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September 6, 1996     The Message
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September 6, 1996

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The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 5 September 6, 1996 n Bishop's Forum Rote prayers and spontaneous outpouring We learned prayers as children. We memorized them first as our par- ents taught them and as we prayed. Then as we grew older we recited them alone for our parents or as we prepared homework for CCD class on the first Saturdays of the month. Oh, yes, we memorized them to be examined for our preparedness for first sacraments, confirmation or solemn communion. Little did we appreciate their significance. Spontaneous prayer, as I learned only later, was a practice of the Protestant community, and particu- larly those given to Pentecostal type of worship. It was foreign to us Catholics. Scripture reading for Catholics was not forbidden, but not encouraged. The Benedictine tradition oflec- tio divina was not part of our experience or training. Scripture as prayer for Catholics has been rediscov- ered in our time. That is very good news but we are not all ready for such news. The recitation of the rosary and the responses to litanies were central to our pious practices. These prayers were monotonous. They were prayers, nonetheless. While responding to the leader, each of us had a chance to reflect on the meaning of the moment or let human nature take its course. For us children, the latter more often than not, was daydreaming. I am compelled to ask: Does not God use daydreaming as a way of communicating to children and young peo- ple -- and adults, to challenge them to greater works of service? As deacon, priest and bishop, I have come to ap- preciate more fully the daily practice of "praying the scriptures" in what is known as the Divine Office, the official daily prayer of the Church. The sacred scrip- tures, and especially the sacred psalms and hymns, By BISHOP GERALD A. " GETTELFINGER are prayers. Although they may have been spontaneous in their first ex- pression, they were written to be re- cited or recalled by the community of believers. They reflect human emo- tions and needs and teachings of the Master, the Lord. Our participation in hearing and responding is a com- munication from the people to the one Who had promised to be their God. The regular reading of scriptural passages and memorized prayers are formal iarayers. The official prayer of the Church, the liturgy of the hours, is rich in scriptural and historical re- flections. It is prayed daily by all of us who are ordained deacons, priests and bishops. These prayers are scheduled to be prayed in the morn- ing, midmorning, midday, mid-afternoon, evening and at night. They are structured. They have to be because more than one person is involved. Each participant needs to know what comes next. That is why ritual is so predictable. However, allow me to add that in the daily praying of the psalms, holy orders do not pre- vent daydreaming. Prayer is the ongoing conversation between families and family members with the God who made each of us. The same God established the family as the way he chose to transmit life in its fullness, not just in its bi- ological beginnings. Family life is the first experience of this relationship in prayer. Spontaneous prayer, on the other hand, is not de- signed to be community prayer. It is the expression of an individual on behalf of self or the community, but it is not common prayer. Common prayer has great merit. So often the human personality can be so involved with other mat- ters that to pray spontaneously is not possible. There are times when prayer is most difficult. Rote prayers make prayer possible even in the most trying mo- ments. Allow me to relate an anecdote. Father Patrick Harpenau was a beloved childhood friend. We met at St. Meinrad Minor Seminary as 13- year-old boys. We had so very much in common that we became more brothers than friends: He was from a praying farm family aswas I. He had brothers and sisters as did I. Our parents loved us and taught us of God's love for us. They taught us to pray. Yes, memo- rized prayers. The prayers in common in the semi- nary were easy for us. We had done it for years. Father Pat became ill. He was dying of cancer. I vis- ited him. I asked him if he was able to pray. His an- swdr was, "No." He quickly related to me that his suf- fering made concentration impossible. Meditative prayer was difficult and really not possible. Even the attention required for the breviary was too much. The prayers he learned in childhood were familiar and thereby he could pray in his last days. We prayed them. At his death, I prayed our common childhood prayers. I felt better and I am confident God was pleased. When you are able, be spontaneous in your prayer: When you don't "feel" like praying, don't hesitate to re- cite rote prayers or to read the scriptures and reflect on God's word in them. Don't worry, about the quality of your prayer. God is the only one to evaluate the quality ofour prayer. His assessment is all important. If we do not pray, no as- sessment is possible. Family prayer is communal. It needs to involve the youngest to the oldest. It relies on every member's knowing the words. Who is to teach the words but par- ents? When are they to be practiced but daily? Who is to exercise the discipline of family prayer but the family gathered? Consider these questions as challenges as we begin another "structured" school year. Whatever happened to the Pharisees? If you intend to read this en- tire article, you must first do something that few of us Catholics do on a re,mlar basis: read a passage from Sacred Scripture: Matthew, Chapter 23. It will take you about five min- utes. When you're finished, re- turn to the next paragraph below. (If you can't find your Bible, there's a copy at your local library. Now that you've done your homework, ask yourself: Is this the same Jesus who, in Matthew, Chapter 5, says, "Love your ene- mies and pray for those who per- secute you?" Are you not a little surprised by Jesus' intense hoe. tility toward the Pharisees? What infuriated Jesus most: was the Pharisees' vain and elf- hypoci, isy; they were the time. Their idea'. 3 to create and im- pose a dizzying array of mean- inglesarules, regulatioms and rit- uals which the average Jew could not possibly follow and which were Completely devoid of mercy, love and compassion. Most heinous to Jesus was the audacity of the Pharisees to ap- pmnt themselves "Super Jews" who used their superior knowl- edge and practice of Jewish laws to maintain their political control and wealth. Jesus' message was and is -- that religion is noc about legalistic and obsessive rituals and rules, but about our relationship with God and neigh- bor. Many years ago, I was invited by a friend to attend a meeting of an organization known as the John Birch Society. I knew abso- lutely nothing about the society or its purposes, but my friend's enthusiasm convinced me to ac- company him; he had been an ac- tive member for several months. As we entered the meeting place, I noticed that each of the 20 or so members carried a stack of papers which I later learned were their personal most recent copies of the Congressional Record. The meeting consisted of two agenda items: 1) to continue the society's efforts to impeach then Supreme Court Chief Jus- tice Earl Warren, and 2) to share with one another every quotation from their revmw of the Con- gressional Record that they con- sidered to be evidence of infiltra- tion by the Communist Party into the U.S. government. What struck me most about the atmosphere at the meeting was the intense hostility and sus- picion of the members toward all government leaders. Long before the end of the meeting, I knew this was to be the first and last time I would attend! It wasn't the fact that we need to be vigilant and maintain a healthy skepti- cism when dealing with our ene- mies that frightened me. It was their overriding mistrust of ev- eryone who was not aligned with their views. Like the Pharisees, they con- sidered themselves to be "Super Patriots" and arbiters of all things American; only they were capable of determining who was a true American and who was not. Every society, every organiza- tion, every religion has its Phar- isees and John Birch Society. These are generally not happy people. Their entire being is fo- cused on guarding what they consider to be essential rules, regulations and rituals. Their re- lationships with others consist of judging every, action and scour- ing ever)' written and spoken word (including these words!) looking for a slight twist, a little turn, any minor deviation from their interpretation of the,exact letter of the law or rule or doc- trine. And when they discover something unusual or a thought different from theirs, they attack with vigor and feelings of great self-satisfaction (robably the only experiences resembling joy in their lives.) When this happens within a Christian context, it often takes the form of a personal assault that demonstrates the same vain hypocrisy that so infuriated Jesus about the Pharisees: self'- righteous, self-serving, mean- spirited, and anything but "Christ-like." When asked about this type of behavior, one "Super- Christian" said: "Well, when you're right, you're right!" What does this have to do with Stewardship? The answer is: "Ev- erything!" Jesus was quite em- phatic about what He expects of those who would call themselves His disciples -- and it certainly was not the ways of the Phar- isees! Now that you have opened your Bible, take a few additional minutes to read the Christian's "job description" also foultd in Matthew's Gospel: Chapters 6, 7 and 25. Here are Jesuf own words: clear, straightforward, not. particularly difficult to under- stand. Our responsibility as peo. pie of faith is to live these expec- tations -- and find the joy and peace Jesus has promised those who dot Cardinal Bernardin calls terminal cancer God's special gift By BILL BRITT Catholic News Service CHICAGO (CNS)  Less than 48 hours after learning he w dying of'liver cancer, Car- dinal Joseph L. Be r,ardin of Chicago ca:!t'G0d 8 special "I have been assured that I still have some quality time leR," Cardinal Bernardin said at the press conference. He pledged to "keep a full schedule for as longas I can and ta keep ev- eryme informed of my health." :' The day after thepress con, only three weeks earlier had in- dicated he was cancer-free. But the spread of pancreatic cancer to his liver was discovered dur- ing tests done Aug. 28 in prepa; ration for back surgery in September. ve tumors. gift to me." ference, ' Cardinal "I have been told that it is ter:, 15aicipatad in a mina| and my life expectancyis one year or less," he said at a press conference Aug. 30at the archdiocesan Pastoral Center. The news of the recurrence of Cardinal Bernardin's cancer :-- for which he underwent surgery in June 1995 -- prompted ex- pressions of sorrow by other re- ligious leaders. gemcitabine, immediately. =If successful,  he said, "this ther- apy may increase my time some- what but it will not effect a cure / 2We signed to build on his ministry to those suffering from cancer. The Aug. 31 service at St. Bar- bara Parish in Brookfield was the second of three such ser- vices; Cardinal Bernardin was the first person anointed. The cardinal, who turned 68 in April. said blood tests done disease is advanced and inoper- able. The planned back surgery was canceled., Flanked by his auxiliary bish- ops, Cardinal Bernardin told a crammed galleD' of journalists and photographers that he would begin a different form of chemotherapy called Gemzar, or dinal Bernardin said the future-:: of the Catholic Common Ground -: Project, a call for dialogue- within the church, is not de- pendent on me." He said the pro- ject, launched earlier in August, will go forward and he will con- tinue to be a part of it for as long as he can. Bernardin " inches izi diameter, were previously on the cardinal's liver, eternal." planned anointing service 'de- ing to doctors, this stage of the At his press conference, Car