Posted May 28, 2013 in MH Combermere ON:
My Way of Praying

by Sandra Wood, a former director of St. Joseph’s House.

Here’s a glimpse into the life of a staff worker of St. Joseph’s House in 2003. Usually only God sees this sort of thing.

I’d like to begin this article by sharing my morning walk with you. That’s what I do every morning when I can. Our parish church is just down the road, and I walk there to Mass, but instead of taking the road I walk through the woods.

I take my rosary with me, and it’s wonderful. If you live in the country as I do, you can get out and walk and pray. And the beauty of God’s surroundings always, always, takes me by surprise.

As soon as I get into the woods, I see the light coming through the trees and the dew sparkling like jewels. And the birds are singing all around me, and I listen to them.

I find it hard to sit and pray, but when I walk it’s easier. And as I walk and pray, of course, I have intentions.

I pray for our house and for the staff, and people I deal with every day or know about come to mind, such as Mrs. So-and-So whose husband left her. And then I think about this family or that family or one of the staff and eventually what’s in my own heart comes to light.

Why was I harsh with this person? Why did I do that to that person?

And as I walk, I often end up saying the Psalms because here at Madonna House we sing them every day, and so I know them by heart, at least certain ones and certain parts of them.

O God, you are my God, for you I long. For you my soul is thirsting. My heart pines for you like a dry, weary land without water (Ps 63:1). Have mercy on me God, have mercy. (A number of psalms contain this line.)

And so these walks are a prayer time. But then, of course, every morning I have to come down off that "mountain."

I have to enter into "the marketplace," that is, the everyday life of St Joseph’s House, where we serve people—people coming for clothing, for goods, for money, for food, for friendship, and for a listening ear.

That’s when I especially have to struggle to live the line of our MH Little Mandate*—"Go into the marketplace and stay with me. Pray, fast, pray always, fast."

I get caught up in the rush and my prayer is "on the run." Every now and then I think, I can’t do this; God help me. Or often when I’m in the throes of something, I glance up at the picture of Our Lady in our kitchen, and say, Mother of God, help me!

But sometimes I go through the whole day and don’t even think about praying. I just don’t think about beseeching the Lord at all.

One of the hardest things for me happens when our shops are open and people park their cars all over the place. Inevitably, somebody parks in the driveway.

That’s where my fasting comes in—fasting from harsh words. I try not to rush around to all the buildings yelling, "Whose car is that parked in the driveway!!" I try to say it softly and gently. I don’t always. When I think about it, I do, but when I don’t think about it, I just react.

That kind of fasting also comes in when I’m with the staff, because in our mission house we live so closely together. Sometimes that means I have to take myself "by the scruff of the neck," so to speak, and say to myself, Be kind; be gentle.

This kind of fasting comes up too with the people who come to our house. Sometimes they are demanding, and then I have to fast again from being critical and judgmental.

Yes, one of my struggles is to fast from the harshness that’s within me.

I also need to fast from some of my automatic responses even in the most normal flow of the day.

I know I’m serving Christ in the person who comes to the door, but sometimes when someone comes when I’m in the middle of doing something, the laundry for instance, I have resistance inside. The person needs to talk, but all I want to do is to get the laundry done.

I know that we don’t "run our own show," that God does, but it’s very hard for me to get that through my head.

Sometimes at the end of the day, when I sit before the Lord, I realize that I was trying "to run the show." I was trying to accomplish this and that, but at the same time I was struggling against God’s will for me in some small thing. Even though I know that God’s will for me is in the little events of every day, still I struggle.

For though I enjoy "going up to the mountaintop and praying," I’m also called to live out another kind of prayer, the prayer "in the marketplace" —O God, help me—no matter how that prayer comes out.

I kind of like to have it all together, and I like to have things very neat and packaged, but life just isn’t like that.

So often at the end of the day I think, Why didn’t I pray for that? Why didn’t I ask Our Lady for help? There are times when I do pray and I do ask, and it works out, and I think, why can’t I learn from that?

But hopefully God will give me a long life in order to finally be at peace with what is, and with who I am—a sinner and deeply beloved by God. I do want to pray and fast, but I have to do it in God’s way, not mine.

So at the end of the day, I end up by just sitting there and thanking God for the day. And then I prepare for the next one.

From Restoration, October 2003. Sandra was assigned to St. Joseph’s from 1982 to 2004. She became director in 1983.


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