A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

For the past few weeks, my life has revolved around preparing my house for sale. I’ve been cleaning, purging, packing and donating items, but much of the work has been done by others: the real estate agent, carpet stretcher, piano movers, hardwood floor refinisher, painter, window installers, and repairman/renovator.

We’ve been living out of suitcases at my parents’ home and living in our finished basement owing to a lack of furniture on the hardwood floors upstairs—and to the fact that there’s a piano in the middle of my kitchen, waiting to be moved from there back into the living room.

To say things have been a little chaotic would be an understatement. And along with the physical effort and upheaval, my emotions are all over the place: worry about how long it could take to sell, sadness about the changes in my life, anxiety about what lies ahead.

Finding a little quiet in the chaos remains easier said than done. But even in the chaos, I still find God.

I talk to him about my doubts and fears and my lack of strength, and he is always with me. And he has blessed me with, as one pastor used to describe it, “God-incidences.” Skilled tradespeople have been able to fit me into their schedules on short notice and at a good price. Music and yoga teachers and people at church as well as extended family have provided me with more of a support network than I could have hoped for, given that I struggle with reaching out to others. And my son has been more helpful and cooperative than usual.

Whether our chaos is the unexpected kind or the everyday chaos of school or work and family responsibilities, I pray that we would find those moments where we share what’s on our hearts with God and let him speak to us in the way he chooses—through an offer of help or support when we need it, a timely job opportunity, even beautiful sunshine after cloudy days or birdsong early on a cool spring morning. May we open our hearts to hear his voice.

O that today you would listen to his voice!

~ Psalm 95:7*

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

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An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

We may not like everything others do, but when their words and actions generally show that they care for us and want the best for us, loving someone who loves us isn’t much of a challenge.

Loving our enemies, on the other hand…

We may have this idea that Christians love everyone. We’re supposed to, since all people—regardless of their faith (or lack of faith) or the fact that they may have done awful things in their lives—are children of God. But if we’re honest with ourselves, there are people we dislike. People whose attitudes rub us the wrong way. People who use us to move ahead in their careers or betray a confidence or lie, yet aren’t concerned about the effects of their actions.

Jesus told us to love them anyway:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45*)

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36)

We might be tempted to lash out at those who hurt us by confronting them with angry words, speaking harshly about them to others, or looking for a way to make them “pay” for what they’ve done. But we’re called to move past those angry feelings, as the apostle Paul pointed out in Romans 12:19, 21:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”. . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

We too have our moments when we’re selfish and ungrateful, when we don’t worry enough about the consequences of what we say and do, when we hurt others. If we would want them to show us mercy, shouldn’t we do the same? If the angry feelings linger, shouldn’t we pray to reach that point where we forgive those who hurt us? We won’t forget what happened, and we may struggle to trust them again, but we’re freed from being consumed by hate or bitterness or self-pity.

To move away from the anger and hurt and toward forgiveness and mercy, may we remember the fact that we’d want to be forgiven if we hurt others—and remember all that God has forgiven us.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

With a federal election campaign under way, the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:1-3 are timely:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectable in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

When we make time to pray, our leaders may not be the first ones that come to mind. Maybe we’re so focussed on the needs of our family and friends and our community, as well as our own concerns, that we just don’t think about those in authority. But notice how the stress of governing turns the hair of these men and women from blond, brown or red to grey or white.

From the newest backbench member of Parliament to the longest-serving politician, from party leaders to the prime minister, all are in need of our prayers for guidance, wisdom and strength.

They’re considering the needs of their constituents along with the goals of their party, as well as handling any family commitments they may have. And doing so on what may be a very public stage, given our 24/7, quick-as-a-blink news coverage and society’s long memory when it comes to embarrassing incidents and scandals. Not to mention the importance of the issues they deal with each day: health care, education, environmental protection, economic growth, immigration and refugee issues, the public service, euthanasia, the need to heal the scars of the residential school system, and so on.

voter info cards

Rolls of blank, uncut Voter Information Cards (Elections Canada).

When we stop to pray for the leaders of our ministry groups, our parish and diocese, and the Catholic Church, we could take a moment to pray for our elected representatives at the municipal and provincial levels and our federal candidates (see the Elections Canada website) so that our leaders—and, through their decisions, our society—would be shaped by God’s values.

