Thus far, in surveying types of prayer with the help of Bishop Ken Untener’s discussion in the Little Books of the Diocese of Saginaw, I have looked at verbal prayer and prayer which is essentially reflection on reading the Sacred Scriptures.
Before moving into meditation (thinking), I want to consider an activity which contains elements of reading and thinking.
Many of us seem to have been taken aback by the occurrence of Advent and Christmas this year.
First of all, there is the matter of Dec. 25 falling on a Monday. This means, of course, that the Fourth Sunday of Advent will be Dec. 24, and, after the regular Sunday Masses, we go immediately into the Christmas Masses on Sunday evening.
Returning now to a survey of kinds of prayer, I am taking a look at “divine reading,” or, if you like the Latin expression, lectio divina.
This is essentially a process of spending time with portions of the Bible. We may find it forbidding to contemplate a journey through the Scriptures. We may suppose that Biblical literature is so vast and varied that we cannot help but become utterly disoriented when we try to explore the literature on our own.
In July, at my first meeting of the steering committee of the Metro-East Interfaith Partnership, a Baha’i member mentioned the Buckminster Fuller Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
On Aug. 31, I was in the Fuller Center for the first time, as I had been asked by the Newman Club at SIUE to hear confessions that evening.
Fifty years ago, the geodesic dome, which Fuller patented in 1954, came into great prominence. The U.S. pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal was one of the outstanding symbols of that World’s Fair. The SIUE dome was built under Fuller’s direction in 1971; at the time he was in the Department of Design at SIU Carbondale.
Over the past 42 years since I entered the seminary, I have had plenty of occasions for considering what prayer is. I was instructed that a priest is a “man of prayer.” How to become such a person was less clear to me.
I discovered, some years ago, a discussion of prayer which I have found eminently practical. The source was one of the Little Books of the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan. People in many of the parishes of our diocese are familiar with this series which, perhaps most notably, takes us through the days of Lent and Easter with daily “six-minute meditations.”
You might well imagine that, in the seminary, aspiring priests practice doing things like celebrating Mass and administering sacraments. And in fact, I engaged in such “practices” during my seminary years.
You might also imagine that we carry out these “practices” with great solemnity. My answer: Not always!
People talk a lot about prayer. But what do we know or understand about prayer? Do we, as believers, enjoy a sense of confidence about ourselves as praying people?
In the seminary I was warned against saying — as many, apparently, were accustomed — “My work is my prayer.” The priesthood I was preparing for certainly has its share of “workaholics.” Indeed, numerous people tend to define themselves by their work.
Anyone who goes to a synagogue or church might be excused for thinking negatively about Egypt.
After all, it is in the Scriptures that God’s chosen people found their enemy in the Egyptians who had enslaved them. The canticle of Exodus chapter 15, perhaps the most ancient writing in the entire Bible, exults in proclaiming the Lord’s triumph as “horse and chariot are cast into the sea.”
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Illinois and Wisconsin has been outstanding in its anti-racism work. I was pleased to be able to attend on April 7, a lecture by Jim Wallis at Eureka College (a Disciples institution) on the themes of Wallis’s recent book on racism, America’s Original Sin.
“We don’t wear that around here.” A Muslim woman in Decatur reports that she received this reaction from a woman in the place where both were shopping. The woman was referring to the Muslim hijab or veil.