St. Patrick’s Day, an iconic feast day celebrated by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, has lately riveted an epicenter of opinions concerning its 2015 parade in New York City. Clergy and lay people alike have swarmed social media discussing the simultaneous decisions by parade organizers to open its ranks in next spring’s parade to a single gay group marching under its own banner, and His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan’s role as the parade’s Grand Marshall and calling the organizer’s decision wise.
The fact that a strong reaction by many fervent Catholics criticizing this chain of events has reached into my own email inbox is no surprise; however, the severity of condemnation toward all parties involved – by way of threats of withholding tithing, leaving the Church, or lining the streets of the parade with counselors to engage the gay group marching – has signaled an alarming need for each Christian to self-examine their own understanding and call to discipleship.
In April 2013, when I arrived in New York City for my final interview in my current position as the Assistant Director for the Family Life/Respect Life Office, I rode a bus next to a young man who after 10 minutes of conversation, shared that he was a strong advocate for the gay community, and a member himself. It wasn’t long after his inquiry of my reason for visiting NYC, that he discovered my faithfulness to the Catholic Church and love for Jesus Christ. Then, in the 10 minutes remaining while conversing with him before my stop, he and I reached a apogee of mutual understanding of our mutual difference of beliefs, and I prayed silently that for perhaps the first time of his life, he encountered a Catholic man in myself who respected him just as much as I respectfully disagreed with his lifestyle.
I am a sinner, though I hope that my encounter with this man and each person I meet can manifest the eyes, words, and touch of Jesus Christ.
The swarming criticism surrounding the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City should call every Christian to consider not what a gay group’s duty may be to renounce its lifestyle to follow the way of Jesus Christ and the Church, but instead, what a Christian’s duty is to examine his or her call to compassionately encounter every person – gay or not – as a person called to be a son and daughter of God. This role is the “missionary disciple” role that Pope Francis calls every person to in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. No person will find his home inside the Church attractive until he finds an attractive “home” in his friendship with a Christian who points the way.
This paradigm of encounter is the way St. Patrick himself walked in the fifth century. After escaping more than 5 years of captivity in pagan Ireland, the 20-year old Patrick received a dream of the people he left in Ireland, calling out to him “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more.” After decades of studies and formation as a priest, and later ordained a bishop, Patrick returned to Ireland in 433 A.D. preaching the Gospel, bringing thousands to conversion, and building churches across the country. Just forty years of his presence in Ireland brought the country to a birth into the Church. St. Patrick manifested himself as a patriot of Ireland and a patriot for Jesus Christ.
How then should the Christian perceive its duty to the circumstances of the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City which, I may say, resembles a modern-day Ireland?
Perhaps, until we each personally find ourselves remaining faithful to the Gospel while approachable to every person, gay or not, we ought to more deeply commit ourselves to Christian discipleship. Until our gay friends beg us to walk with them equally as much as we beg they consider the Gospel message, we ought to examine how we may become compassionate messengers of truth. And when they encounter the truth of Jesus Christ through us, turning from the prevailing gay lifestyle to authentic Christian friendships, we can together with them praise the saving power of Jesus Christ.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is an opportunity to celebrate not only the Catholic heritage of this great saint, but also the example of Christian discipleship this patriot gave to Ireland. Let’s give the same heritage of fidelity and compassionate example to our neighbors this coming year.
On September 22-27, 2015, Philadelphia will welcome the 8th World Meeting of Families (#WMF2015), which is expected to draw a global audience. This is a historic event which will have dynamic and inspirational speakers, daily celebration of Mass, and evening and weekend events and festivities. Surrounding dioceses have been invited to both attend and volunteer. You can visit the official World Meeting of Families website for information on registering for the meeting, booking your stay in Philadelphia, volunteering, hosting families, etc.
The Archdiocese of New York and the Family Life/Respect Life Office is promoting this event and partnering with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in efforts to make this a successful event. Please continue checking back often on our website for updates. For more information, please contact Izabella Nagle at 646-794-3190, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
See below for Archbishop Chaput and Archbishop Paglia discuss World Meeting of Families at a Vatican News Conference.
Forgetting something. It’s always bothered me. I think because it’s a passive act. It feels like it’s out of your control (I didn’t intentionally ignore my friend’s birthday) but yet you also know that you could have done something more to remind yourself (cue smart phones and sticky notes). A priest once told me that some of the early Church Fathers described the original sin of humanity as being the sin of forgetfulness. Adam and Eve forgot who God is and subsequently forgot who they were. They forgot that God is their all-loving Creator and instead they gave into fear and mistrust. This resonated with me. So often I forget things that I’ve already learned. Sometimes I flip back in my journal and surprise myself when I read some thought or meditation that must have been divinely inspired. Right before I start congratulating myself on being so wise I realize I have since effectively forgotten it and not integrated it into my life whatsoever.
