Thursday, May 23, 2024

Eucharistic Revival Series: Giving Flesh to Prayer and Service

Recently, I had a phone conversation with a gentleman who had just come back from a Cursillo retreat. He told me it was strongly suggested the retreatants seek out a spiritual director. So, he called me, seeking one.

As I began our conversation, I inquired about what he thought a spiritual director was. He said he thought it was someone who would assist a person in living a life of prayer. He went on to say, “A spiritual director assists you in bringing your prayer life into your ‘regular’ life.” I thought, “Great answer!” I shared several contacts with him.

I am reminded of this conversation as I reflect on the Eucharistic Liturgy. I came across a document that the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) published in 2010. It states, “As we pray, so we believe, and so we live. … Thus, the words that we pray in each liturgical celebration help to form and strengthen our understanding of the faith.”1 When I read that, I wondered, “Does the average Catholic in the pew understand this completely?” The words that I pray during the Liturgy strengthen our understanding of the faith. It seems to me that even in the spiritual life, words matter! Do we truly pay attention to the words we declare during Mass?

Putting it in a different light, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “… [T]he Eucharist helps us to grow in union with Christ, avoid sin, increase in charity, strengthen communion with our brothers and sisters, and recognize Christ in the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.” (CCC, nos. 1391-1397)

But what does this mean in my daily life? I often say that our daily life is the place in which we find our feet because where they are, our attention is given. With this in mind, there are two different paths on which we can focus to bring all of this into perspective: prayer and service.

Our prayer life should be more than just a single hour on Saturday evening or Sunday morning. The more consistent our prayer life is during the week, “the more fully we can enter into our weekend celebration.”2 I have often told young people that if we shower or brush our teeth daily, then we should spend some time in prayer every single day, too. It is not a matter of “saying” a lot of words, but rather spending time dedicated to loving God. How does one do that? Here are a few ideas: daily Mass, time spent in quiet prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, prayer before meals, reciting the Rosary or any other chaplet, taking time to read or listen to Sacred Scripture, Lectio Divina or Visio Divina, or beginning your day with a prayer of Thanksgiving. Whatever kind of prayer you do, do it with love and devotion to God, Who created you and loves you infinitely. The time spent with our Beloved Lord is time that is truly precious.

Our life of prayer should conform us more closely to the image of Christ who came to serve. The epitome of this action can be seen during the Last Supper, during which Christ dropped to His knees and washed the feet of His disciples. Our prayer life should deepen our realization that every person that lives on the face of the earth is our sister and our brother. Every single one. They should be loved by us as Jesus loves: sacrificially.

What gives us strength to serve in this way? The Eucharist. We are fed and we are nourished to begin living our call to be priest, prophet, king/queen, living out our call where we live.

It seems to me that one does not have to be a “formal” spiritual director to teach others how to bring God’s love and light into our world. It is rooted in the Eucharist, and when we are sent out to “go and announce the Gospel of the Lord,” we are putting “flesh” on our life of prayer and service. We are to bring what we experience at Mass into our lives and the lives of all we meet.

What an amazing mission! Ponder it!

1 https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/the-mass/upload/liturgy-and-life.pdf

2 ibid.

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, The Catholic Witness

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