The Personally Important

Sometimes reading through the prayer requests we receive each day acts as a valuable corrective to all the storm and stress flooding the internet. While the headlines are worrying us with their concerns about nuclear war, corruption in high places and the terrible effects of abortion, slavery and gun/knife crime, most people are concerned with matters nearer home, what I call ‘the personally important’. That differs for each of us and varies according to circumstance. Sometimes it is difficult to articulate what is needed, or, for whatever reason, someone may feel hesitant or embarrassed about naming their fear or current preoccupation. As a result, they find it easier to pray for people or needs ‘out there’ than for themselves or the things that keep them awake at night or fill their days with anxiety.

I think myself that a reluctance to pray for oneself or the things that are personally important is a pity. We are the apple of God’s eye. There is nothing he would not do for us (which is not the same as always agreeing with us what is best for us). Learning to trust God with ourselves, so to say, is a necessary part of learning to trust God with the needs of the world. Perhaps the problem is that we have a false idea of prayer and it gets in the way of our actually praying. Prayer is really very simple, it is we who make it complicated. We have only to turn our gaze towards God, trusting that he will see and understand.

Today could we each spend a few minutes asking the Holy Spirit to pour the gift of prayer into our hearts, to take away all barriers and teach us how to be simple and natural in God’s presence? No matter how old we are, no matter how long we have been praying, those first steps remain as vital as ever, in every sense of the word.

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Being SuperDog by Bro Duncan PBGV

You have often heard what keeps Them awake at night, and very dull and worthy it is, too. On the whole, I sleep soundly and dream great dreams. One day, I hope my dreams will become reality. I dream we shall all walk together in perfect bliss and amity over the Elysian fields, stopping now and then for a little ambrosia and nectar (for Them) and a big bowl of kibble (for me), and perhaps a little snooze in the shade of some fragrant tree. But, alas, I am not always able to sleep through the night. There are occasions when I toss and turn with worry. Sometimes I worry about Them: are They O.K., is BigSis all right, is Quietnun coping, and all that kind of stuff. Then I worry on a larger scale. Is humanity going to the cats, why can’t we all live together in peace and harmony, what does tomorrow hold?

It is at times like these that I realise that being a monastic dog gives my sleepless moments purpose. I can put my paws together and pray, not just for Them, but for the whole world. No longer am I just Bro Duncan PBGV, a small hound of no consequence who can’t do much beyond keeping Them cheerful, I am a powerful pooch, able to intercede for all whom I love and, indeed, for the whole world. I am SuperDog, but SuperDog with a divine mission. I can love everybody, even the most tiresome humans; and that, when you think about it, is no mean achievement. All this I can do without straying from my basket or making a great fuss, because prayer is possible at all times and seasons and in every place. I just have to be true to my doggy nature.

Good things come in small packages, I’m told. Sometimes godly things do, too.

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Vocations Sunday

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is also the forty-ninth anniversary of the Church’s Day of Prayer for Vocations. Do you ever ask yourself what exactly are we praying for on Vocations Sunday? Even more importantly, do you ever ask yourself whom we are praying for?

I suspect most of us are praying for someone else. Our prayer is, may he or she have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. May their son or daughter respond to the Lord’s invitation. (In many cases, most definitely may it be their son/daughter, not mine!) Very few of us consciously advert to the fact that when we pray for vocations we must also pray for ourselves. Vocation isn’t a once-for-all call in the sense that once we answer we need do nothing more. The Benedictine vow of conversatio morum reminds us that we wake every day to hear what the Lord asks of us, and it is always something new. Vocation is on-going for each and every one of us.

When it comes to what we are praying for, many of us are probably more muddled than we like to admit (I know I am). We believe, in some vague way, for example, that priests and religious are a useful part of the Church; at any rate, they have ‘always’ been there, so we don’t want to lose them now. We need priests to celebrate the Sacraments, and religious can always be relied upon to pray for us when times are hard. Having a few around is therefore a good idea, a kind of celestial insurance policy if you like (I exaggerate, of course). Have we forgotten that when the Lord Jesus likened himself to a shepherd, he was using some very tough imagery about himself? It  should remind us that following him can never be comfortable or easy, that holiness is not, so to say, for wimps. Those who follow the Lord as priests or religious need to have similar qualities — toughness, courage and resilience, above all a willingness to sacrifice self, as well as the gentler and more immediately attractive qualities of love and compassion.

I like to pray on this Sunday for the graces I myself need to follow my vocation as a Benedictine nun as well as the graces others need to follow theirs. Whatever our vocation, all of us are called to be part of the Church. Together we make up the Body of Christ, flawless in beauty and holiness, perfect in faith, hope and love.

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