God’s Gift for Me
This happened to me today when I opened my journal and flipped to the pages I had written while on silent retreat the weekend before I was married. My spiritual director had instructed me to meditate upon the the Rite of Marriage (the prayers, the vows, etc.) as well as the readings we chose for our Nuptial Mass. While reflecting on the Gospel reading (John 15:12-16) I kept coming back to the words “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” I started thinking about how God had chosen Nathan and me, how it was God who brought us together and called us to the sacrament of marriage. Early on in our relationship it dawned on me that Nathan was the first guy that God had really chosen for me versus me picking someone out and saying: “I want him.” He wasn’t “my type,” I wasn’t sure, and I almost said no when he asked me out on a date except that I distinctly sensed the Holy Spirit asking me to be open so I said yes, albeit with some hesitation. Then a funny thing happened. Over the next few weeks as I got to know this mystery man, I was surprised and delighted by what I found. I felt as if God was slowly unwrapping a special gift right before my eyes. I began to experience a great peace and had a clear sense that God was orchestrating our relationship.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide ~Jn. 15:16
So as I sat reflecting on Jesus’ words “I chose you,” that would be read at our wedding in a few days, I recalled these memories and others that had served as stepping stones in my discernment process ultimately leading me to answer the call to the vocation of marriage and choose Nathan to be my husband. There is great hope and confidence in this truth that God chose us — my husband and me. When our differences in personality prove challenging, even painful, there is hope in the knowledge that this is God’s will for me. God has chosen for me a man who is practical, logical, who jokingly claims to “have no emotions” — someone for whom my sentimental, emotional, feeling self does not always make sense. And yet, this is who God has chosen for me and thus, this precise difference has a purpose and is ultimately for our good.
On the Road to Calvary, Together
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how many times I have already forgotten this in the three short months that we have been married. How easy it is to take offense and lament that my husband “just doesn’t understand me!” while the Enemy is only too glad to seize the opportunity to scatter little seeds of doubt and mistrust. Thankfully God always brings me back to my senses. That is, once I stop being stubborn and actually let Him come into my clouded mind, turn on the light, and ever so gently remind me of the truth. God chose me to be Nathan’s wife. God chose Nathan to be my husband. By a free act of our wills we said yes and entered into the sacramental covenant of marriage. This is our vocation and the path to sanctity that God has laid out for us. The path to sanctity is not a level path through meadows of daffodils. It is the steep, rocky road to Calvary. But here’s the trick: when we embrace suffering out of love for another what appears to be a miserable road on the outside becomes a beautiful rose-lined path in our eyes. At least that’s what the saints say and they tend to know what they’re talking about.
So when the next marital misunderstanding arises I’m hoping against hope that I will not fall prey to my forgetfulness, but will rather remember that God chose this man for me, that these differences in personality have a good purpose, that I am called to love Nathan selflessly and I should be jumping at the chance to suffer the loss of my ego for his sake. I’ll admit, there’s a voice inside my head right now telling me how naive I am to write such a thing, as if from now on I’m going to handle every disagreement perfectly. To that I will say: isn’t God in the business of working miracles and wouldn’t we be better off if we had more faith in His power to overcome sin in us? Yet I also know that conversion is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. So here’s to taking it one day at a time, believing that we’re made to be saints, that it really is possible–and surprisingly concrete. So I think I’ll go put a sticky note on the bathroom mirror saying: “I chose you.” You got to start somewhere, right?
You are truly the laborers cultivating the civilization of love.
Welcome to our Blog!
I must first share my incredible joy to provide this platform to voice our common experiences, our common battles, and our efforts/initiatives to cultivate the culture that we — families and individuals — live within, grow within, and seek daily to transform through our small, concrete decisions to follow the Good Shepherd. Our readers are truly the laborers cultivating the civilization of love. By the way they witness to the Gospel of Life, the way they love their spouses and families, the way they encounter their friends and neighbors, they make the love of the God of Salvation — the God of history — present, tangible, and convincing.
