August 13, 2013 by lucieromarin
Seraphic shared the story of a reader told two astounding things at a Theology on Tap meeting. The first was this (and bear in mind that the speaker was a priest!):
He proceeded to tell a whole bar full of mostly single Catholics that the very best fun in the world, the only thing that’s really 100% fun, is either having married sex, or concelebrating the Eucharist if you’re a priest.
The second was this:
He then went on to say that if you weren’t happy being single, then clearly you haven’t prayed enough about your vocation.
Seraphic’s post deals mainly with the first point; it’s worth reading in full. (I love the St Thomas image!). I fumed over her reader’s experience, too, but I found myself fuming over the second point. I remembered a conversation after Mass that went something like this:
Married Woman: Would you like to have been married?
I: Of course. Sigh. But nobody ever wants me.
Married Woman: Have you tried prayer?
What did she think I was doing during that two hours of sacred liturgy??? Likewise, did this priest really think that the only thing wrong in the lives of his devout audience members was a lack of prayer? Or was he suggesting that all the social ills that stood in the way of their vocation-fulfillment were also due to their not praying all those ills away? Was anything the fault of the young men present?
First, just think about how ignorant a Catholic would have to be to not know that she could talk to God about her stuff. Then think about what it implies when you ask her if she’s prayed about it.
Second, unless you have hard evidence that the woman (or man) in question is actually neglecting prayer in some serious way, do not assume that all her problems come from not praying enough. See, the thing is, I don’t believe that all the men and women getting married are doing so because God is rewarding their great mystical unions with Him up in the seventh mansion of the unitive way. If some people marry after a small amount of prayer, this means nothing more than that they happened to be asking for something that God already wanted to give them at that time. It does not mean that their prayers were better than the prayers of those to whom God said, “Not yet.” St Gemma asked to be admitted to the Passionist order until her dying day; God, to her dying day, said, “No.” Weirdly enough, I don’t think that this proves that her prayers were inferior to the prayers of people who got married after praying a novena.
Third, prayer is not a tactic. Prayer is not a way of bludgeoning God into giving you what you want. Prayer is not about conforming God to your will but conforming you to His. The four ends of prayer are adoration, thanksgiving, reparation and petition, and petition comes last. I know we get to pray for our daily bread, and obviously we have to talk to God truthfully about what’s in our hearts, but that’s because:
a) asking for the bread acknowledges Him as the source of the bread, and the acknowledgment is more the point of the petition than the bread is. In other words, someone who petitions God for fifty years and always reconciles her heart to His repeated “No” has a better prayer life than someone who says the Rosary from time to time, gets married, and then manages little more than Sunday Mass for the rest of her life, and
b) there’s no point hiding what’s in our hearts. But guess what? There’s a whole bunch of other things to talk to Him about as well, and I have to admit that occasionally I get so absorbed in the thought of the Blessed Trinity that I forget to talk about boyfriends. Mea culpa.
I remember, as I approached my thirtieth birthday, a man saying to me, “You have to storm heaven with your prayers,” i.e. to be saved from still being single at thirty. (I was depressed enough about my birthday as it was; you can imagine how much better that didn’t make me feel!) Later, I concluded that it was actually rather an insulting suggestion, because a) to me, vocation is part of our daily bread, and we’re supposed to request this routinely and calmly, not as though we’re about to be thrown off a ship into a raging sea from which only our desperate cries can save us, and b) desperate cries are for hell-bound souls, medically impossible healing, deliverance from evil spirits, persons mourning the death of babies, and persons recovering from agonising trauma. I would like to think that me being married does not fit into the category of things that require a miracle…though I do remember a woman showing me a holy card that her grandmother gave her, “So you can get married,” she said. It was St Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes.
Fourth, sometimes, the problems in the world are not meant to be solved by girls praying, but by a) guys (and other girls) being decent and b) priests not preaching weird stuff. I’m just saying.
Meanwhile, who knew that concelebration was as fun as the marriage act? Gosh. The things we miss out on in the Extraordinary Form!
**Update** Just found this, courtesy of the Babes. Exactly!