Last year, a friend of mine was taken to the emergency room. She had the flu and was in critical condition. Before I rushed to the hospital, I prayed a Rosary for her. The memory is like a blur. My head was racing, my rosary beads were twisting, my stomach was clenching, my hands were shaking, and my heart was aching. Even though I sat in a chair in my living room, every part of me seemed to be in motion. I was anxious to get to the emergency room, but from somewhere inside a voice repeated. Pray. Pray. Pray.
When I finished the Rosary, I went on Facebook and begged others to pray for her. I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but I know it included “even if you don’t pray – pray anyway.” I’m not usually that bossy in Facebook posts so I hoped people would get the seriousness of the situation. Even if it wasn’t their friend or their situation, even if they were estranged from God, I needed them to pray. I needed help for my friend. I figured if someone didn’t have their own faith, they could borrow their neighbors and throw something up to God. He’s a great catcher. That’s what He does over and over again – He catches us. He doesn’t get caught up in who knows who, or the grudges someone is holding against Him. He isn’t keeping score. He just catches.
I don’t know how many people prayed for her that day but it seemed like an awful lot. At the hospital, I prayed with her children. Friends texted that they were praying. I called our church and asked them to send a priest to pray too. He came and administered the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. The doctors were doing everything they could, her friends and family were covering her in prayer, and she was fighting like the warrior she was.
Within hours, she died. After her husband took her children home, I stayed and waited for the priest to return to the hospital to pray over her body. For a short time, I was alone with her for the last time. It was a gift amidst the grief. My prayers were different now. They weren’t as desperate but remained as fervent. The prayers I said were a promise. They were of shock and disbelief of her unexpected death. They were a culmination of joy for the years I shared with her. They were of gratitude for her friendship that even the razor-sharp pain of grief could not dull. Strangely, they were also of peace, of quiet that was not empty, and of a knowing that in the descent of death – God caught her.
Prayer isn’t always so heavy – so dire, as it was that day. We pray for a great many things that we would gladly give up for the sake of someone we love. Prayer doesn’t work that way. It’s not something you bank. It’s not a wish come true or a genie in a bottle. If the prayer doesn’t get answered in the way we want, it doesn’t mean God didn’t hear or that he doesn’t care. It’s an invitation to the divine. It’s a chance to be in communion with God – to rejoice, offer gratitude, petition, hear wisdom, and share grief. More than anything, it’s an act of love – to God and the person you are praying for.
On the day my dear friend died, love enveloped her through prayer. I couldn’t love her through touch or words, so I loved her with all that I had through a litany of prayer. It didn’t heal her. It didn’t save her. It made the last hours of her life hopeful for those who would be left behind. That hope didn’t die with her. It remained – its own kind of prayer that has helped us to carry on, to remember, and to smile. A prayer that reminded me that God caught me that day too. He has been holding me up ever since reminding me that the power of prayer isn’t in how it’s answered. It’s in the strength that comes from the love in which it is offered. A love that triumphs over the sting of death. It gives a whole new meaning to “what a catch.”
Copyright 2019 Lara Patangan