As director of the diocesan Lay Formation Institute, I’ve found a new way to begin our monthly formation weekends at St. Anthony’s Spirituality Center in Marathon. This new way has turned out to be an eye-opening path of mercy.
It started simply. I routinely reserved the first 15 minutes prior to Friday evening class for greeting the 41 students and handling housekeeping odds and ends. At a certain point, it occurred to me to ask if there were any particular intentions folks wanted to pray for. One by one, they emerged, slowly at first, but it wasn’t long before 15 minutes wasn’t enough time. Now we start 15 minutes earlier, giving most of that half hour to prayer.
As I said, it has been eye-opening and a path of mercy. Eye-opening to see how many crosses are being borne — quietly, patiently, painfully — in people’s lives and in the lives of their loved ones. These sufferings may be physical, emotional, spiritual, individual, familial or some combination. Most often, these sources of pain and worry remain in the private sphere of our lives, shared only with those closest to us. But in this setting of friendship and of faith in the power of prayer, we gratefully embrace this opportunity to voice them in shared prayer.
This experience embodies one of the greatest spiritual works of mercy taught to us by the Church: “Praying for the living and the dead.” Who among us has not endured or witnessed some suffering with no clear remedy, no obvious resolution? In times like that, it is such an incredible comfort to pray with brothers and sisters in Christ.
What better time than Easter to put this into practice in our settings of faith, in our families and our parish communities and meetings? In addition to our usual formal prayers, let’s take the opportunity to spend a few minutes praying spontaneously for one another’s intentions and for the sufferings we see in the world around us. In doing so, we will not only carry out a work of mercy, but we will open our hearts to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gathers our prayers into his own redemptive suffering on the cross. Joined as brothers and sisters at the foot of that sacred cross, gazing at the pierced Heart poured out for us, we will together be able to say with renewed confidence, “Jesus, I trust in You.”
By Chris Ruff, Director of the Office for Ministries and Social Concerns