Reaching Out to God
Now, in the midst of this Frankenstorm hammering our nation, and on the eve of the most important election of our lifetime next week, is a good time for discussing reaching out to God, our Creator and our Father.
Americans and Prayer
Most Americans believe in God and pray regularly (82%) .
82% of Americans say that God answers their prayers.
But how many realize the extent of the power they hold in their hands?
And how many realize that there are some particularly powerful ways to pray?
We can get quite invested in the best, most effective ways to provide disaster relief for hurricanes, or campaign help for our favorite candidates, as well as getting pretty invested in the details of our personal wealth management, yet we often forget to investigate what is available to us in the realm of tapping into the power of God. And if Hurricane Sandy is anything to go by, that power is more than anything we ourselves could ever hope to muster by human effort.
Some abandon the idea of prayer, claiming that their prayers have not been answered in the past. The fact that God has not always given you what you want does not mean that He is not there, or that you cannot tap into His power if you approach Him the right way. Presumably your parents did not always give you what you wanted, particularly if you did not approach them in the right way, and you have not concluded that your parents do not exist.
How Does One Approach God?
Children learn early to get what they want by approaching those who have power over their lives with any number of techniques; demanding, cajoling, begging, charming, repeating, persuading, throwing tantrums, hugging and kissing, and innumerable other ways. Now I’m not suggesting that we treat God in a calculating way or that we try to outsmart Him, but we really should acknowledge that some approaches might be more or less endearing, as we approach God for the things we want.
A humble and loving plea might be more effective than an angry demand. An understanding that we don’t always get what we want is also essential. Asking nicely, the way we were taught (“Our Father, Who art in heaven”… and “Do this in memory of Me”) is another important element. Finally, the extent to which we have been behaving or mis-behaving might influence the outcome of our request. Acting like we know better than God knows and setting the conditions, are about as likely to work on God, as they are to work on parents.
The point here is to realize that tapping into the power of God should include love, cooperation and effort; at least as much love, cooperation and effort as we expend on our sweetheart/parents/siblings, friends, favorite Rock star, Hollywood figure or politician, when we approach them.
Good luck getting something from your family if you have been violating their ethics, neglecting them, and perhaps even kicking them around for years.
How Catholics Bring Out the Big Guns When It Comes to Prayer
This is why Catholics revere the tradition that has been handed down to us, and do not shy away from giving God the time, effort and “bling” that we give to humans whom we respect or love; to our sweethearts, to our presidents and to our monarchs.
For centuries, Catholics have especially valued, and have documented the success and the power of two types of prayer; the Rosary, and Adoration.
But few non-Catholics, and even few Catholics, have much in-depth understanding of these prayers. And lack of understanding leads to lack of utilization. Sometimes, total miscomprehension even leads to ridicule of these prayers. Check the Wisconsin State Journal discussion forums for a good dose of ridicule of Catholic tradition whenever Catholicism comes up.
Today, I went to Adoration. That’s what I do for an hour every week. That’s what over 300 Madison Catholics do every week. In fact, Madison’s Cathedral Parish has Perpetual Adoration, which goes on 24/7, with people taking shifts, so that prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in Madison is continual and uninterrupted, day and night. This has now been going on for over 6 years, since Feb 12, 2006.
Why on earth do Catholics do Adoration, and what does it accomplish?
Some Fundamental Facts
If you acknowledge that God exists, by definition He is more powerful than anything we can imagine, including Hurricane Sandy and Barack Obama.
He can do anything He wants, including slowing down a hurricane before it hits land.
If you acknowledge that Christ was the Son of God, Christ demonstrates clearly two things:
God loves us.
God interacts with us.
He just might have wanted to leave us something of Himself, with which humanity can interact for millennia.
If you acknowledge the Bible, then Christ chose to leave us a great deal more than just a holy book compiled 300 years after Christ’s presence on earth. He left us His Real Presence in Holy Communion.
This is spelled out in no uncertain terms in John 6:50-71, where Christ says:
“unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”
When Jesus’ followers balked at this literal description of the Eucharist, Jesus persisted, to the point where many of His disciples abandoned following Him. Yet Jesus did not call them back or retract what He had said. There was no question of His intent regarding the presence of His Body and His Blood in Communion. This teaching was so important that Christ did not change it to keep disciples from leaving.
Why Would God Choose to Stay On As Communion?
Without a long theological discussion, is not God who rules the universe (and Hurricane Sandy) capable of changing anything He wants into anything He wants?
Who are we to question His choice to leave us His Real Presence in the form of Communion, His Body and Blood, the Bread of Life?
