This morning I woke up before the sun to get to my Adoration hour. My goal is to spend more time in silence with the Lord, but for a moment or two while I was getting ready, I thought . . . or am I going to be spending time snoring with the Lord . . .
Good news, though. I didn’t fall asleep. Eventually I found a rhythm and was led to some really beautiful reflections that I’ll share later. But today I want to talk about getting caught up with what prayer looks like.
Today’s hour started off rough. I wanted to kneel but I was tired. The chair was uncomfortable. At one point, I just stood and walked in semi circles around the Monstrance. Despite knowing that God looks at our hearts, I still get really swept up in the decorum of prayer. I feel the need to kneel for a certain amount of time, at a certain angle, head bowed in a way that’s reverent but doesn’t make people think I’m sleeping. Remembering all of these nuances of how to make prayer look good from the outside impacts how well I am able to focus on the inside.
In college, we had a chapel that held the tabernacle and students poured in and out of it all hours of the day and night. It was the most relaxed prayer I’ve ever had. People were in their sweats; they were singing to the Lord or napping with the Lord; they were journaling or praying as a group; or sitting in the silence; people sometimes did homework with the Lord; and once or twice, I know people stood and shouted in pain at the Lord. It was a blessing to have a place to pray so authentically.
I often remember one certain time. I was in the kitchen of the Newman Center making a jelly sandwich (hold the peanut butter, please.) and through the breezeway, I saw a friend making her way towards the chapel in haste. Sandwich in hand, I followed her, thinking she might need a confidant. I sat cross legged with her head in my lap and she prayed and cried a little. I didn’t ask what was wrong–I just sat and ate my sandwich. And, I’m not totally proud to admit, I dropped crumbs on her head.
She saw them fall to the floor in front of her face and she looked up at me and laughed through her tears. She said:
You sure have that whole “childlike” part of faith figured out.
A few weeks ago, a group of friends and I were together for a Baptism. At the Mass, I sat with my friends 3-year-old daughter Cecelia, and when the Alleluia came, you better believe she sang as loud as she possibly could. She knew the words, and she wanted to make sure that Jesus knew she knew them. Her first note was so loud that the elderly woman in front of us jumped. It was awesome.
Cecelia’s only “audience” for her prayer that day was Jesus. I’m afraid that a lot of times, Jesus is my secondary audience. Outside of church, we spend most of our time on trial for our appearance and behavior. Are we dressed too formal or not formal enough? We we obviously trying too hard? Laughing too loud? Leaving work too early because we don’t care or too late because we care too much?
It’s hard to check our baggage at the door. I’m so aware of the eyes of other people on me and I forget why I’m really there. That’s why I love this hour at 6 am so much. I’m usually the only one in the chapel so I can be more vulnerable in prayer. I’m a fidgety person (case in point, in the time I’ve been writing I have been sitting on my left foot, then my right, then both feet on the ground, draped my leg over one side of the chair, stood up and now I’m standing with one leg propped up on a chair) so it’s nice for me to meet Jesus just as I am–which is usually curled up in a tight ball at his feet.
This is a two way street, though. It’s a call to awareness for me to realize how I am criticizing the people around me at church. Maybe you fall into the habit of striving for the picture perfect liturgy, too. But here’s the truth: The Church is a family. And families have crying babies and bad singers and coughing people and jeans wearers. The only thing that makes the Mass perfect is the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Everything else we can just let go of.
Next time you go to church, try to let go, love your family for who they are, and channel the childlike faith that allows us to sing loud and proud to the God who loves us just as we are.