Recently I picked up a CD of Simon & Garfunkel’s greatest hits. One song, written by Paul Simon in 1965, stands out for me: “I Am A Rock”:

I am shielded in my armor

Hiding in my room

Safe within my womb

I touch no one and no one touches me

I am a rock

I am an island

And a rock feels no pain

And an island never cries

Fifty years later, these lyrics remain relevant.

Without ever venturing out of our homes, we can do our banking, order groceries and clothes, buy gifts, telework, and stay in touch with family and friends. We can create our own “community” online. We can strictly limit human contact—and, in doing so, we can keep the world and all its pain and messiness at a distance.

It’s a choice some people may be comfortable in making, but one that leads mainly to loneliness and isolation, which seem all too common these days. More and more, human contact is something we have to seek out, but it’s worth the effort.

I enjoy the monthly CWL meetings at my parish as much for the social time as anything else. When I go to the bank, it’s not unusual to see a senior come into the branch rather than bank by phone or online. And at the yoga studio where I practise, certain classes have regulars who know one another, at least by name.

We all have times where we want to shut out the world because we’re overwhelmed or grieving or because we’ve been hurt and we feel we can’t depend on anyone else. But when we try to be that rock, to avoid all pain, we can become numb to others’ pain or struggles—the new parents who are exhausted and could use a night out, a neighbour coping with illness who needs help with yard work, newcomers to the country who need advice on getting into language classes or finding household items at a reasonable price, or even refugees half a world away who need our prayers and our support.

May we have the courage not to isolate ourselves but instead to let our hearts remain soft enough that we continue to care for our neighbour as God would have us do.

Browsing at the bookstore ranks high among my favourite things to do. The latest fiction, cookbooks, journals, magazines…I could easily while away an hour or so just looking around. And my favourite spot is the clearance section. I often find great gifts and reads for myself.

One bargain find was A Brief History of Tea: The Extraordinary Story of the World’s Favourite Drink by Roy Moxham, which I’ve finally had a chance to read. I enjoyed learning about the tea production process but was stunned to read about the evolution of the industry in China, India, Sri Lanka and Malawi, with workers tied into long contracts with low pay, poor living conditions, and serious health risks.

Sadly, as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same:

  • The April 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh took the lives of more than 1 000 garment industry workers, who’d been told to return to work even after cracks had been discovered in the building.
  • In February 2014, the World Bank was asked to investigate conditions on tea plantations in India’s Assam state. Workers alleged, among other things, that their homes were in poor repair and that they and their families had been denied health care.
  • Over the past year, workers’ rights groups have called attention to labour conditions in Qatar for migrant workers building the infrastructure for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, alleging that workers are not paid and are denied adequate food and water.
  • Last week, the UN Human Rights Committee released a report on human rights in Canada that recommended creating an effective and independent body to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by Canadian companies operating in other countries.

This isn’t just a question of companies’ behaviour and its effect on their corporate image; it’s a question of human dignity.

Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, makes a number of comments about human dignity, including this one:

The Bible teaches that every man and woman is created out of love and made in God’s image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26). This shows us the immense dignity of each person….

These days, we’re more likely to look for eco-friendly, organic and natural products, but maybe we don’t give enough consideration to whether the workers who produced a given item receive a fair wage, have decent living conditions, and see their human rights respected. We need to pay more attention to news of human rights violations by companies. And we need to pray and advocate for better working and living conditions for workers, keeping in mind these words that call on us to respect workers’ human dignity:

He who oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth,

or gives to the rich, will only come to want. (Proverbs 22:16*)

“Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,

and his upper rooms by injustice;

who makes his neighbour serve him for nothing

and does not give him his wages…” (Jeremiah 22:13)

Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. (James 5:4)

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Have mercy on me
You treat me so bad I’m in misery
It’s breaking my heart, can’t you see
Baby, baby have mercy on me

~ “Have Mercy,” The Judds

The world’s major religions and philosophies feature some version of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” On the Scarboro Missions website, a poster illustrating this truth refers us to Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:12*:

“So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.”

