I attend Sunday Mass in an auditorium. There is a beautiful little country church at my parish, but to accommodate the crowds, many of our Sunday services are held in the school auditorium. While it is perfectly adequate, it is not always conducive to a deep spiritual Eucharistic celebration. (We are in the planning stages of a new, very large church). As it happens the people around me tend not to treat the environment of a school gym/auditorium sacredly. On occasion I arrive at church a few minutes early and like to meditate quietly and get in a “prayerful” frame of mind. Being in an auditorium, even with the Blessed Sacrament at the head of the neatly placed folding chairs, sitting under the basketball hoops or perched on the edge of the stage, I cannot always blame the congregation for the relaxed atmosphere of this utilitarian setting. Except. Often I get annoyed and I usually mention it to my children. Me: “Why can’t they just be quiet?” Katie: “Ssshhh.” Me: “Some of us are trying to pray.” “What is wrong with these people” “Don’t they see the blessed sacrament?” Katie: “MOM!” Instead of getting into a prayerful state of mind, by the time the priest actually approaches the altar, I am steaming, aggravated and more than likely haven’t said too many prayers. It happens often, I go in with the best of intentions, but something or someone distracts. Even during the service I can get mesmerized by something like an adult chewing gum, wondering where they plan to put it when they receive and if they know, they’re NOT SUPPOSED TO BE CHEWING GUM IN CHURCH. There are plenty of distractions for us, if we choose to look. But last Sunday I had an interesting experience. It wasn’t planned in any way and took me completely by surprise. A good surprise. My daughter and I went to 9:00a.m. Mass in the auditorium and we got there a few minutes before mass started. I sat down and began to read the prayers on the back of the missal. I was just into the Memorare when the noise became like a low roar. I looked up and conversations were flying around, people greeting one another, chatting and laughing, you guessed it they were disturbing me. But for a change, without really thinking about it, I began to pray for them. I prayed for each and every one of the people in that auditorium that morning. For 10 minutes I asked God to bless them, to open their hearts to hear the teachings of the mass that we would celebrate in a few moments. I asked the Holy Spirit to touch each one to give them courage and strength and a strong faith. To lift them up and help them to know in their heart that their prayers were being heard that day, that their families would be safe and that they would always remember Jesus. That just for that Sunday, they would truly know that God loved them with an overwhelming love. I kind of get carried away sometimes, what can I tell you. In a few moments, the priest came to the altar, and began to address us. I wasn’t familiar with him. He was a visiting priest, an older gentlemen and I didn’t even know his name. But right from the start he caught my attention. He made the sign of the cross and reminded us that Jesus prayed that all may be one and that each of us there in that room that morning were one. It wasn’t until he said that that I realized I had done something different, that I had prayed for these people instead of berating them in my mind. I was transfixed. The mass continued with the reading from the Acts of the Apostles whereupon Stephen was stoned to death, his last words, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them“. My heart had been softened through no efforts of my own and my actions were being confirmed through the teachings of the mass. The Holy Spirit must have gotten a hold of me that morning. When we arrived at the gospel, my heart was completely open to hear Jesus praying in John 17:20-26, “Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me.” At this point, I was in awe of the beauty of my faith. How God likes to tiptoe in unnoticed as it were and then astound me by working through me, and the only thing I have to do is be open to his nudging. He works quietly through the little whispers of my mind, constantly calling, asking, guiding.
I often go about my day, thinking that I’m doing okay in my spiritual journey. I pray regularly and go to mass I’m generous and won’t hesitate to help someone in need. Yet the things that aggravate me, the dumb little annoyances that creep into my day get to me. This is where I fall down. I will offer my coat to a stranger yet the innocent crowd gathered before mass infringes on my prayer space and I not only allow it to ruin my Sunday celebration, I in turn pass it on and spoil my family’s, and I’m sure my dark thoughts toward those around me to just “shut up” isn’t too great for them either. In addition, it seems, I was only cursing myself. By praying for them, I prayed for myself, for as He taught, we are all one in Jesus. And in blessing my neighbors, I was blessing myself. It’s easy to pray for those whom we love, those who are nice to us, yet Jesus teaches us, “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matt. 5:44.
So though I regularly tell my kids to pray for the kid who is mean to them or causes them the most pain, I myself hadn’t been doing that. Now I’ll remember to pray when people aggravate me, no matter how insignificant it may seem. It will be a blessing to them and to me.
Pray for the proud, for they are afraid the world will see them for who they really are.
Pray for the bullies of the world, for they feel small in their soul.
Pray for the clerks who don’t want to help you, for they thought their lives would have more meaning.
Pray for those who are rude, for they want to be important.
Pray for the loudmouths, they are shouting to feel significant.
Pray for those who whine, they long to be heard.
Pray for those who get under your skin, they want to be close to you.
Pray for the angry old man, he was once a young boy filled with dreams of his own.
Pray for your family when they drive you crazy, they are your gifts from God.
Pray for your enemies, and ask God to soften their hearts.
Lord, bless our world. It’s all so confusing and frightening. Everything we thought we knew is upended. All except you. You are our compass and our guiding light, I ask you Father to lead us in the ways you would have us go and help us to be kinder to one another. We are all travelers on this road, help us to help each other.. Amen.
The bottom line is we’re all trying to get by, to survive, to provide for our families and figure out what we’re here for. Some of us haven’t realized it yet, but God never gives up. We can keep looking around or we can focus on what we know to be true. He keeps knocking at the door of our hearts to tell us in his amazing way exactly what we need to hear, when we need to hear it. I love the Lord with all my heart and soul and though my efforts are sometimes weak, He sees into my heart and He loves me back. May you and I continue to walk together in faith up that mountain helping each other along the way. Take my hand, let’s go.
Copyright 2010 Maureen O’Shea