The Power of Prayer

The Power of Prayer

  • Today in Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
  • Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
  • 15 September 2019

As a youngster I was all excited to finally be in the fourth grade. That was the year I became eligible to become an altar server, but first it was necessary to be familiar with liturgical Latin. Sister Joan Mary, S.P. was assigned to instruct about twenty of us in the expectations and duties of servers at the Cathedral parish. For putting up with all of us, she was then, and continues to be now, a most remarkable woman. She and I still keep in touch after all these years. Under her tutelage we learned the basics of liturgical Latin, and despite the frustration and consternation of the young associate priests, we were let loose on the early morning masses under the guidance and direction of more experienced servers. During this time of probation we were scheduled to serve the 6:00 a.m. mass at the Sisters of the Adorers of the Precious Blood Monastery. As it turned out, the sisters were within walking distance from my home, so I was the default server for most of my fourth grade year. The sisters were a cloistered order and under the discipline of the community they only had two “jobs” to perform: to pray and to supply the mass hosts for all the parishes in the diocese. Since they were cloistered, I only caught an occasional glimpse of them through the screen that separated them from the sanctuary of the chapel. When I would arrive for the morning mass, one of the sisters would have the sacristy prepared for me with the required cassock and surplus, a taper for lighting the candles, and two matches. There was also a small treat with a note of thanks and a reminder not to eat the candy before mass. It was all very mysterious for a nine-year old kid.

The Sisters of the Adorers of the Precious Blood were the first to teach me about the importance and power of prayer in the life of a good Catholic. Of course I had learned my prayers at home and had the required prayer books from First Holy Communion, but the discipline of prayer from morning to night for those dedicated to religious life was entirely new to my experience. Every morning that I entered the monastery for mass was an invitation into the holy. There was a sense of quiet and peace that did not exist outside those walls. It was like being at the intersection of two worlds. To the mind of a child it was initially strange, but I became gradually accustomed, and it all eventually seemed perfectly natural. Reflecting back on that experience as an adult, there has been a deepening sense of wonder over the years. To this very day I still receive messages from the sisters as they continue to pray for me and for my intentions. With all the pressures and demands of our secular world, these holy women have remained steadfast in their vocation to pray. And I thank God for that! Where would we be…where would I be… without them? I find myself wondering about these things after living most of my life as a priest and assigning much of my own vocation to their tenacious life of prayer for me and for the rest of humanity.

As our world and even our Church have become increasingly secularized, God only knows what kind of predicament we would be in without their devotion. The power of prayer can move mountains. Those cloistered sisters, behind the walls of their monastery, are really in the front lines of a spiritual warfare that is raging all around us. In the midst of the heat of battle, their serenity is the healing balm and secret weapon that gives me hope that our world is not doomed to destruction. Hope is a good thing; maybe the best of things. The promise of salvation offered us in Christ Jesus is witnessed every day by the prayer of faithful disciples…good men and women…who pray for us with disciplined devotion throughout the universal Church. So if we are to teach as Christ has taught us, then teach this to your children and your children’s children.

“Remember that the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, strong in your faith!”