by Martha Shepherd.
Over the years our garden here has been modified until now, except for the vegetables, it consists almost entirely of perennials. Our life here also is full of perennials. One of them is praying for people’s intentions.
Nearly every day, someone calls to ask us to pray for someone or something. The scratch paper by the phone is full of scrawls like: African priests, starvation, cross-dressing, pray, how to talk, pray.
The rest of the list for last week included a number of people facing surgery, two people who need jobs, one troubled marriage, three people who’d lost a parent, a young woman in terrible pain from migraine headaches, a family looking for a place to live, a few fights needing reconciliation, and (my favorite) a woman seeking divine assistance in shopping for a dress for a wedding. It was an average week.
We take praying for these intentions seriously, and yet, we are not spending hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament. We can’t possibly.
So over the years we have evolved a way of prayer which I would call "Intercession Made Easy" or, in line with the series of books for beginners of various things, a series put out by Wiley Publishers: Intercession for Dummies.
This began when we started praying the whole rosary each day. We assigned each mystery its own constituency. The First Joyful Mystery is for the Church and priests, highlighting any special need that day, the second is for families, and so it goes.
As time has gone by, I appreciate this way of prayer more and more, simply because I become more and more aware of the truth of what St Paul wrote: we do not know how to pray as we ought (cf. Rom 8:26).
No, we don’t. But Mary does. And so, we let the Holy Spirit pray in us, and we hand over to him and to Mary all the prayers and intentions that have been recommended to us.
I think of it a bit like the story of the Good Samaritan. We bring people to the inn of Our Lady’s heart and leave them there with the Holy Spirit to take care of them. Then we go on about our business, knowing they are in the best hands.
Recently I read in the missalette, Magnificat, a wonderful quote from Benedict XVI that really completes the process.
He was talking about the Good Samaritan and said of him, "His heart is ‘wrenched open.’ " That word that in Hebrew originally referred to the mother’s womb and maternal care. Seeing this man in such a state strikes the Good Samaritan ‘viscerally’…
"‘He had compassion’—that is how we translate the text today, diminishing its original vitality."
I love that. To have compassion is to have your heart "wrenched open". That is our only real contribution, that wrenched open heart, but it is good to be reminded that that contribution is vital.
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