“I do not love You because You can give me paradise or condemn me to hell, but because You are my God.I love You because You are You.” (Saint Francis Xavier).
When I was first learning to drive a car, my father taught me how to reverse park the car.
At the time my dad advised me to always reverse park my car when I arrived at my destination so that the “hard work” of parking would be done upon arrival and I would be able to leave nice and quickly by driving straight out of my parking spot when I was tired and in a hurry to leave.
And, though I am a very ordinary and untalented driver who some would go so far as to describe as a “bad” driver, I soon learned how to reverse park a car and have continued in this practice wherever possible until this very day. In fact, I am so much better practiced in reverse-parking that I struggle to front a car into a parking spot, because I so rarely do that.
My husband on the other hand, has worked as a mechanic for most of his life. And even before this he has his older brother spent all their free time and money pulling cars apart and putting them back together.
In fact, my husband first started driving himself and his family around when he was about 11 years old – or as soon as his feet reached the pedals of the car… He grew up overseas where the road rules were (and still are) somewhat laxer, and as his father (may God rest his soul) passed away unexpectedly at a very young age, and his mother did not drive, my husband – being one of the two boys in the family – started driving the family around…
Being a mechanic and working with very large machines all day long, my husband (God bless him) is an excellent driver. I say this sincerely and without exaggeration (though I am loyal to him), but I believe that my husband could pretty much drive any machine at all, and I have watched him front park and reverse park cars, trucks and trailers in a way that looked so easy that it made me think the job was so easy that anyone could do it well…
Now, my husband – being such a confident driver – never worries about whether he is reverse parking or front-parking a car (or van or truck). Instead, he parks the vehicle in whatever manner is more convenient for him, unless he knows that I will be the next driver, in which case he always reverses it for me because he understands my limitations.
And I have been reflecting in this difference in the way my husband and I park cars because it reminds me of prayer…
Saint Therese of Lisieux wrote in her autobiography, “The Story of a Soul” that she would not trust herself to pray prior to reading and meditating on a passage of the Gospel because she was seeking inspiration from the Holy Spirit prior to speaking with Him.
Saint Padre Pio and Saint Josemaria (and many other Saints) recommended the practice of daily spiritual reading as a mechanism to become enlightened to the Will of God (rather than as a mere satisfaction of curiosity).
The little visionaries of Fatima – Saints Jacinta and Francesco and Blessed Lucia – not only prayed the Rosary for sinners, but offered sacrifices as a type of prayer to atone for sins.
And Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta cared for the sick and the lonely and the discarded as a way of praying because she lived the call to tend to Christ in the needs of others.
And I have been reflecting on these different practices of prayer in much the same way that I have been reflecting on the different ways that my husband and I park cars.
You see, while each of the Saints may have prayed differently – just as my husband and I each park cars differently – each of them used prayer to prepare themselves for the Lord, just as both my husband and I park cars in a way that helps us to best prepare for our departure. And each of the Saints had the support of the Communion of Saints, just as I do – and you do too – in much the same way that my husband always makes the car ready for me to drive it straight out when he parks it for me.
And what is the point of all this preparation? I mean, why do we bother thinking about this and praying for that? Surely, if we believe God is perfect love then it is enough to accept that love as truth and there is no need for prayer?
Scott Hahn says that we pray not to change our UNCHANEAGEBLE God, but rather to change our CHANGEABLE selves…
And Saint Francis Xavier explained the need for prayer – which is an expression of love – far more beautifully than I ever could when he said… “I do not love You because You can give me paradise or condemn me to hell, but because You are my God. I love You because You are You.”
And that is why we pray – each in our own way – because we love Him – our God – not because of what He can give us or do for us, but because we love Him simply because He is He!
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.