Sunday, March 7, 2010

Never alone in prayer

This week I turn 85, and people still ask me, as they have for several years, why I moved from semi-retirement in Central Florida to northern Illinois. Actually, I may be smarter than I seem. The move placed me in a condo just one mile from seven persons I love a lot, my daughter, son-in-law and five of my six grandchildren. There was another plus I knew nothing about ahead of time.

That was a welcoming parish church, St. Francis of Assisi, and its founding father, Fr. Edward Upton. St. Francis of Assisi in Orland Park, IL, is celebrating 20 years of service and growth. My wife died about a year after we moved here, and anonymous parishioners became caring as brothers and sisters. I had been diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, and before long I had to stop going to church.

Never mind. Until this week Deacon Joseph Truesdale came to my home every Sunday with the Eucharist and morning prayer. At other times during the liturgical year the pastor came.

This curious disease I live with is progressive, which means it keeps finding new ways to be a pain in the neck or elsewhere. It has no cure. It began to interfere with my swallowing apparatus, causing a lot of anxiety and stress. It makes feet stumble and eyes blur. This form of Parkinsonism includes brain atrophy, although I have never been a member of Congress. I began having to cancel the deacon’s visit Sunday after Sunday. Now I’ve asked him to remember me in prayers, but to visit someone else.

Those of us who can’t get to a church miss the give and take of people assembled in community, but that doesn’t mean we’re left out. Spiritual communion is a union with Jesus in the Eucharist through desire for it.

In Corpus Christi: An Encyclopedia of the Eucharist, Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., writes that the practice of spiritual communion “was encouraged by great authorities in the spiritual life, such as St. Teresa of Avila and St. Francis de Sales. Theologically the basis was sound: spiritual communion is the expression of desire, desire directed towards the Eurcharist, preferably explicit. The source of this desire is faith in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. This desire supplies for the act.”

Many read all or part of The Liturgy of the Hours, sharing with millions of priests, religious and laity who are reading the same scripture passages and prayers.

Today the Mass is offered via television and Internet screens, and for Christians who must stay at home there are many ways to pray with others. The Liturgy of the Hours is powerful choice, in full or abbreviated forms. Sunday readings are easily available via the Internet. Those readings may draw a person into Bible browsing, illustrated in the picture, upper left, which miraculously survived 68 years in storage. Since it was taken I've discarded thick pencils in favor of thin computers, as shown upper right.

In this 21st century some Christians even poke around in sacred writings of others.

The point is: Nobody has to be alone in prayer.

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