Take your Family to New Horizons
Just three months ago we finished the “Year of Faith” (October 11, 2012 – November 24, 2013), yet the spiritual fruitfulness and the effects of this year continue to cast our eyes upon the horizon of faith that will carry ourselves and the future of the Church into the third millennium. Many refer to this epic as the “New Evangelization,” while today we hear new jargon in news headlines calling attention to the “Pope Francis Effect.” Whether we interpret the movement of the Holy Spirit today under the etymological significance of these descriptions, or a “New Pentecost” or “New Springtime,” the object of this movement is the same: Encountering Jesus Christ through His Church. Classic doctrinal theory of God dictates (and history proves) that the mission of the Holy Spirit always carries out the mission of Jesus Christ — the two are intertwined — in the journey that all of humanity makes toward God in their lifetime. “Faith” and “journey” go hand-in-hand: a journey cannot proceed onward toward its destination without faith in that (1) the destination exists and is Good and (2) the way is trustworthy and secure. In his first encyclical Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis writes:
It is the light of faith that I would now like to consider, so that it can grow and enlighten the present, becoming a star to brighten the horizon of our journey at a time when mankind is particular in need of light. Lumen Fidei #4
This image of our present time and vision for cultivating the civilization of love sets the stage for our blog’s theme: “Take Your Family to New Horizons.” Horizon is a term familiar throughout culture and theology, perhaps most notably is the study of drama. Hans Urs Von Balthasar, in his masterpiece on theological dramatics, writes that drama “points toward the intention of the author, and beyond him to the horizon of all meaning whatsoever” (Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, Vol. I; San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988; 314). When we consider our lives as possessing a coherent meaning all-throughout — a miniature “drama” in the great drama of human existence — we approach the Author of our lives asking for this meaning, who instructs us to have the faith to navigate well through life and be rewarded for our faith at the end (cf. Luke 7:50). The mountaineer who stays course traversing rugged terrain is aided with clarity and perspective when viewing the horizon in the distance. Likewise, faith provides the vision to view the common horizon for our lives.
What do we ask of our readers?
This blog is designed to stimulate thought and motivate action to cultivate the civilization of love. By virtue of our Baptism, we are called to help each other become saints by the grace of God. We do this intentionally. Intentional discipleship is at the heart of the Christian life. Jesus’s words to his disciples are bursting at the seams with intentionality: “He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying” (Jn. 1:39); “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mt. 16:24).
- The first task we ask of our readers is to be intentional readers and intentional doers of the inspiration gained from these articles. Let your thoughts flow into words, and words incarnate into action. Pope Francis calls us to “go out” to the peripheries, not simply viewing them on the evening news.
- The second task we ask our readers is to share your stories with others. Every man, woman, and child has a story — a miniature “drama” — that is a sort-of “script” to communicate the horizon of their daily life and choices to their neighbors. The fall-out of consumerism and relativism in today’s culture is an isolation and general mistrust that our lives are guided by the same reason, felt by the same emotions, and rooted in the same creed. People hunger for friendship beneath the constant motion of their daily schedules.
- The third task we ask our readers is to contribute to cultivating the civilization of love through being a “disciple of Nazareth” following the example of our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, being a co-worker in their local parish or church — the centers of evangelization for all peoples in a geographical area — and finally, joining the Family Life/Respect Life Office at our upcoming events, and leaning how you can get involved.
Take your family to new horizons! Let the light of faith be your guide. Join us and others throughout the archdiocese, country, and world in building strong families who live as disciples of Jesus Christ. You are truly the laborers cultivating the civilization of love.
“You got a groundswell!” Our Archbishop, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, announced last November in the annual meeting of bishops for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops after many of his brother bishops raised common concerns about the increasing prevalence of pornography. In the end, 226/231 bishops agreed that a formal statement on pornography must be made.
Caring for the Sick
Pornography is a deep and destructive social ill. It affects everyone. Even the man or women who faithfully avoid looking at porn live in a society where their neighbor is likely to be addicted or influenced to some degree. False messages prevail saying the pornography doesn’t inflict harm, but rather improves relationships. Super Bowl commercials and billboards in our cities provoke our attentions with “soft-porn” – men and women barely clothed and inviting our gaze that would violate their dignity (and harm ours). And let us not forget those who have allowed or been deceived into revealing themselves to others in ways that would violate their dignity. Truly, our society is becoming increasingly sick, and our neighbors affected demand our care.
