Sacred Space by Br John Venard FMS
MY mother came from a dairy farm of 12 children where early evening meals were followed by the family Rosary.
Bed by 8pm enabled the family to be up by 3am and deliver the milk in Kurri Kurri for breakfast; thus they survived.
When Mum married a daily family Rosary was her norm.
For a start my prayers were always prayers of petition and I would rattle off prayer words, go to Mass and make novenas with little expectation that my prayers would be answered.
When this happened I would get discouraged and complain, “Well, I did not really expect it.”
I cannot believe that I pitted my paltry intelligence and limited experience against the goodness and love of God.
It is a wonder a bolt of lightning did not come from the heavens to end my ill-humoured complaining.
Fortunately God is a God of unconditional love.
I believed that the reason for “Prayer Sessions” was to get what I wanted, thus become happy which would lead to a loving relationship with God.
But this is back to front and it took an insight from David Steindl-Rast to put me on the right track: “For happiness is not what makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy.”
So now I start my prayer with a reflection on the marvels of Creation, on the many things I can be grateful for, and usually this goes on and on and puts me in such a good mood that I don’t get around to Prayers of Petition.
My prayer journey got a significant boost during a Prodigal Son Retreat with school officers who work in Catholic schools.
One prayer session was based on thanking God for Creation and for his gifts.
We used the hymn Thank you Lord where the tune repeats itself five times except for changing the item that we are giving thanks for.
When the hymn ended we continued on making up our own words.
“Peace”, “Family”, “Australia” got a plug before I stopped the session, explaining that we could go on for ever if we wanted to cover all of God’s gifts to us.
On the last evening, we had a Prodigal Son party as the retreat was based on this parable. Everyone made a special effort with decorations, clothes and a special menu to make it a worthy celebration.
However as I turn into a pumpkin about 11pm I chickened out early and crept off to bed at the far end of the building.
About midnight, I woke up to hear singing in the distance and it took me some time to work out where I was.
Only half awake, I could still recognise the hymn “Thank you Lord” but it went on and on.
It gradually dawned on me what was happening. The ladies were working their way around the group thanking God for each person by name.
“How marvellous,” I thought as I went back to sleep with a big smile on my face.
Then I got an image of God with a bigger smile on his face, saying to the angels, “admire the praying of that quality group and a cheer for John who took most of his life to learn to pray without tension”.
The truth is that God is never outdone in gratitude. We can make people aware of God’s presence in our world by a lifestyle based on gratitude.
The psalmist sang long ago: “What marvels the Lord has worked for us. Indeed we were glad.” (Psalm 126:3)