Would we prefer He left us nothing at all?
Or just a Holy Bible compiled 300 years after His Ascension?
Would we prefer there was no Ascension and He stayed on forever, attending White House dinners and organizing peace talks (and getting crucified over and over again)?
Would we prefer He left us little replicas of Himself, like little live Barbie dolls?
Would these have been any easier to believe?
Those who don’t want to follow Christ’s teachings will disbelieve anything Christ might have arranged for us.
But being realistic, it was not our choice. It was God’s.
My suggestions are obviously silly.
And, if you analyze other possibilities, God’s was the wisest one.
Leave them your Real Presence, which the poorest of the poor can access and which can be replenished throughout history.
Ingredients: bread and wine.
Consecration: by a priest, ordained in unbroken succession from the Apostles themselves.
So What Do We Do With the Real Presence of God?
Well, aside from all the usual things that Catholics do with the Real Presence of God, like attending the miracle transubstantiation every Sunday at Mass, and “eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking his blood” as we were commanded in John 6, we also treat the Real Body and Blood of Christ like the real person Christ which it is.
We preserve it in fancy tabernacles in our Churches, where people can go pray when they feel the need to be closer to God.
We take it to feed to the sick and dying, who cannot come to Mass to receive Communion.
We also place it in beautiful blingy golden vessel called a monstrance, for adoration and for prayer. Seeing the Body of Christ while you pray to Him is better than doing it remotely from some alternate location. This is called Adoration.
The effort it takes to go sit with Christ for an hour in person gives us an opportunity to demonstrate a personal love and care for Christ, in response to His plea during His Passion,
What, could ye not watch with me one hour? – Matthew 26:40,
when Christ found his disciples sleeping during the Agony in the Garden.
Sitting with Christ one hour is the least we can do in thanksgiving for what Christ did for us.
We have the opportunity to watch with Christ at His Passion. Christ is outside of time.
So Adoration is an opportunity to face Christ face-to-face.
To visit Him.
To adore Him.
To spend time quietly with God.
To make special requests from Him.
To thank Him.
To say anything you want to say to Him.
To simply sit silently in the Presence of God.
To treat God more personally and with more love than just abrupt telepathic thought bytes sent mentally from some harried location.
Adoration is the opportunity to visit Christ in person, the way you would visit anyone whom you love and whom you miss.
What Do We Get From Adoration?
Well, we should not get in the habit of viewing God only as what we can get from Him; as we hopefully don’t do to sweethearts, parents, and siblings.
But we do actually get lots of benefits from Adoration.
As a Diocese, Seminarians are one of the biggest benefits we get from Adoration. The Dioceses of Madison has gone from having about 4 seminarians, to having over 30 seminarians, during the time that Perpetual Adoration has been going on in Madison. It is well known among Catholics that wherever Perpetual Adoration is found, Catholicism flourishes and priestly vocations abound. Very true at Madison’s Cathedral Parish, which has no shortage of members, children, seminarians, or budget. The parish is thriving and is unbelievably blessed.
The benefits coming from Adoration are not just parish-wide or Diocese-wide. Personal requests and pleas to God can also be brought to Adoration, with the confidence that God will provide a solution.
The solution is not always magical, although it can be. At very least, God provides understanding, patience and peace of mind to all who bring their troubles to Adoration.
In six years, I have never been disappointed when bringing a problem to Adoration. I leave with peace of mind, and often in less than a day, a solution to my problem presents itself.
Needless to say, I’ve been bringing the Nov 6th election to God in recent weeks when I go to Adoration. I’m not the only one; I even know of some Madison Catholics who, instead of watching the Presidential debates on TV, sat in prayer at Adoration during the debates. Today, I brought Hurricane Sandy and it’s victims to prayer at Adoration.
So that brings us back to the first point: Reaching Out to God.
This week all Americans should join the prayer effort, putting more time, more thought and more sincerity into our prayers this week. Adoration is a great way to do this.
Anybody can go to Adoration. You don’t have to be Catholic. All are welcome, as long as they maintain a respectful and quiet demeanor. You can run in for a couple minutes, or you can stay for an hour. You can go to Madison’s Perpetual Adoration chapel, (info on the Cathedral Parish website), or you can go into any Catholic Church and kneel or sit in front of the closed tabernacle. The Tabernacle always contains the Eucharist, and the Presence of Christ is indicated by a small lamp near the Tabernacle. Anybody can go there to pray.
Remember to Use the Ultimate Weapon, Prayer, this Week.