Comfort My People — Deepening our prayer during Lent

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre

One of the marks of the holy season of Lent is a call to strengthen our prayer relationship with the Lord. There are so many understandings of what prayer is, and there are wonderful books that fill libraries that speak about how to begin to pray, how to continue to pray and the fruit that comes from prayer. 

If you ask different people what prayer is, you will probably receive as many different responses as the number of people you ask this question. For the sake of a simple definition, let us simply posit that prayer is the communion that we enter into with God. Since Lent calls us to be intentional in our focus on prayer during this time, I thought I might share with you some of my own thoughts about prayer.

For me, probably my first understanding and image of prayer was praying the rosary with my mother, who was very strong in this devotion. Through her nightly rosary, my mother lifted to the Lord the cares and concerns of her heart and family, and one of the enduring images I have of my mom is while she prayed her rosary. I learned from my mother a great devotion to the rosary, a devotion that I still engage in each day as I encounter the Lord in prayer.

I was blessed to study with the Benedictine monks at St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, Louisiana. This is a Benedictine abbey in Louisiana founded by the monks from St. Meinrad over a hundred years ago. Like St. Meinrad, they also sponsor a seminary. 

The life of prayer engaged in by the monks deeply resonated with me. I know that my time studying and witnessing the life of the monks at St. Joseph deepened my prayer life. Adding to my mother’s faith example of prayer, the monks by their own prayer and example taught me to go deeper in prayer. I will be forever grateful to them for the example they provided to me and for the prayers that they have offered, and I hope continue to offer, for me.

As I entered theological study at the American College and more deeply into formation and preparation for ordination as a priest, I continued to be formed in faith in many ways. I learned how prayer and study can be integrated together, and that our study of our faith can enrich our prayer, and vice versa as well. I learned that at the heart of my life as a priest, I must seek to always be strengthening my prayer relationship with the Lord, for it would sustain me in the joys and challenges that I would face.

As a priest and as a bishop, my prayer life has continued to evolve. There have been and continue to be times when I struggle in prayer. However, though I am not as good as I would like to be in the realm of prayer, I am a lot better than I used to be. Perhaps this is all that God asks of us in prayer: to be better today than we were yesterday and to be better tomorrow than we are today.  

My prayer life is always evolving, and perhaps that is a good thing because that means that it is living. For that I am grateful, and I appreciate the relationship that I have with Jesus Christ that brings us together in my prayer and in the actions that flow from my prayer.

Finally, one of the important things I believe about prayer is that it is a good thing to pray for others more than I pray for myself. Therefore, every time I enter my private prayer in a special way I lift to the mind and heart of God the needs of others. It is for this reason that I consider the prayer intentions that are sent to me in response to the Catholic Services Appeal to be so very special. I do pray for the need of each card received. Then the cards take up residence in my private chapel, and I continue to place the needs expressed on these cards before the love and mercy of God. It is a grace and an honor to pray for the needs sent to me in this way. 

Thank you for allowing me to pray for your needs. As I often indicate, I would appreciate a remembrance in your prayers as well.

We will enter the most holy days of the year during Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum. May we prayerfully journey with the Lord as we recall and celebrate his passion, death and resurrection and all that he has gained for us. 

As we more intentionally approach the Lord during this holy time of the year, let us prayerfully lift one another to the love and mercy of God! May we truly be able to declare with the psalmist, “But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.” Psalm 66:19

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