My morning ritual is always the same during these days of the Catholic Services Appeal. Taking a few dozen hand-written prayer cards in my chapel, I pray them one at a time – lingering on the intention and praying for the writer and her loved ones.
It all started three years ago with the idea of including a simple card in my annual letter in which I ask all the faithful of the Archdiocese to be generous once again in support of all the ministries of the Archdiocese. My letter reminds all that the archdiocese is really 110 parishes- stretching from the Ohio River to the Tennessee border – helping one another. Each year the generosity has grown, and we seek to be good stewards – helping others through Catholic Charities, priest and deacon formation, assistance for liturgical and catechetical ministers at each parish and many other ministries.
Three years ago I added this new wrinkle. Intent on celebrating the joy of each parishioner participating, a simple card was included that read: “Please list your prayer intentions and other petitions to be placed in Archbishop Kurtz’s Chapel.Whether your needs are spiritual or temporal, feel free to list them here.” Last year over 3,500 faithful responded with a completed card – and each morning my heart has been moved.
At a pace of 40 a day for about three months, I pray for those who have died, for those addicted, for those who have left the Church. I pray for those preparing for serious surgery and those recovering. I pray for those who write to God in English and a few in Spanish. Occasionally there are prayers of praise and joy for favors given or just because of how good God is! Mostly I pray for those who yearn for God’s presence to be with them – for a conversion, a recovery from drugs, an occasional call for a spark to make the writer love her spouse or children more. I pray a lot for world peace and the end to violence in our world, our city and our homes. I pray for those fearful because they are immigrants and for those who just can’t make ends meet.
Yearnings come in many forms. In the beginning of his famous “Confessions,” St. Augustine prayed for his restless spirit. This spiritual and literary classic is really a letter written to God from the heart of a sinner seeking to become a saint through God’s grace. “Ever restless will my heart be,” said Augustine, “until it rests in Thee.”
Advent is brief this year. With Christmas on Monday, the 4th week is just a day. However, it is just enough time for me to accompany our Blessed Mother Mary whose heart is the epitome of one who yearns. Her heart was filled with many emotions and petitions. The first two chapters of the Gospel according to Saint Luke will be a good companion. Mary is fearful at the message of the angel and yet trusts the Angel Gabriel. She carries Jesus in her womb and still walks to share joy with her cousin Elizabeth. She treasures the mysteries of Jesus’ birth in her heart and then hears the words of Simeon that a sword would pierce her heart, predicting her suffering. It is with Mary, our Mother, that I will sit each morning to join the prayers from the hearts of the faithful – those heartfelt writing of restless, suffering and joy.
This Advent she will know how to accompany me in prayer. She also can accompany you and lead you to a deeply prayerful and reflective Advent season. Take up the first two chapters of the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke and slowly reflect.