Franciscan Prayer Life: A mosaic.
by Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Our Franciscan Prayer life is a mosaic of various prayer-oriented activities throughout the day. It may begin, in the morning, with the sign of the cross and some personal praise for God that He has led us safely through the night, and that He has another day for us, which we offer to Him through the Grace of His Son, and the Love of the Holy Spirit. Then at breakfast we would pray a meal prayer. A very simple meal pray could be: "Lord Jesus, we thank you for this food from your bounty, and we pray for all those who prepared it for us." You see, my friends, so often we forget that the cereal we might be eating is prepared by human beings, in the process of harvesting, packing, distributing, etc. And, the milk comes from God through cows (sometimes goats) and thus there are farmers involved who definitely need our prayers.
In "Fully Mature with the Fullness of Christ," one of SFO's formation texts, on page 10-6, you'll find a paragraph that reads: "An individual's prayer life expresses a person's intimate relationship with the Lord and is a barometer of one's own spiritual condition. Healthy personal prayer is a composite or rich mosaic of different modes of praying, whether quiet, spontaneous, or structured; whether of the lips, of the mind, or of the heart." As the chapter on the necessity of a healthy prayer life was reviewed during one of our Fraternity meetings, this particular paragraph spoke to me in a way it never had before.
When I was in religious life some years back, this "mosaic" of our personal relationship with God was brought out in their formation and training also. The life of a friar, and also of a monk, whether cloistered, contemplative or mendicant in nature is a mosaic of activities that lead him (or her, in the case of a nun) to communicate with God in many different ways. This personal relationship of prayer is also recommended for Secular Franciscans. The reason is simply that we are called to live the Gospel in our daily actions with, for and about people, and a Gospel life without prayer just isn't possible. That would be a life of all action and no prayer and that's not a healthy spiritual life.
But to emphasize the positive, a healthy prayer life is like a bunch of beautiful flowers as in the picture to the right. They didn't become so beautiful all at once. They begun as little buds hardly worth looking at, but brought to full maturity, they became the masterpiece God created them to be. And prayer life is a lot like that. We begin this intimate life with Jesus, with God, when we are born. As children we pray to God in a beautiful way. We are truly in love with our Creator as only a child can love without a hidden agenda as it were. Our life of prayer then, as we mature in this spiritual life of the soul, becomes richer the more we pray. Note that I did not say "the older we get," because age has nothing at all to do with this subject. Nor has power and wealthy, in fact, it is usually a hindrance.
We pray all day long in one way or another. Most of our prayer is mental, softly spoken in our mind and heart to a God we adore more than the most ardent lover does his or her spouse. People who recognize that this have such a strong relationship with Our Lord Jesus do not brag about it. They do not make a big deal of it because they know what they've got and it is the most beautiful thing on earth. It is a little taste of heaven on earth. Prayer is one of God's many gifts to us. I was about to write '...but it isn't for everyone...' - if I had written that, I would have been wrong. It IS for everyone, but unfortunately there are so many who reject God and any idea of his love without even thinking what a great gift he has given us.
When we feel happy, we praise God through our actions and in our prayers. When life if difficult as it often is these days, we seek God's healing and comfort. Then there are the quiet moments where we truly worship God. In periods of pain we trust in God. And every moment in our lives we thank God for allowing to to serve Him through the Body of Christ (that's all of us), the Church.
When we are stressed at work or behind the computer, or when ironing or doing the dishes, when kids are screaming and catastrophes are about to befall us, how often do we thank the fellow employee or the husband or wife, or friend for keeping us going by offering an unsolicited hug... this sort of emphathy comes straight from Jesus. He puts people in our path who can help.
Prayer works! Prayer heals! What we ask of God comes true if we are loyal to Him. And, if we know that without Him we cannot act. We are nothing. Total detachment to earthly things leads us closer to God in a way that brings much joy. It is not important that we dwell on earthly things, as long as we know that we are strong and we can help others, too.
Dear Lord Jesus, you are indeed, my God and my All. We praise you, Alleluia. Amen.
Fred Schaeffer, OFS (2004)
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Officers as of 1/10/2016
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS