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The Message
Evansville, Indiana
November 20, 1987     The Message
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November 20, 1987

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Faith Today Supplement, The Message, Catholic Diocese of Evansville, November 20, 1987 ..... 1 Faith Todav / A supplement to Catholic rtewspopets published by k m NATIONAL CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE I 1312 Massusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005. 1 wth grant assistance  I The Cathohc Chur'ch I I'00I EXTI=NSION so, I 35 East Wadder Dr., Oicago, Illinas 60601 I Atl contents copyright@ 1987 by NC News SeMce. 4,,1 By Father Eugene LaVerdiere, SSS NC News Service W ouldn't it be wonderful to know what it was like for Jesus to pray, to get in- side his prayer? Jesus' prayer surely was extraor- dinary. We know from Luke's Gospel that it filled the disciples with awesome respect. They never would have thought to interrupt him. On one occasion they waited respectfully until he finished pray- ing before asking that he teach them how to pray. In the presence of Jesus at prayer the disciples felt the need to pray. And their first prayer was that he teach them how to do so. Jesus answered their prayer with the gift of the Lord's Prayer (Luke 1 1: 1-4). We can summarize the disciples' experience of Jesus at prayer in a few simple phrases: Jesus did not really teach the disciples to pray. They caught it from him. Prayer is not taught. Like a smile, it is caught, at least in its first expression. Only then can someone teach others how to pray. Prayer is born in us. It leaps to life in experiences which draw us out of ourselves -- the deep still of night, the quiet light of dawn, a child smiling, a deer leaping over an embankment, two elderly peo- ple gently caring for one another. All of these can make us draw a breath, pause quietly and sense the presence of one who puts it all together. At those moments, inner noise becomes part of a great harmony. Prayer is born. There is a big difference bet- ween prayer which is caught or born in us and self-centered prayer. The first gives life. It is creative. It helps us to be what we are called to be. It moves us beyond ourselves and puts us in touch with other human beings, with creation and with God himself. Such prayer has wonderful restorative powers. Self-centered prayer draws everything into ourselves and transforms everything and everyone including God into something to satisfy our needs, it often becomes a prayer of desperation. This kind of prayer crosses our lips only when we cannot manage on our own. Of course, there are times when our needs are so over- whelming that this is the only prayer we can manage. And we know in that moment that God loves us and listens to us. If we take the time to look back, my guess is that all of us can find a few special moments when we caught the smile of prayer. They may have been brief moments but they left their mark. For me, one such moment takes me back to my childhood in Maine. My grandmother Elizabeth Matthieu -- to me she was "Memerc" -- asked if I would go to the church and make the Way of the Cross with her. It was Lent. I was 4 or 5 years old. I had not been in the church before unless there was Mass. We climbed the stairs to old Notre Dame Church above the school. The statues were quieter than usual. "Memere" held my hand and I followed from station to station. I had no idea what a Way of the Cross was but I knew it was im- portant. Standing beside my grand- ma in that church I could feel it. I learned that day that there was something, or rather someone, much bigger than my grandmother whom she loved and to whom she prayed. And that taught me there was something much bigger than I am. I look upon this childhood ex- perience of my grandmother at prayer as one of those great moments when I felt God's presence. It was awesome, but in my grandmother's presence it also was warm and gentle. I still can draw upon that moment and say: i ,, "Prayer is not taught. Like a smile, it is caught, at least in its first expression," writes Father Eugene LaVerdiere. This week, as Faith Today begins its Advent series, he observes that prayer "leaps to life in experiences which draw us out of ourselves." He recalls a childhood memory of his grand- mother at prayer "as one of those great moments when I felt God's presence." Inside, Nell Parent suggests ways families can make Advent more than "a holding pattern for Christmas." I "Lord teach us to pray." A second experience occurred only a few months ago. ! was fly- ing to the Carolinas and an elderly woman, a nun, sat next to me quietly. After a while I noticed she was fingering her rosary. In the bustle on the plane she had brought her religious world with her. There was something too beautiful there to interrupt. As I think of her, I think of my grandmother and of the disciples who long ago spoke for us and asked Jesus to teach us how to pray. (Father LaVerdiere is editor of EmmanueL) 1" 4,/