“All He asks is that we have the faith to cry out.”
I have been feeling in a funk lately, and I imagine many of you reading right now are internally nodding in agreement. While we all have our individual, unique crosses during this time, we share ones too. In the midst of the funk, I decided to go back and read the Holy Father’s Urbi et Orbi address that he gave that stunning night in March. I was glad I did, and I encourage you to do the same.
In his address, he paints a striking comparison between the darkness of our current world (which, since March, seems to only have gotten darker) and the storm at the sea of Mark 4. It is evening, there’s a storm, and Jesus is sleeping. I remember listening to his address and being struck by his implication: the pandemic is not ultimately the darkness. It has simply exposed darkness that we have been living with for quite some time. “We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: ‘Wake up, Lord!’”
Hopefully, we continue to implore the Lord. As he mentions both in this address and in his recent catechesis on prayer at his Wednesday audiences, this seemingly desperate shout is not a sign of faithlessness, but a sign of faith.
“Faith…is a cry. Lack of faith is the suppression of that cry… Faith is a protest against a pitiful condition the cause of which we do not understand. Lack of faith is to limit ourselves to endure a situation to which we have become accustomed. Faith is the hope of being saved. Lack of faith is becoming accustomed to the evil that oppresses us and continuing in that way” (Audience, May 6).
It is when we stop praying and stop trying to wake our Lord, it is when we become complacent with the darkness, that we have lost our faith. Keep shouting. Keep praying.
You may be asking a simple question, though. How? How do I have the strength to pray during this time? Can I find the recollection needed in the storm? The Holy Father gave four tips in his latest audience.
Do it first.
I know not everyone is a morning person. But I love what the Pope suggests: make prayer the first thing you do. “It is the first desire of the day, something that is practiced at dawn, before the world awakens.” What is most important is that you make it a priority, whether that means doing it in the morning or not. But the saints seem to agree – begin your day with prayer. Peter Julian Eymard said, “In order to succeed in prayer, it should be done when we first awaken, when our whole being is calm and recollected. We need to make our meditation before anything else.” Pope Francis says by putting prayer first, the struggles and trials of our day aren’t “obstacles” but rather “appeals from God Himself to listen to and encounter those who are in front of us” and become “opportunities to grow in faith and charity.” Who doesn’t need that perspective these days?
The Pope says, in agreement with the great spiritual masters, that we must make prayer part of a rule of life. Make it part of your routine. He points out that the sporadic prayer which comes from “momentary emotion,” is something we all do- like when that storm really hits us and we cry out for help. But the prayer that causes true transformation in our lives is that consistent, scheduled prayer which is done with discipline.
Silence and solitude.
Communal prayer is important. We all felt its absence during the suspension of public Mass. But private prayer in solitude is vital to hear the voice of God. The Holy Father is not saying we all have to go on a silent retreat away from the world. Rather, he’s speaking of cultivating an inner life. It’s not a matter of fleeing from the world, but rather the opposite! It’s bringing the mess and noise of the world to God so that we aren’t ignoring reality by filling our lives with distractions. “Without the inner life we become superficial, agitated, and anxious – how anxiety harms us! This is why we must go to pray; without an inner life we flee from reality, and we also flee from ourselves, we are men and women always on the run.”
Perspective and surrender.
Lastly, the Holy Father reminds us to keep our focus on God. This life isn’t about you. You aren’t in control. Our prayer must be a place where we surrender to the Lord and his Will. It is only there that we will find peace. As he said in the Urbi et Orbi that night, this “storm” of the pandemic has hopefully reminded us of that truth. “The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities.” It revealed to us that our perspective was all wrong. We cannot save ourselves. The world cannot save us. Only God can save. And He is ultimately all we need.
You might find prayer very difficult these days. Perhaps you are tempted to question the difference prayer makes. Or maybe you just find it hard to recollect your soul. Find consolation in the words of Pope St. Paul VI: “If you have lost the taste for prayer, you will regain the desire for it by returning humbly to its practice.”
There’s a storm. And maybe some days, you feel as if Jesus is sleeping. All He asks is that we have the faith to cry out.
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