“Love Our Lady and she will obtain abundant grace to help you conquer in your daily struggle.” (Saint Josemaria Escriva).
I recently heard a story about Pope Saint John Paul II.
Once, when the Saint was praying in his chapel, a secretary knocked on the door and asked the Saint to direct his attention to a very important issue. Pope Saint John Paul II asked the secretary to wait and continued to pray.
A second time the secretary interrupted the Pontiff’s prayers and a second time, he was asked to wait. After waiting a few minutes more – impatiently – the secretary again interrupted the Saint saying, “Holy Father, this is an urgent matter.” “I know,” said the Saint, “Just a minute!”
At this the secretary became even more insistent. “Holy Father,” he said, “The matter is very urgent.” The Pope looked up and said… “If it’s urgent I need to pray much; if it's ‘very urgent’ then I need to pray ‘very much’!”
As the Head of the largest institution in the entire world – an institution that is two thousand years old – surely the Holy Father had many urgent things that he was required to attend to. And yet, despite the urgency of the demands on his time, the Holy Father made time first for formal prayer.
And I have been reflecting on this action of this Saint over the last few days and weeks as I prepare for Christmas.
You see, during this time of preparation there are also many urgent things that I am required to attend to. There is the maintenance of the household, my paid employment, end-of-year commitments for all my children (both socially and through their school), and there are also all the usual demands of husband and family and friends that any married woman must contend with.
There is nothing unusual about my life – apart from how blessed I have been and how little God has asked me to suffer for love of Him… And yet, I get busy – very very busy. But, lucky for me, God has given me the opportunity to pray in different ways…
Once, when Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta was travelling through Delhi to meet Pope Saint John Paul II, she ran very late for the appointment. You see, on her way to the meeting, her car drove past a man with leprosy who was begging on the side of the road.
Immediately she had asked her driver to stop the car, got out of the car and went to speak with the man. This Saint spent many minutes speaking with the man and tending to him, before she returned to her car and continued on her way – late for her meeting with the Holy Father.
When she arrived at the place of meeting, one of the Indian cardinals who was present berated her for her tardiness, telling her that she had kept the Vicar of Christ waiting. Saint Mother Teresa replied, “Yes, I know, but I met Christ on the road.”
And I have been reflecting on this too.
For – lucky for me – there are so many different ways that we can pray.
In the story that I heard, Pope Saint John Paul II prayed by kneeling in his chapel and formally speaking with Christ in the Church. In the other story, Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta prayed by speaking to Christ in the soul of the man infected with leprosy for whom she stopped her car.
And I can see that I too can pray as these two saints had prayed…
Sometimes I pray like Pope Saint John Paul II prayed, holding my rosary beads as though they were the very hand of my Most Blessed Mother, counting through the beads and meditating upon the mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary and of the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
And at other times, I pray like Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta prayed, making the lunches that I pack for my family to eat at work and at school – even though my children so often return them home untouched – or washing, folding, ironing and packing the clothes that my family wear each day. Sometimes, my prayer consists of the sweat on my brow as I mop the floor or the bleach on my hands as I clean the toilet… But no matter how lowly the task, when I offer it to God He accepts it as my prayer.
For both forms of prayer are part of my vocation…
And I have learned – in the months since my conversion through Grace and no merit of my own – that I can follow the advice of Saint Francis of Assisi, who said, “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
For in this way of prayer, I can “Love Our Lady and she will obtain abundant grace to help you conquer in your daily struggle.” (Saint Josemaria Escriva).
And in this way – through prayer and love – I wish to do the impossible, if that is the Will of my Beloved…
But only if it be His Holy Will…
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.