Catholic Moments: Prayer, Reflection, Freedom

Well, how did it go?

This is the question I have been thinking about since yesterday.

Abandoning my usual Lenten practices and taking a deep dive into kindness and prayer has actually been very fruitful. I can’t see myself returning to the old way of honoring this penitential time.

Lent started amidst the snow on the ground in February. This picture might also be a reflection of my interior life then, lots of cold, muddy places with green shoots barely popping up.

I added one new practice this season which is worth mentioning. On four of the five work days I set my alarm to go off at 5 a.m. This is one half hour earlier than usual. It may not sound like a big deal, but it was difficult for me. I am a night-owl! The small half hour that I dedicated to prayer made a tremendous difference.

I was heavily influenced by reading Father James Martin’s book, Jesus, a Pilgrimage (https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-06-202423-7), with my book group. In the middle of March we moved on to his new book titled, Learning to Pray (https://thejesuitpost.org/2021/02/review-fr-james-martins-new-book-learning-to-pray/). His suggestions for praying with scripture and using different avenues such as the Examen, or imaginative prayer have helped me to better see the presence of God in my daily life and to discern what he may be wanting to say to me.

It has altered my outlook.

In the first book I mentioned, Fr. Martin travels to the Holy Land with his friend, Father George. In the chapter titled, Gerasa, Fr. Martin recalls their trip to the area where Jesus heals the Gerasene Demoniac. (This is the story of Jesus sending the demons named Legion out of a man and into a herd of swine, who subsequently hurl themselves down a hill and into a lake.) Fr. George shares that this story has special significance for him. While wandering among the tombs ( as the possessed man once did) Fr. George has this revelation, “the power of God [can] free us from ourselves – from the shame and hurts and traumas and resentments we have endured, to real freedom.”

As I wandered among my own tombs on the hill, bruising myself with the stones of my worst self whispering words of self doubt continuously in my ear, my time in prayer helped me to sort things out.

I was beating myself up over all of the many mistakes I have made over the years. Raising and teaching seven children was a learning process for me. I did not have a large toolbox for helping me to deal with the crises of motherhood and homeschooling far away from the support of my extended family. There are countless things I would do differently if given the chance. These feelings of regret were haunting me.

Stress over the Pandemic and the transition I will be making when the school year is finished added to the mix. I was doubting my choices, my vocation, my worth.

Over many days spent in prayer I came to see that these doubts and damaging notions were not of God. The Jesuits call this influence in our lives, “the evil spirit.” I found it an apt description. I also discovered healing and more tools to fit into my ever growing box, when I need help in dealing with the tension life brings.

The power of God CAN free us from ourselves, but we have to set aside some time regularly to let it happen.

I still have work to do and changes to make, but I feel much closer to Jesus and much healthier in mind and spirit.

I will not be setting the alarm ahead a half hour now that Easter has come and Lent is over. I feel like I have only just begun to reap the benefits of extra time spent in prayer.

My son Ben was the cantor at our Easter mass. He has a beautiful baritone voice and my heart soared with the words of the Easter songs, most especially, “I will run to you, I will run to you, I will run to you, My Lord!” Thank you, Ben, for sharing your gift and for lifting us all up even if we cannot join in the singing at church just yet.

Finally, I owe a large debt of gratitude to my daughter Betsy who encouraged me and helped me to realize that I should keep on writing. I am sure God was speaking to me through your kind words. God Bless You!

Happy Easter!

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