Jesus said these words during his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), when he told us, among other things, to be reconciled to those we’re angry with, to avoid retaliation, and to love our enemies. At that time, he gave us the Our Father, where he taught us to ask that God would “forgive us our trespasses / As we forgive those who trespass against us” (6:12). Jesus also warned us about the consequences of failing to forgive:

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (6:14-15)

We may find it hard to forgive, whether we’re dealing with slights against us (a thoughtless or an unkind comment about our appearance, our hopes, our beliefs, our vocation; the lack of an invite to a social event) or deep hurt caused by a friend, a family member or our spouse.

God knows that we struggle with mercy and forgiveness, but he also knows that holding onto hurt, anger and bitterness can consume us. He invites us to ask his forgiveness for our thoughts, words and actions through the sacrament of reconciliation and to come to him for comfort and healing.

The next time we say “Kyrie, eleison” or “Lord, have mercy” at Mass, may we call to mind the times we have failed to show mercy and forgive—and ask God to forgive and heal us.

Let this be the pattern for all men when they practice mercy: show mercy to others in the same way, with the same generosity, with the same promptness, as you want others to show mercy to you.

~ St. Peter Chrysologus, quoted in “Celebrate July 2015,” Catholic Digest, June / July / August 2015

(*Scripture quotes and references taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

My father spent more than 25 years in the Canadian military. During that time, attitudes toward the military and their families weren’t always positive.

One woman actually told my mother that her husband’s taxes paid my father’s salary. A prospective employer said he wouldn’t hire Mom because military families were transient. Sometimes people were reluctant to get to know us because Dad could be posted somewhere else, and we’d have to move.

When my father was away on course or on a search (he spent years in search and rescue), we acted up, and it was challenging for my mother. We’d lose touch with friends when they moved or we did. And it was difficult for my dad, other flight crew members, and search and rescue technicians to deal with the things they saw on searches, including the loss of friends and colleagues.

After Canadian military involvement in missions around the world and news coverage of their efforts, people seem to appreciate the men and women in uniform more than they did when I was growing up. More effort is being made to address the challenges military families face; for example, I’ve seen copies of Canadian Military Family Magazine at my local library. And the Royal Canadian Legion continues to advocate on behalf of veterans and their families. But these words from Sirach 26:28* still speak to me:

At two things my heart is grieved,

and because of a third anger comes over me:

a warrior in want through poverty,

and intelligent men who are treated contemptuously….

Today, we’re learning more about how witnessing or experiencing a training incident, serving in active combat or on peacekeeping missions, or working in search and rescue may affect the mental and physical health of military personnel. We’re starting to talk more about the various challenges they—and their families—may face on their return from missions.

Each Remembrance Day, we honour veterans for their service. But the rest of the year, current and retired personnel may need our understanding and advocacy work as well as our appreciation for their service. And those still serving need our prayers for their protection and guidance and for their families. May we take the time to include them in our prayers.

For those who are serving this country,
abroad or at home, by land, by sea, or in the air;
for their mission to bring peace and security in other lands; and for God’s protection from all perils and injury,
we pray to the Lord.

~ “Prayers for the Canadian Forces,” Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

For more resources for military families, please see the websites above as well as these: 

Veterans Affairs Canada

National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces – CAF Community Page

Veterans Transition Network

True Patriot Love Foundation

Wounded Warriors Canada

Canadian Service Dog Foundation

The Canadian Hero Fund

There are two seasons in Canada: winter and construction. It’s an old saw but one that holds true in my corner of Ottawa. We see roads being widened and pipes laid, police officers directing traffic, and pylons sitting in different positions every time we head out.

Trying to gauge the time to reach our destination is challenging at best, with work on several major roads under way. And my frustration level is climbing, along with everyone else’s.

Since returning to Ottawa a few years ago, I’ve found tailgating to be a real problem, along with drivers’ assumption that others will roll through stop signs—and this has worsened with the ramped-up construction. Drivers block intersections as they try to squeeze through lights, and they honk their car horns, irritated with the slower-than-a-snail’s-space progress.

Whether we’re taking kids to day camp or daycare or summer school, heading to and from the bus station for our daily commute or to the grocery store, or going camping or sightseeing as a family, time on the roads is a given. We need to exercise our common sense, caution and patience. Maybe that means planning to leave a little earlier, combining errands, having snacks handy, stopping more often on longer trips, and keeping a little more gas in the tank than usual and distractions (such as beeping electronics or passengers’ cell phone chats) to a minimum. And praying that God will keep us safe in our travels this summer.

