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.
The Jan. 29 ecumenical event at the Chiara Center in Springfield — a Lutheran-Catholic event intended to begin a series of commemorations of the beginnings, in 1517, of what came to be called the Protestant Reformation — was very well attended, giving evidence that there is great interest locally in addressing the mandate, implicit in the fact that there is one Lord Jesus Christ, that Christians seek the unity which Jesus intends for his people. A planning meeting for further events will be held Thursday, March 2, 7 to 8:30 p.m., at Grace Lutheran Church in downtown Springfield.
Back in November, I let you know that there was some planning going on among Catholics and Lutherans in the Springfield area to commemorate the beginnings of the activity, five hundred years ago in Europe, which led to what is today called “the Protestant Reformation.”
Pope Francis visited Sweden this past Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. He met with Lutheran leaders at a time in which all Christians must be attentive to the sad reality of division among Christians and eager to encourage the unity which Jesus intends.
On Oct. 31, 1517, the Augustinian monk and Scripture professor Martin Luther, of Wittenburg, Germany, sent 95 “theses” or debate topics to the Archbishop of Mainz. He may also have nailed a copy of these theses to a church door. There is no evidence that any debates on these topics actually took place. The date Oct. 31, 1517, is considered the beginning of what is now called the Protestant Reformation, which led to great brokenness within Western Christianity, as many felt compelled to leave the Catholic Church.
September is already in the rear-view mirror; still, I wish to reflect on an event, announced in this column, which occurred in Springfield on Aug. 25. A large crowd gathered at Westminster Presbyterian Church to hear Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, a professor of New Testament at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, speak about our need to understand better the intertwined yet distinct traditions of Judaism and Christianity.