You can read about my experience praying for peace in Rome in September and see a sampling of the pictures I took of some of the thirty-six of the city’s 900 churches. Now that I’m home, I’m still praying.
I’m in Rome to pray for peace for six days. My plan was to light a candle for peace in at least 100 of Rome’s 900 churches. However, I’ve ditched that 100-church goal. Most likely it would be impossible to reach, and it would definitely be nonsensical. I’d just be rushing in and out, snapping a picture and adding the church name to my list. I’ve decided not to light a candle, but to pray for peace in some intentional, visual, way. Contributing to peace is my goal.
Yesterday morning I went to three churches, raising the count to ten. Sant’ Agnese fuori le Mura and Santa Costanza are in the same complex outside the walls. Outside the walls because Sant’ Agnese has as a catacomb, where early Christians were buried. Rome had a policy that no one could be buried inside the city. Then to gaze at Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa in Santa Maria della Vittoria. I’m glad I had my bus pass. In the afternoon I found myself praying for me in seven more churches. As of last night the count is up to twenty.
My intention to pray for peace in churches has me aware of all the people I pass along the streets. The sheer numbers, the multiple skin colors, body sizes, ages, languages. I am not other; I am one of them. Our uniqueness makes us one.
And then there are the obviously loving people, most likely parents, who accompany their children with special needs. At the altar at the Church of San Giovanni in Laterano a mom was supporting her adult son who was draped on her. As he drooled, she wiped his mouth. Then they walked on, arm in arm.
As I sit in this little park in the early morning it comes over me that regardless of what praying for peace means to each of us, when we think peace we become aware of the equanimity between all people. In wanting peace for myself, I have to want it for everyone.
Here I am responding again to Carl McColman’s latest blog. This one, posted today, is about mysticism in the midst of the latest mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso.
McColman writes about mystical spirituality, or to use another term of his, contemplative practice. Those of us, whatever our religious tradition, who spend time praying, practicing meditation, contemplating religious texts, and searching for God, can resonate with these terms. For my purposes here I will embrace the phrase mystical spiritualism as I struggle to make sense of my faith journey in light of the violence in these two American cities over the weekend.
Is it enough to sit praying in my beautiful yard? How does this kind of being compare with the doing others are taking on? As I’ve mentioned before, I believe God has called me to pray for others. For years that call has focused on praying for individuals, but recently I’ve been praying for situations. What is behind my prayer? How do people and situations change? How do I change? How does God change? Those questions are mysterious, cryptic, and vague; any answers will also be mysterious, cryptic, and vague. Of course the answer is LOVE, but that one word answer isn’t easy to comprehend and live by.
McColman offers a few thoughts to answer the question, “How can mystical spirituality help us to deal with our social and political challenges?”
• Mysticism fosters humility and an ability to listen.
• Mysticism reminds us that God created and loves everyone, not just the people on “our” side.
• Mystical practices teach us how to think creatively.
• Mystical living helps to foster compassion, forgiveness, and healing.
I am one of the many (at least 100, maybe 200) intercessors with the Iona Community Prayer Circle. Every two months I receive the prayer requests for Group One, the group to which I am assigned. There are twelve groups and approximately 12 requests per group.
I am also one of thirteen intercessors (from all over the world) who have agreed to receive emergency requests that come into the head office in Glasgow and can’t wait until the next group mailing.
Over the years we have become prayer friends, praying for needs that go beyond the Community requests, namely for our friends and families and sometimes for ourselves. It is heartwarming to receive the different words that someone from Australia or Scotland use to ask God for help or give God thanks.
Recently an intercessor from England offered this: I am getting somewhat elderly (85) and have mobility problems so am no longer able to play an active part in church/community life, and feel that intercession is a small offering I can still make.
As far as I am concerned, this is no small offering. It may be one of the most consequential and vital ways an older person (in fact, anyone) can contribute to peace and love in the world. What if everyone prayed for peace?
My morning reading includes a daily section from Around the Year with Emmet Fox (1952). Fox was so wise, so forward thinking. I could quote him every day, and never run out.
Fox affirms my belief and coming to know that God has called me to pray for people. I continue to reread and ponder the following. I encourage you to do so, as well.
Prayer does change things. Let us be perfectly clear about this. Prayer does change things. Many people say that prayer is a good thing because it gives us courage and fortitude for meeting our troubles. They say that prayer often gets a man out of difficulty simply by giving him self-confidence which he would otherwise have lacked. Of course, this is not spiritual Truth. The fact is that seeing the Presence of God where the trouble seems to be does not merely give us courage to meet the trouble; it changes the trouble into harmony.
Prayer heals the body by changing the tissues, and it does this by first changing the mind which forms them. Prayer brings man his salvation by changing his nature fundamentally; not by making the best of him as he can be. The body, the environment, the universe itself, is plastic to our thought; and it always reflects our sincere belief. Emmet Fox (1886-1951)
When God’s calls me to pray for people, I must keep silent. Intercessory prayer and gossip are not just incompatible, they can’t exist simultaneously.
Yes, I must keep silent so I won’t gossip or betray a confidence, but it is much more that that; talk, be it out loud to others, or silent to myself, gets in the way of prayer. When I pray for healing and peace for someone (which I believe God wants for everyone), I don’t know what that should look like for them; thus conversation and delving into details only hampers my prayer channel to God.
