The Saints tell us that prayer is to the soul what air is to the body; it is indispensable if we are to have a vibrant spiritual life. They also tell us that prayer is the bridge which connects God and man; it is that channel of open communication, that whispering between the heart of the creature and the Heart of the Creator, where One speaks to the other, that intimate moment in which we adore and praise the Lord and lay all our needs and petitions before Him.
There are numerous ways to pray – no single way suits everyone, but some are deeply suited to the needs of a greater number of people. I have two particular forms of praying which, as the years have gone on, have become the ‘hinges’ of my day. I look forward to these with great joy and anticipation and they are the moments of deepest peace and happiness in my life.
The first is the daily visit to the Lord in the Tabernacle.
Here, in His presence, I pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I beg His mercy for sinners (beginning with me), for the dying (especially the least prepared), and for the Holy Souls, as well as for the Church and the world. These are my prayers of petition; in them, I lay everything before the Merciful Lord and commend it all to His mercy and providence. They are also prayers of trust – because once I have done my part, the rest is up to Him. The trust comes from leaving it up to Him with confidence. That means not only allowing Him to answer in the way He judges best – but also to leave the timing up to Him. Whatever He gives in return, I am happy with and I thank Him, even if it seems He has given nothing at all. This is a salutary way of developing the virtues of patience and perseverance in prayer, neither of which come easy to me.
The second is my nightly Rosary, prayed at home.
Over the years, this Rosary has become a moment I cannot wait to reach each night. While this Rosary is also a prayer of petition for various souls and their needs, as well as reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it is, above all else, the special and intimate moment in which I seek to come a little closer to the Lord, gently guided there by His own Mother, who very kindly takes my hand. And I allow Him to come a little closer to me; while that may sound easy and simple, it is anything but – very often, it is deeply challenging. But then, if there was no challenge, I would fear I was missing something important. I think it was St John Paul who called the Rosary ‘the school of Mary’. More and more, I see how accurate this description is, what lessons She offers there as the beads pass across my fingers. The secret to this, of course, is the meditation which accompanies the vocal prayers; the prayers are the body of the Rosary, while the meditation is it’s soul and gives it life.
Often, the Blessed Virgin generously obtains grace for me during this prayer, whether of light or of understanding, as She lays out the Mysteries before my heart and my mind. The constant revolving through the different sets of Mysteries gradually allows little shafts of light to penetrate my mind, and these tend to remain, so that looking back over the months and the years, I see clearly how kind She has always been, for that light slowly banishes the darkness and is both illuminative and transformative. None of this is deserved on my part, needless to say; all of it comes purely from Her motherly kindness and for that I am deeply indebted to Her. It also allows me to perceive how powerful the Rosary really is and why She is so desirous of it’s faithful and prayerful recitation. Other times, only my own prayers echo back to me in the darkness, and the time may seem to have been such an effort, but I am at peace. All is in Her motherly hands and I trust Her without reserve.
In the Rosary, the Blessed Virgin is like a beautiful Lady tending a garden filled and overgrown with weeds, upon which there are great thorns; these weeds strangle the few remaining flowers in the garden, and the thorns draw blood. The garden belongs to the King, and the Lady wishes for it to be beautiful for Him; She tills the earth and prepares it, She gradually pulls up the weeds and plants the seeds of beautiful flowers, encouraging these to take root and to grow tall and strong, so that one day they will blossom and deliver an exquisite fragrance which will never fade.
Right now, She has a lot of work to do in this particular garden. She is wearing Her toughest gardening gloves and Her fingers are already encircling the most tenacious weeds, ready to pull them up and throw them onto the fire. It will take time, a great deal of prayer and much perseverance; but one day, finally, I hope She may look upon this quiet little garden and smile.