Wednesday, January 18, 2012


As I prepare to leave for a few days of vacation, flying to Rome, I posted on Facebook that I had as “Job 1” to pray in special places for family, then as “Job 2” to pray for friends/parishioners, also in special places. But why bother with “special places,” anyway? And what “special things” could be of any meaning?  Isn't this all just "Church Lady" talk?

Surely from God’s point of view there is no need for anyone to go anywhere “special” to pray: Jesus (Matthew 6:5-6) assures us the best place may just be our private room. But now I am not referring so much to God’s listening but to my ability to open myself. And if the saying “Guilt by association” is true, so it is with the sense, the awareness, that generates or stimulates my capacity to connect.
It is why retreats are important—and they typically take place in contexts that are “special” if for no other reason than that they are different. We priests make our pilgrimage to the Jesuit retreat house in Manresa, LA every summer—a far better option than the “too familiar” Spring Hill College locale of old. Jesus Himself knew the advantage of retreats to a “special place” for the sake of re-charging the spiritual battery: after return of the Twelve from the mission on which He sent them, Jesus said to them: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).

Then, too, Geoffrey Chaucer famously reminds us of the times when “…longen folk to goon on pilgrimages/…And specially, from every shires ende/Of Engelonde, to Caunterbury they wende/The holy blisful martir for to seke…”

For myself, the “holy blissful martyrs” and saints that I seek include Ss Peter and Paul, Augustine and Monica, Francis of Assisi and Ignatius Loyola. I feel a connection there that aids me in my prayer for others; and so I go.

“Special things” make a difference to me, as well: in these places I find that the Rosary is especially useful in helping me enter into prayer for others. But it is not just any rosary: it is made of what were once crushed rose petals, now blackened with use (though there is just the faintest hint of fragrance in them still). And it was my Father’s rosary, which I inherited when he died.

So, even though I will be doing some visiting with dear friends, some sight-seeing (there are in Rome still some churches, amazingly, that I have never visited) and of course some good eating. But I know what “Jobs 1-2” are, and I know the places and things that will allow me to pray better—not to change God, but to change me.

1 comment:

  1. Juanita and I love pilgrimages, unfortunately we have had to forego our annual pilgrimages since starting Diaconate training. In fact, on our last pilgram to Assissi you missed you by one week. I believe that was Jan 2009. I truly miss my annual retreats. Maybe next year !