In other words, I need to keep completely away from all kinds of judgments about what ‘should’ happen, and pray Thy will be done.
This morning my post on acottagebythesea told of my commitment to stop watching the news, stop being obsessed with it, stop letting politicians run my life. I have no chance of being the person God wants me to be if I spend my waking hours being judgmental and angry, and for sure the news will lead me along that path.
Specifically, if God is calling me to prayer for people, I have to do my part to keep my heart open. Being angry and judgmental closes my heart, closes out God, closes out communication between God and me, which is where true prayer lies. It’s as simple as that, and as challenging as that. Focusing on God, not on the news, is a way to start.
I’ve posted the following on my acottagebythesea blog. I want to add here that these two men have reminded me to pray for situations that seem so fraught with negativity and hopelessness.
One of my takeaways from the Supreme Court hearings this week has been the relationship between Senators and Coons and Flake. Here are two men from opposite sides of the aisle and with differing political views coming together because of their faith, demonstrating that their faith guides what they say and do. Each has a deep moral compass.
Embedded in his public comments before the committee vote yesterday, Coons shared that the evening before he specifically prayed for both Cavanaugh and Ford, and for the country, and that he would do so again this evening. In admitting this publicly, it is clear that prayer isn’t a throw away for him. Rather, it is central to how he leads his life, both personally and as a senator. His comments were palpable.
In the past week Senator Flake’s words and actions indicated that his faith guides what he does and says. His speech September 26th on the Senate floor offered compassion and civility for everyone involved and for our country. Yesterday, standing in the private elevator for senators, he listened to the impassioned women who caught his attention; he looked them in the eye; he didn’t shut the door on them.
The comity between these two men gives me hope. Comity, a new word entering public discourse: 1. an association of nations for their mutual benefits; 2. courtesy and considerate behavior toward others (Google search). I believe that comity happens when we give up acting out of ego, out of believing we have all the answers, out of thinking we are God.
This month my life has been filled with two visits with family to Lake Dunmore in Vermont. Prayers of gratitude came easily, and it doesn’t hurt that I was brought up by parents who by example taught gratitude. Grateful (lucky) me!
I know that life doesn’t just offers joys such as being at a beautiful lake with family; sadness comes and goes for all of us. But what about the people who have never had a lake to sit by? Families fleeing terror, children separated from parents, people living with malnutrition, disease, hunger? I struggle with all of this. I know I don’t deserve what I have at the expense of others; I know others don’t deserve what’s going for them.
What can I do? I don’t want to use my age as an excuse for not being an activist, but I can use it to pray that people the world over will be offered beautiful reasons to be grateful. We older folks have the time to pray, and the life-experience to believe deep in our souls that prayer makes a difference.
Yesterday on my cottagebythesea blog I wrote about the child abuse our government is carrying out on children and mothers seeking asylum as they courageously dare to enter the United States through Mexico. I’ve posted it below.
Here on this prayerdiary I want to talk about all the praying that’s going on for the situation. People are praying and I trust you who read this blog are doing so as well.
That’s the first thing I want to say. The second is that as Christians we are called to feed the poor… what you do to one of these, you do unto me. That’s what Jesus tells, and whenever I need a refresher, which I do, I read Matthew 25. It’s all there.
Finally, what about the law? Jesus told the man who asked him which law to follow in order to gain eternal life, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Luke 10:27). You can find a similar response in Matthew 22:37.
That sums up Jesus’ entire message. Just a few phrases, with a chapter or two thrown in for amplification and clarification.
Here are this morning’s gratitudes:
I’m grateful I had the freedom to nurse my two children.
I’m grateful that I am sooooo angry that nursing children are being taken (grabbed) from their mother’s breast at our Mexican border.
I can’t believe that my gratitude has to do with anger. As I’ve written before, every morning my husband and I start the day saying what we’re grateful for. Those ought to be positive, right? And they usually are because isn’t that the nature of gratitude? Isn’t that how we want to live?
But this is a totally new concept for me (and I’m sure I’m not alone), this separating nursing mothers and children. Separating is bad enough, but taking a baby from the breast? Child abuse is hardly a strong enough term. Is there any argument that says it’s not child abuse? I’m not saying abusive in some general, vague term. I’m using the full term: CHILD ABUSE.
Who are these people who physically carry out this child abuse? Border guards, men and women. I assume that more of them are men, because that’s the kind of job men have. A few may be women, but I can’t imagine any woman would grab a child from a mother’s breast. More likely the women border guards are probably in the detention centers comforting children and mothers.
I assume that these border guards are citizens of this democracy called the United States of America. How can these men and women stand by and be complicit in this child abuse? They need the job to support their families and they are powerless—the two go together; I get that. I also get that that is what German citizens said as they unwittingly participated in Hitler’s cult, which let to the Nazi state. And now, our the United States government, via the president, is requiring its citizens to participate in immoral and unethical acts against fellow human beings.
I’m angry but refuse to admit I’m powerless. I have to believe that I am a citizen of a democracy. I can speak out against this child abuse, but is there something more to do?