The Church must be on the forefront of the battle against this scourge and must do more to minister to those suffering from it. ~Kim Quatela
The National Catholic Register this week published an article on taking on the illness of pornography, written by Kathleen Naab. Kim Quatela, Chastity Education Coordinator for the Archdiocese, contributed. Kathleen writes:
- Still, what’s out there so far is not enough, affirmed Kimberly Quatela, chastity-education coordinator for the Archdiocese of New York. Quatela spearheaded a project a few years ago to provide a simple list of some of the resources available to those struggling with pornography, in conjunction with a mandatory training day for all the priests of the archdiocese.
“Unfortunately, compared with the vast amount of pornographic material ubiquitous in our society, the number and quality of resources, groups, therapists and prayer resources developed by the Catholic Church to support our faithful people seem to be lacking,” Quatela said. “The Church must be on the forefront of the battle against this scourge and must do more to minister to those suffering from it.”
It’s a big battle to fight. Studies show the pornography problem is ballooning. According to statistics provided by Covenant Eyes, the accountability software being promoted by Bishop Conley, as many as 64%-68% of young adult men and about 18% of women use porn at least once every week. Another 17% of men and another 30% of women use porn once or twice a month.
The Key is Education
Church communities are not inoculate from this social ill, nor are her members immersed in the social scripts of society. The first step in fighting this battle is resolutely declaring pornography a problem that must be dealt with. Classic military theory dictates, “the best defense is a good offense.” Pastors and laity alike cannot care for the sick unless they first acknowledge the illness and decide to make this diagnosis public, despite the risks of being ignored, misunderstood, or rejected. The sick deserve truth in charity. Kathleen Naab writes in her article:
- The laypeople and their pastors who are actively combatting the pornography plague widely recognize the need for education. Foley, the Covenant Eyes executive, observed, “We need to get ahead of it, and part of that is we need to promote accountability and [computer and mobile device] filtering [to block pornography] in the family at a very young age, not when someone has a problem.”
“The key is education,” Kleponis insisted. “A lot of people say, ‘Do you see any hope here for the future?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, I see a lot of hope, but it’s going to take about 50 years.’ I compare it to cigarettes: Fifty years ago, doctors knew that cigarettes would kill you. They knew it would cause cancer and all kinds of problems, but no one could say anything about it. It was politically incorrect — it was everybody’s right to smoke, and we were going to smoke. We were smoking in restaurants and offices and airplanes. Lucy and Ricky were smoking on TV.”
“It took 50 years of intensive education, and, unfortunately, millions of people died before we as a society finally got the message,” he said. “So we still have cigarettes. There’s still people smoking out there. But if you talk to young people today about smoking, they’ll tell you it’s disgusting, and they don’t want to do it. We need to do the same type of education. And that’s what we hope to do.”
Clergy, teachers, and parents will find educational resources at nyfamilylife.org/chastity, including “Parent Guides to Human Sexuality,” available for purchase. Our anti-pornography page, due to be complete later this month, will have additional resources for education on the harm caused by pornography and how to overcome it.
We speak up against pornography not to condemn our neighbor, but to set them free to see each other and the world in its entirety as a gift – a gift so great that the Son of God has died for. Let us join the fight against pornography as an act of mercy – a corporal work of mercy: caring for the sick.
“I pray that today cracks open our hearts and starts a new path.” Bill Donaghy, from the Theology of the Body Institute, kicked off the 2014 World Marriage Day celebration in Manhattan last Sunday, February 9th. World Marriage Day began in 1981 after couples in Baton Rouge, LA petitioned their mayor, governor, and bishop to associate Valentine’s Day with honoring married couples. The following year, 43 state governors signed and proclaimed the day and designated the second Sunday of February for its observance, and in 1993, Pope John Paul II imparted his Apostolic Blessing on World Marriage Day. This day, which has gained honor and recognition from both secular and religious authorities, stands to honor husbands and wives as the foundation of the family, the basic unit of society.
Living Authentic Love in a Challenging World
The 2014 World Marriage Day Celebration in Manhattan, sponsored by the Family Life/Respect Life Office, took a giant leap from previous years by adding a half-day of formation and community fellowship to a special Sunday Liturgy honoring the longest-married couples in the archdiocese and inviting all the married couples present – from those married less than one year to the longest married couples married between 65 and 75 years – to renew their wedding vows. In the end, 50+ couples registered and attended the event at St. Malachy’s Church (The Actor’s Chapel) near Times Square, welcoming Theology of the Body Institute speaker BIll Donaphy and Fr. Louis Leonelli, CFR, from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.
