Prayers: Our Spiritual Roadmaps

by Kim Long

This is a difficult time. In light of the recent clergy abuse allegations, many people have asked me a variety of questions in the past two weeks – questions perhaps you have considered or been called upon to answer. Questions like: How can I stay in the Church? When is the Church going to fix this mess? Ugh, I cannot cope. I’m just going someplace better. Do you think that will work? These questions were not born in a vacuum, they followed a dark tale, so how can I reply appropriately? How should a faithful Catholic respond both in word and practice? “Please, Lord, help me,” I thought.

When the news first began to break, three prayers I had not thought of in many years came to my mind. Without conscious thought, I had gathered my spiritual tools.

Guardian and Protector of the Church
The old prayer to St. Michael is something it took forever for me to learn all the way through. Recognized by the early Church Fathers as a guardian and protector of the Church and as the Prince of all Angels, St. Michael is a heavy hitter and I was glad to know he is praying not only for me, but for the entire Church. Thinking the phrases of the St. Michael prayer, and then speaking them aloud, I felt heartened that St. Michael was on the job. A powerful prayer was what I needed, and this one filled the bill. St. Michael pray for us.

The Kaddish
The Kaddish, an Aramaic prayer from the 5th century BCE, is recited by priests and lay people. Years ago I decided I wanted to learn Hebrew, the language of Jesus, and took a class on the subject. Our instructor laughed when the class voted to begin with this prayer. “It’s Aramaic, the language of Jesus.” I did not know it then, but it was a moment of deep connection, a sense that has remained with me.

At times I find myself praying the familiar, yet foreign words, imagining Jesus forming the words with me. This is a prayer of mourning, and right now we are mourning a loss of trust, a loss that has left a gaping hole in each one of us. The late Debbie Friedman sings a version of this prayer and she introduces it with these words, words which give me a great deal of comfort: “May the One who makes peace in the high places, make peace over us and over all of humanity and let us say Amen.”

As I pray these words, extolling God’s greatness, even in a time when nothing feels great, the connection to Jesus deepens and I feel we are truly praying together. As the prayer comes to a close, I welcome the beginning of healing and comfort.

The Divine Praises
The first time I heard the Divine Praises, I was in early days of my own conversion at an all-night prayer vigil sponsored by St. Mary of the Pines and The Blue Army. It was written in 1797 by Fr. Luigi Felici, a Jesuit priest, to make reparation for blasphemies against the Divine Name; blasphemies which encompassed speech, thought, and action.

Honestly, at the time, they did not resonate with me, but if ever there was a time this is it. Everywhere around me, doubt and confusion are swirling.

“Blessed be God. Blessed be His holy name. Blessed be God in His angels and in His saints.” These three statements are part of those praises and they are helping me remember my foundation, remember where I have put my hope, in the Lord.

We stay Catholic for all the best reasons: the Eucharist, Mary, the saints. We stay Catholic because when God called us, we answered. He hasn’t stopped, He hasn’t checked out on us, and these particular prayers, serving as my roadmaps, remind me of those things. Through them, God is assuring me that we will all survive these tough times and, in fact, that we will be revived.

Your roadmaps may be different prayers, mine may change as God offers me what I need, if I am open enough to accept it. Often we say, “All I can do is pray.” Our prayers cannot change the past; it cannot be rewound or undone. Our prayers can change us and help us handle these awful times, as well as whatever personal issues we are all encountering right now. They can assist us when we need strength to go on, when we need permission to mourn, and when we need assurance that God is where our hope lies.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21-23 •

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