Updated: May 24, 2021
On the night before He died… Christ washed feet!
I have been praying very intently over the last few days for so many intentions. As I pray for these intentions, it occurs to me how much my prayers have changed over the last few months since the events that I now describe as my conversion. In the time before there was so much waste and emptiness…
I was always a Catholic and I was always a practicing Catholic and though I am not a member of the Opus Dei, I was educated by members of the Opus Dei as a schoolgirl – and received a formation in faith that can be unrivalled (in my opinion) with any other formation. And yet – despite all my advantages in faith – my prayers were filled with rubbish and waste…
Now, as I pray for the lost and wounded souls, and those suffering in their families and with their partners and in their homes, I remember that my prayers can send comfort. For there is great comfort to be found in knowing that others pray for you – and you are not alone. In reflecting on this, I also see that our prayers for the Holy Souls of Purgatory are such a great act of Charity. Surely they know we are praying for them, and surely it brings them some comfort in their turmoil…
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus wrote in her autobiography, “Story of a Soul”… "For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to Heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy; finally it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.”
How beautiful is her relationship with Christ!
Reflecting on this I was called to think on what exactly prayer is. The other day, in speaking with a dear and beautiful priest who prayed with us for my little niece when she was so sick last year, I was reminded of the various expressions of prayer as defined in the Catechism. I learned about prayer from the Catechism, parts of which I memorised as a little schoolgirl so many decades ago. If you are interested in the original text on expressions of prayer contained within the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you will find them in Part 4, Section 1, Chapter 3, Article 1.
I have re-read these sections recently, and I found them very insightful.
There are three expressions of prayer – vocal, meditation, contemplation.
Vocal prayer is prayer using words. The words can be said aloud, or silently inside our minds. The Our Father is an example of vocal prayer – a prayer that we have been given by God or through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Rosary is another example. Obviously, when we pray a vocal prayer, there are elements of meditation and contemplation as well. After all, what good is the Rosary – repeating the Hail Mary 50 times and the Our Father and Glory Be 5 times with little meditation or contemplation of the mysteries of the Life of Christ as seen through the eyes of His Beloved Mother? This is reflected in the Catechism, which says, “Prayer is internalized to the extent that we become aware of him ‘to whom we speak;’ Thus vocal prayer becomes an initial form of contemplative prayer.” (CCC, 2704).
Mediation is a different type of prayer. The Catechism describes meditation as a “quest” (CCC, 2705). That word, “quest” calls to mind associations of adventure and journey and victory among friends. After all, words gain meaning within context, and my context in teaching English is to understand the nature of quests from my analysis of adventure stories. But there is something more associated with questing… and that is perseverance. In every single adventure story ever written, the hero – at some stage – is faced with a choice about whether to proceed on the journey or to give up. In most stories the hero perseveres. So too must we persevere in our meditative prayer! The Catechism suggests that a good way to focus on meditative prayer is through spiritual reading, because in this way we can truly ask “Lord, what do you want me to do?” (CCC, 2706). “Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire.” (CCC, 2708). It is this engagement, which helps us to grow in our knowledge of Christ and therefore, grow in our love of Him…
And now, we come to contemplative prayer. Saint Teresa of Avila is quoted in the Catechism in defining this type of prayer… “Contemplative prayer [oracion mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.” (CCC, 2709). This type of praying seeks out the One we LOVE. When I contemplate Him, I adore my Beloved… Contemplative prayer allows us to love God. The Catechism quotes also the Cure of Ars, Saint John Vianney, who said that contemplative prayer is when “I look at Him and He looks at me” (CCC, 2715). It is our willingness to “keep watch with Him for one hour”, which is really all He asked for on that night before He died (CCC, 2719).
And through my prayers – of voice, meditation and contemplation, I reflect on my Beloved.
And though those reflections I am inspired to think of my “bucket list” – the list of all the things that I want to achieve BEFORE I DIE. And in my thoughts, I reflect on what I would do with my very last night alive here on Earth.
Now, I reflect with shame… For my bucket is filled with rubbish, and my evening would be filled with waste.
I am shamed, because through my prayers I see what my Beloved filled His last evening with. And when I realise this, I look at HIM and I weep…
For on the night before He died… He washed feet!
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.