join me.  Perhaps we will find that in praying this, we and those around us will do the Lord’s will, not our own.

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