St. Catherine of Siena, in her book, The Dialogue, tells us,” For just as you can better see the blemish on your face when you look at yourself in a mirror, so the soul who in true self-knowledge rises up with desire to look at herself in the gentle mirror of God with the eye of understanding sees all the more clearly her own defects because of the purity she sees in Him.”
When I began to say the rosary, the gentle glow reflected from the mirror of my Savior’s glory began to open my understanding of who I am in Him. This “self-knowing,” often mentioned by St. Catherine, becomes clearer when we see ourselves from Christ’s point of view.
My Protestant faith tradition is as plainspoken as a mid-west farmer, and my prayers are spontaneous, simple and modeled after the tradition I found in the Holy Scripture.
I praise God for His goodness, greatness, and glory. I repent of my sins, petition Him for my needs and for those of others, and I gratefully acknowledge His loving kindnesses. And I trust Him to answer my prayers. I know I am welcomed into the Father’s presence by the grace given me through the sacrificial blood of His beloved son, Jesus.
And because of my confidence in the Father’s love, and in His desire to answer, I never thought to question my method of prayer . . .
Until I set about to say, “Hail Mary, full of grace. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
Long before I became a Christian, I dabbled in philosophies and meditation techniques of Hinduism and Buddhism, calling their gods and founders “Lord.” To my shame, I equated the Lord of Glory with them. Perhaps it is the memory of that sin that causes me to shy away from the rosary’s Marian petition. Or, perhaps my Protestant upbringing and formation makes me uncomfortable to address my prayers to someone other than the Trinity.
Whatever the reason, as I pondered the Hail Mary prayer, I realized anew that my prayer-life is as much worship as it is simple communication. Until then I had never thought much about how I prayed. But now, our Lord’s instruction to His disciples to guard their attitudes while they prayed (Matthew 6) became His instruction to me.
What was my attitude in prayer? For me, prayer is a piercing of eternity through the help of the Holy Spirit. It is a response to the Lord’s invitation to enter into His presence. It is the opportunity to have the same mind as Jesus toward the Father.
Yet Rich assured me that a prayer to any of the Saints in heaven is not like prayer we make to God. Rather, it is like asking a brother or sister in Christ here on earth to pray for us. Prayer to Saints is more a petition – a request. It is not worship. He told me the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church states very clearly, that worship is restricted to the Trinity alone.
Looking for more information, I picked up a book from Rich’s stack of Catholic books. I learned the rosary is a set of prayers (petitions) to the Blessed Virgin, the mother of Christ. I also learned that the rosary was developed to encourage lay people in their Christian faith. Prior to the rosary’s “invention,” Christians recited a series of prayers, such as the 150 psalms or repetitions of the Lord’s Prayer (Paternosters) as a daily devotion.
I also listened to Catholic believers talk about the rosary, and I developed an understanding that prayers directed to the Blessed Mother are really said in reverence for her Son. In petitioning Mary for help, Roman Catholics believe she is eager to respond, and because of her special relationship with Messiah, she has a unique and singular access to Christ.
This Catholic concept is a mystery to me.
However, as I grew in my understanding of Catholic faith-tradition, I thought if the Father welcomes someone who prays to Him through the Blessed Mother, who am I to object? Likewise, if I feel I should refrain from any such communication and He welcomes my petitions to the Trinity alone, who am I to question?
Nevertheless, the more I thought about these mysteries the more I realized I was already participating in them. For many years, as the occasion would arise, I had cried to the Lord that He might choose someone to pray with me. I asked for His help because of the many times I had heard others tell how the Holy Spirit prompted someone to pray for a particular missionary in need. In fact, many times I also had felt prompted to pray for someone who later confirmed he or she had been ill or in trouble. So as I pondered what Rich told me about Catholic thought on the Communion of Saints, and what I had experienced about prayer, it seemed reasonable that the Saints in heaven who cheer us on (Hebrews 12) might indeed be praying for us and with us.
For conscience sake, I still could not address this glittering congregation, but I realized I could ask the Lord to have one of them pray for me. And because I was helping Rich in the sixth grade Sunday school class where we were studying patron saints, (a special saint who is chosen by a Catholic Christian as a special prayer partner), I decided to choose one for myself, too.
When I committed myself to pray the rosary that summer of 2006, I did not have a clue what a mirror it would be to my soul . . .
Or how doing so would change my attitude about Catholic prayer.
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