Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s,
I had another nephew born this past week, little Matthew. He is the 11th grandbaby, with number 12 to be born at the end of March. What a joy! With every grandchild, my family has a betting pool: the one who guesses the right gender and closest to the right day and time wins $25. After 11 tries, I have consistently struck out, so I guess I will have to stay away from Fire Keepers!
Fr. Tomy is returning this week (although there won’t be Mass on Monday the 17th). With him coming back, I am promptly taking off for my annual priest retreat (Monday through Friday). It is a blessing that Canon Law mandates every priest should take an annual retreat—otherwise, even with the best of intentions, it probably wouldn’t happen. Please pray for me this week that I can have an open heart and receive all the graces the Lord wants to give. I will be praying for you all.
Making time for prayer can be much like a retreat: unless we work at making it happen, even with the best of intentions it very easily won’t happen. Throughout the Gospels, we hear accounts like this one from Mark 1:35: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
These stories have always been an inspiration for me because it shows that Jesus Himself had to work at making time for prayer. Even for Him, building in prayer time meant sacrifice and, at times, inconvenience. A few verses before this one (Mark 1:32) details what Jesus’ evening before getting up very early looked like: “When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.”
As someone who rather enjoys sleeping, this story can make me wince. It means that Jesus had a short night, yet still considered getting up early after having been up late the night before worth doing to spend time with His Heavenly Father. There go my excuses! At different times, it has been this account that has helped me set the alarm for the early hour wake up after a night that went longer than I wanted.
This does not mean that the only time to pray is the early morning. What it does point to, though, is the importance of fighting for our prayer time. At times it really will be a fight, and a sacrifice, and very possibly inconvenient. And that time with God is always worth it. Don’t be afraid to get creative with prayer times and places. I know of people whose prayer place is the parking lot outside of work, or the laundry room. One person I met while offering Mass at the local jail had a comb that he used as a rosary since he couldn’t have an actual rosary: he would count off the decades on the teeth by breaking every 11th one to mark the transition between mysteries.
As we draw closer to Lent, let us consider the Lord’s call to prayer and His desire to be with us. Look for those ways to fight for prayer time!