When I began working from home, I joined our parish’s prayer chain. I thought, well, here’s a good deed I can do without it really asking a lot from me, so I’ll give it a try. It has evolved into a deeper appreciation for our Catholic concept of communion of saints.
On a very human level, getting that phone call about the latest person in need and then passing it on has made me feel more part of the local community, more in-the-know. A way to keep up without technically gossiping.
It has turned out to be a very humbling experience. This morning I counted how many people I am “expected” to pray for. Thirty-six official names, people with some parish connection. Then we add in prayers for our sister parish in Tanzania, the Benedictine community, the whole Church, our friends in Budapest, my cousin in Bussey, the friends of a friend, someone’s sister, all of our siblings and parents, our kids, family, friends, the nation, the world, those born today, those who die today. Also, those in harm’s way, for the government, etc. There is no end to the list of those for whom we are to pray.
That’s the point. There is no end. On my little list are people who were placed there due to illness. Some have recovered and some have died. Do I quit praying for them? If alive, they can certainly use what little boost my prayers can give. If deceased, either they can still use my prayers or, most certainly, I can use their intervention. For awhile, in my ever so obsessive-compulsive way, I did indeed pray for everyone on the list by name each day. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but then I stumbled across the method which Cardinal Joseph Bernardin used. People frequently asked him to pray for them, especially when he had pancreatic cancer and other people with cancer sent their requests to him. When he was able, he did name names. Eventually the list grew too long and he grew too weak. He did not quit then, but changed his method. He would place his hand on the little book with his prayer list. And he prayed for them all collectively, trusting in the God who accepts our best intentions.
It is only now, in these last few years, that I work from home and can start my day at my own pace. At last, I am able to take deliberate and lengthening time in prayer. What an unexpected gift it has been. By putting thoughts of others before me as the day begins, I find I’m not so self-focused. That’s a good thing. There is a long way for me to go, but a little progress is still progress.
I hope to be able to continue in the prayer chain, until, in the words of June Carter Cash, the circle will be unbroken, with the coming of the Kindom.
(Note: “Kindom” is not a typo for “Kingdom.” I prefer Kindom.)