If we live the gift, and give ourselves, it will evolve into life. ~Bill Donaghy
The theme of the 2014 celebration, “Living Authentic Love in a Challenging World” offered couples a glimpse of Bl. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” a teaching that gives a clear, unwavering answer to modern culture’s mistrust of human love. The Theology of the Body is the heritage of John Paul II’s rich insight since his years as a young Polish priest working with single people and newly married couples, evolving into his philosophical masterpiece, “Love and Responsibility,” and later delivered in its rich Gospel-filled context in a series of Wednesday addresses given over five years that earned the name, the Theology of the Body.
Start Living It, Even While Learning It
The central message of the Theology of the Body is the calling for every man and women to become a gift for another. Bill Donaghy explained, “If we live the gift, and give ourselves, it will evolve into life.” Man’s ability to give himself in love to another arises from his recognition that he is already loved (cf. 1 Jn. 4:19). Bill explained that that Theology of the Body unveils the plan of God’s love for humankind as, “the great mystery of God is the invisible becomes visible through the physical.” Realizing and receiving the gift of Jesus Christ, who became a man to give himself in death for man’s salvation, every person is invited down a path of love with Jesus Christ to make oneself a gift to their spouse, friend, and neighbor. Bill explained that the good news of the Theology of the Body is that love in all its forms, including sexual love, is a great gift and source of wonder when treated with dignity. His advice that day to the married couples was, “start living it, even while learning it.”
Fr. Louis Leonelli brought the formation part of World Marriage Day to a close by encouraging the couples to live out a life of love before the world. “Be that Gospel message to your family, [and] to your neighbors.” Fr. Louis stressed the importance of the home as the school of love, saying “Children need to be taught every day in the home,” and explained the need for families to witness their love before others, saying “Other people [and] children learn when seeing you in public.” World Marriage Day ended with a Sunday Liturgy, celebrated by Bishop Gerald Walsh, Vicar General for the Archdiocese, followed by an afternoon reception, where married couples relaxed and enjoyed the company of others walking the path of marriage.
When recently traveling on a US Airways flight, I came across an advertisement in the airline magazine for a snazzy dating service for the business culture called, “It’s Just Lunch” (IJT). This company makes an honest assessment of difficulties in the cyber-dating culture that has rapidly developed since social networking took off in the early 2000’s. Today, a growing number of psychologists and therapists are using new terminology to describe the impact of this culture on mental health: “profile production.” Personal identity has lately become more of a commodity for teens, who often wrestle under immense social pressures and many of whom lack strong parental role models. As a result, they create various “profiles” on social networking sites portraying false images of themselves. IJL’s ad begins by addressing the tough reality of cyber-dating: “You may be having a great online relationship, but when you finally meet, you discover that the person you’ve spent so much time with in cyberspace is nothing like what you imagined.”
“Fine-tune” your next match?
IJL seems to have cracked a nut for today’s dating scene. But a closer look reveals a more subtle nuance of how more people are choosing to date. The ad further explains, “Every IJT match is hand-selected. There’s no online profile for the world to see and it’s all confidential. After the date, It’s Just Lunch matchmakers receive feedback from each client in order to fine-tune their next match.” Meet the new name of the game in the business dating culture: efficiency. This “profit-margin” approach seeks to minimize expenses (time to plan dates and the “social capital” of a courageous spirit to ask) in favor of maximizing profits (finding a person with “good chemistry”). Efficiency – the effect of the industrialization of society – has provided a wealth of consumer products available for common men and women to live a decent life: off-the-shelf food products, furniture, medicine, etc. However, when this phenomenon replaces human processes (dating, child-bearing) persons become viewed as products. The thinking goes, when a date turns out poorly let’s re-optimize the search algorithm to find another person for trial. In their own words, IJL explains:
“You don’t have time to waste playing digital guessing games and meeting the wrong people. When you’re investing your time and energy in something important, you deserve a strong return.”
Truthfully, you do get a “strong return” when dating well. But this kind of return is not the “good chemistry” of IJL’s business model. It’s more personal and far better. The strong return of dating well is you becoming more yourself. When trying to love another person, you must simultaneously allow yourself to be loved. At the beginning, this is far from easy. In fact, it hurts. C.S. Lewis writes, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
Herein lies IJL’s fallacy, their contradiction. A consumer approach to dating makes people better consumers, not better persons. Should this mindset carry throughout a relationship, what is consumed is not just lunch or time together, but eventually each other. A partner’s weakness may be viewed as “defects” and not opportunities for growth and self-denial. These defects get swept under the carpet of the sentimental image we make of our partners, until eventually the good chemistry fades. Then we see just defects and a dead-end for love. The problem with a consumer approach to dating is we lose sight that a person is alive: alive to grow, alive to love, a-live person.
