October is the month of the Rosary. We have a wide variety of saints’ days in October as well. (1) Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and these holy saints invite us to join them in offering praise and thanksgiving to God in prayer. Indeed, tomorrow is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Unfortunately, for many of us, making time for prayer seems to be increasingly difficult with all of life’s demands on us, even in a time of increased isolation and quarantine. However, in various ways, many of the saints found that “making time” for prayer was the wrong approach. At its roots, prayer is spending time speaking with God, Him with us, we with Him. Really, it’s as simple as that.
If we think of prayer in terms of what benefits we will gain; what insights we might have; what spiritual experience we may gain, God cannot easily speak to us – the time spent is all one-sided. One of the most popular spiritual advisors of the 20th century, Fr. Henri Nouwen, would often say that prayer required descending from our minds into our hearts and, in the present moment, there to stand before the face of God, ever-present, within us. (2) If we begin each day consciously aware of God’s presence, all around us, that descent into the heart will take place naturally and each moment of our day is then an opportunity of prayer.
The 17th century mystic, Brother Lawrence, taught that it is a delusion to separate time for prayer from time for work – they are one and the same. (3) By keeping the awareness of God’s presence always active in us, we are “in prayer.” That period of praying can last a brief “Jesus, I trust in You,” or a full Holy Rosary. It’s all in what we “allow” ourselves. Our “making time” for prayer will happen naturally rather than being a chore.
An especially powerful prayer-form is the Rosary. If you haven’t already, why no make this October the occasion when you made the Rosary a regular part of your daily time in prayer. For centuries, people have used the Rosary as a way of regularly and deliberately setting aside the demands of the world and entering into and reflecting on, in the quiet of their hearts, the great “mysteries” of our salvation. Although the Rosary is addressed to Mary, it is at heart a Christ-centered prayer. The Rosary’s focus is actually on Jesus: His birth, life, death and resurrection.
In the Rosary, in fact, we invite Mary to join us in prayer as we meditate on the mysteries of joy, sorrow and the glory of Jesus. In the words of Pope St, John Paul II, “In the Rosary, Mary joins Her prayer to ours. Therefore, it becomes ever more powerful, because what Mary asks, she always receives, Jesus can never say no to whatever His Mother asks for.” (4)
The Rosary is most powerful when we pray for others. And, there are so many today in need of prayer: those who have lost loved ones to Covid-19; those who are out of work or whose business is struggling to stay afloat; those with underlying medical conditions who are fearful of getting Covid-19. Most of all in need of prayer are the unborn and their expectant mothers.
October is also Respect Life Month and one of the special saints we remember in October is St. Gerard Majella (Oct 16th). He is the patron saint of expectant mothers and the unborn. He is credited with many miracles on behave of mothers troubled with their pregnancy. (5)
And, in that regard, we also need to pray for our fellow people of faith who are struggling with making the right choices this November 3rd. They so much want to do what is right, but many have been confused by arguments that place concern for disregarding human life through unjust social and economic structures, racism, inadequate access to health care, abuse or neglect as being just as important as stopping the killing of innocent babies in the womb. Many of those impacted by injustice are indeed gravely harmed; but, for the aborted, their entire life is snuffed out. Pray that all will come to see that taking innocent human life and mistreating human life cannot be equivalent moral evils.
It is our inward journey in prayer, ever mindful of the presence of God, that brings us into encounter with Jesus dwelling within us. That journey requires an increased attentiveness to God’s presence and the movements of our heart more than an increased effort in “making time.” And our praying for others will naturally lead to a journey outward, outward to those in our family, those around us, and those in far distant places and life circumstances. Enjoy the journey of prayer.
October is here, the invitation is at hand; it is the time your prayer life has been waiting for.
‘Till next time,
Dcn Bob Evans
October 6, 2020
1. St. Therese of the Little Flower (1st); St. Francis of Assisi (4th); St Faustina (5th); Our Lady of the Rosary (7th); St Teresa of Avila (15th); St Gerard Majella (16th); St Luke (18th); St Paul of the Cross (19th); St. Pope John Paul II (22nd); and St Jude (28th)
2. Fr. Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Formation, 2010.
3. Nicolas Herman (Brother Lawrence), The Practice of the Presence of God, trans. Donald Attwater, 1974.
4. Pope John Paul II, The Rosary of the Virgin Mary, October 2002.
5. Edward Saint-Omer, St. Gerard Majella: The Wonder-Worker and Patron of Expectant Mothers, 1999.