May we take a cue from this prayer for motorists:

Grant me O Lord a steady hand and watchful eye

That no one shall be hurt as I pass by.

Thou gavest life, I pray no act of mine

May take away or mar that gift of Thine.

Shelter those, dear Lord, who bear me company,

From the evils of fire and all calamity.

Teach me to use my car for others’ need;

Nor miss through love of undue speed

The beauty of the world; that thus I may

With joy and courtesy go on my way.

St. Christopher, holy patron of travellers,

Protect me and lead me safely to my destiny.

~ St. Christopher’s prayer for motorists, “Celebrate July 2015,” Catholic Digest, June / July / August 2015; “The Motorist’s Prayer,” Catholic Online

Last year, my son’s Confirmation class had a daylong retreat a few weeks before the service. One group activity involved preparing a grace to say before lunch, the reward for the best-written prayer being the right to be served lunch first. Some of the graces were very thoughtful and creative, and others…well, they were works in progress.

At times I’ve wished that I were more comfortable praying on the spur of the moment, or even that my prayers sounded more polished, but that’s not my gift. And that’s okay.

I read a quote from St. Benedict in the “Celebrate July 2015” feature of the June / July / August Catholic Digest that reminded me praying from the heart is what matters:

Prayer ought to be short and pure, unless it be prolonged by the inspiration of divine grace.

We do see lengthy prayers in the scriptures, such as these:

  • Hannah’s prayer of thanks when she brought her son Samuel to the temple (1 Samuel 2:1-10*);
  • Solomon’s prayer of praise and petition at the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:22-53);
  • many of the psalms;
  • the Magnificat (verses 46-56) and the prophecy of Zechariah at the birth of John the Baptist (verses 67-79) in Luke 1; and
  • Jesus’ prayer for the disciples and future believers before his arrest (John 17).

But we often read shorter prayers in the Bible, such as Samson’s plea to the Lord that he be avenged on the Philistines for the loss of his eyesight (Judges 16:28), Elijah’s call for the Lord to send down fire on his offering to show that he is God (1 Kings 18:36-38), and Jesus’ prayer commending his spirit to God (Luke 23:46).

Jesus himself told us that we don’t need to pray long prayers for God to hear us and know what we need:

“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7-8)

Then he gave us the Our Father to pray—not a long prayer, but a profound one.

When we pray, may we not worry about choosing the right words or phrases but instead pray straight from the heart, knowing that God hears and understands what we need.

(*Scripture references and quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

“For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.”

~ Malachi 2:7*

Our parish priest, soon to mark the anniversary of his ordination, asked us to say an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be for him on that day so that he would continue to be a good priest.

That got me wondering: do we think about the prayer needs of priests? And do we pray for them?

Long before the always-connected age we live in, priests have been on call 24/7. When not saying Mass, they’re writing homilies, meeting with parishioners to prepare for weddings and baptisms, presiding at weddings and funerals, ministering to the sick and the dying, and taking care of parish business. Priests need us to pray that they’ll have the energy, strength and wisdom to carry out their parish responsibilities and that God will call parishioners they can depend on to help with parish duties, outreach and various roles at Mass.

Since they’re only human, priests may have times where they question their vocation or feel as though they’re in a spiritual desert. They may struggle with burnout, depression or addiction as they deal with the demands of their work. Priests need us to pray that they’ll have time to spend in prayer and spiritual reading and to take a vacation or staycation for their mental, physical and spiritual refreshment and renewal—and that they’ll seek counselling if they need it.

Priests may be sent to minister in parishes far from home—in another diocese, or even in another country. Their families may be distant geographically but never so far away they don’t worry about and miss them. Priests need us to pray for the health and safety of their families.

Our parish priests need our prayers, even though they may not ask for them. This week, may we take a moment to bring their needs before God during our prayer time.

Lord, bless the priest who baptized me,

the priests who guided me in the sacrament of penance,

the priests who celebrated the Eucharist with me,

the priests who taught me,

the priests who prayed for me,

the priests who helped me when I was in need.

Jesus, High Priest, call many more men to become priests to minister to us and show us your face.

~ “Prayer for Priests,” The Confirmed Catholic’s Companion: A Guide to Abundant Living by Mary Kathleen Glavich, SND

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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