Making time for what matters.
There’s one more lesson we can gain from IJL. They explain, “If you don’t have time to do your taxes, you hire a CPA. If you don’t have time to manage your investments, you hire a financial planner. It’s Just Lunch helps you make time for things that matter.” What things matter for you to make time? IJL appears to imply that spending time meeting new people in social circles, planning your own dates, and risking your time and yourself on getting to know these people is unmerited and can be outsourced. They ask, why not outsource your heart to IJL? This tragic result reflects the real problem for the business culture: time management. The Christian subculture calls it balance or temperance. When your life is too busy to make time for love, your love begins to lose its life. Whether initially meeting people in social circle or on social networks, love cannot be pre-planned and outsourced to a third party. It begins with a creative intuition followed by initiative when one person asks another, “May I take you out to lunch?”
“Couples that pray together, stay together.” This old adage is becoming quite a golden rule for couples in today’s fast-pace society where both companions hold full-time jobs and where iPhones and sudden conference calls become the threatening nuisance for quality time together. One study even shows that the divorce rate (1 out of 2 on average) drops to 1 out of 1,153 when the couple prays together. Still, prayer makes some couples anxious, fearing they may misplease God by their lack of saintly words or their sudden forgetfulness of the many people they promised, “I will pray for you.” How can two people, whether dating, just married, or celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, remain united in prayer so to remain united in love?
Step 1: Pray as you love
Contrary to popular belief, the first key to prayer is simplicity. When we find ourselves hiding behind big words and sentences, we are also then hiding from God. The husband who will gaze into his wife’s eyes, smile serenely, and whisper, “you look lovely tonight” will be received more joyfully than chanting love sonnets that he’s hardly seen before. Jesus praises the tax collector’s simple prayer, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” far beyond the long-winded self-centered prayer of the Pharisee. St. Therese once said, “for me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and love, embracing both trial and joy.” The second key to prayer is to realize that more important than speaking, is listening. The little-known truth of prayer is that God doesn’t need it. Prayer doesn’t bring any more glory or tell Him things He doesn’t already know. Then why pray? More important than what we say, prayer is essentially about a place of communication, an indwelling of His perpetual voice, an interpenetration of our hearts with His heart. Prayer is about intimacy: just like two lovers must work to build intimacy – learning to listen and seeking to share – our prayer works to establish the conditions of our souls to meet God. Finally, after meeting God in prayer, what you say becomes important. No girlfriend or spouse wants to be talked at, but talked with. When our prayer is only sharing our woes with God, we begin to treat Him like a crutch. He doesn’t want to be your crutch, but your friend. He doesn’t become flesh to be the wooden cross for you to lean on, but to be freely nailed to it for your sake. God is a Person, more personal than any human lover and wants us to approach Him as a friend.
Step 2: Love as you pray
When love begins to purify your shared prayer-life, your prayer will certainly purify your shared love-life. Today, our culture tends toward reducing a lover to the sole fulfillment of our deepest needs. Wait now, wouldn’t I be more correct saying culture “raises” a lover to this pedestal of admiration? When we expect a perfect love from an imperfect lover, often one or two attitudes result. We either idolize the lover and become blind to his or her imperfections or we lower our expectations and accept a false form of love, eventually becoming discontent and ungrateful for each other. The only attitude that will bring years of joy and a constant awareness of reality is an attitude of gratitude. This begins in prayer. When prayer is filled only with our needs or desires (and we look upon God as a crutch), then we begin to project this impoverished approach to a lover, or even our closest friends. Love is the fruit of prayer. When prayer becomes narcissistic, love spoils. Allow new life into your prayer! Open the windows of your soul to a prayer filled with gratitude, praise, and mercy in addition to needs/desires. Don’t know how to begin? Pray the “Our Father” just once, but pause for five seconds after each phrase and recognize the meaning behind the words. When prayer reveals the reality that a lover is in the deepest sense a gift, you will be unable to look upon him or her otherwise and will want to remind them daily, “You are a gift!” When prayer draws you to admire God, you will quickly admire your lover and the qualities of God in your lover. When prayer draws you to ask forgiveness, you will see your faults before your lover and easily ask for their forgiveness.Love is the fruit of prayer. Couples that pray together, stay together. And not only stay together, but are happy staying together, truly happy. Let your prayer be purified by love, so your love may be purified by prayer.