From the hermitage
By sister alies therese
The battle is on. Swords are drawn. All seems so violent and harsh. Yet we are told prayer is a battle. We might even have a “war room” in our home. Life is not easy. We just must get on with it! Really?
“Consider how Jesus Christ teaches us to be humble, by making us see that our virtue does not depend on our work alone but from grace on high. Jesus commands each of the faithful who prays to do so universally, for the whole world. He did not say, ‘thy will be done in me or in us,’ but ‘on earth,’ the whole earth, so that error might be banished from it, truth take root in it, all vice be destroyed on it, virtue flourish on it, and earth no longer different from heaven.” St. John Chrysostom
“We have not been commanded to work, to keep watch and to fast constantly, but it has been laid down that we are to pray without ceasing.” (Desert Fathers)
Father Donal Dorr, an Irish missionary priest wrote many books and in his Spirituality and Justice, 1984, he wrote this:
“People who do not have a simple and spontaneous trust in God are likely to take themselves and their own efforts too seriously. Their dedication to human liberation is liable to be too earnest, too blinkered, perhaps too self-righteous. Hence the importance of childlike prayer. On the other hand, like many others who believe that God has called us to work for justice and human liberation, I am constantly dismayed that so many Christians use prayer as a substitute for action … prayer and action are not alternatives, rather they complement each other. It is very hard to find anybody who has a passionate commitment to both.”
We recently celebrated MLK Day, perhaps not in person as we would have liked, but at least in prayer. I think he might have been a person of this passion, praying and working for justice. He would have wept over the attempt to take over the Capitol and government and to hurt, if not kill, leaders. One wonders. A new President on Jan. 20 was like a bit of fresh air but we are certainly not done! The passionate call to justice requires unceasing prayer. Non-violence is difficult.
“Those who ‘pray without ceasing’ unite prayer to works and good works to prayer. Only in this way can we consider as realizable the principle of praying without ceasing.” Origen
In the CCC 1896 we find: “Where sin has perverted the social climate, it is necessary to call for conversion of hearts and appeal to the grace of God. Charity urges just reforms. There is no solution to the social question apart from the Gospel.” Further in 1889: “Without the help of grace, [wo]men would not know how to ‘discern the often narrow path between the cowardice which gives into evil, and the violence which under the illusion of fighting evil only makes things worse.’ Charity is the greatest social commandment. It respects others and their rights. It requires the practice of justice, and it alone makes us capable of it.”
Sin on many levels has perverted our social climate and we look to those who do justice to guide us. Just look around. How do we find the illusions? How do we detect our own complicity? How do we discover those things in our governments (meant to be of service for the people) that oppress or repress? One way we already considered, unceasing prayer. A second way is to consider at least the three main requirements of the ‘common good:’ 1) respect for the person, 2) social well-being and development of culture, 3) peace, stability and security of a just order.” (CCC 1907)
Finally, we listen to Pope St. John XXIII where he reminds us: “Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all.” (CCC 1897)
There is a lot of fear around. Many fear government take-overs, the pandemic, being alone, or even one’s own health – mental and physical. I can’t say that just saying, ‘go away fear,’ will do it, but I can suggest paying attention to your relationship with Jesus in prayer and the works for common good/justice will put us back on track. This is no hoax. This is no joke. This is the real deal. The call to holiness requires everything.
(Sister alies therese is a vowed Catholic solitary who lives an eremitical life. Her days are formed around prayer, art and writing. She is author of six books of spiritual fiction and is a weekly columnist. She lives and writes in Mississippi.)