Yesterday morning as I was leaving home for a road trip from Ohio to Kansas City, and then on to Rapid City, South Dakota, I was, like always, looking forward to the drive, to spending some valuable one on one time with my wife, and to seeing family at each destination. But, there was a small part of me wishing I was somewhere else.
At the same time I finished putting the kitchen sink in the car and driving down our driveway, several friends were at our church greeting the ten men who, for the next 30 hours, would be opening themselves up to be transformed by the Holy Spirit at a Christ Renews His Parish retreat weekend. My friends would be leading and facilitating the weekend, a labor of love for which they had been preparing for the last six months, a divine and fraternal bonding I have experienced three times myself.
Even though I wasn’t part of the Giving Team this time around I still wanted to participate in some way. Since I was going to be out of town, I opted to take an hour over the weekend to pray for the men on both the Receiving and Giving teams. My hour of the 30 hour prayer chain was at 3:00 p.m., an hour that found me between Vandalia, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri.
As I drove across Indiana I wondered how I could best pray for the men on the weekend and still drive. As I fingered the cross around my neck, the same cross I received four and a half years ago when I went on my first Christ Renews weekend, I decided the easiest thing to do would be to pray a rosary as part of my prayer hour. My wife, Melinda, agreed to join me.
When three o’clock arrived we took out our rosaries and I inserted my special rosary CD as recited by Fr. Rob. It was Saturday so we would be praying the Joyful Mysteries.
With the first mystery, The Annunciation of the Angel to Mary, I gave thanks that Mary said “Yes” to God. Then, I thought, “Lord, please let the men on this weekend say ‘Yes’ to the Holy Spirit, let them accept God’s plan. Let them find their humility in the safety of this retreat such that they can hear His voice and be obedient to His will for them. Amen.”
At the pause before the next mystery, I stopped long enough to realize that I had not just prayed the rosary in rote memorization; I had actually let the spirit of the mystery work itself into my prayer for the men. I thought, “Let’s see what happens with the next one.”
As I prayed the second mystery, The Visitation of Mary to Saint Elizabeth, I thought about how, out of love, Mary carried God to her cousin. This was exactly what the men on the Giving Team were doing so I prayed, “Lord, please fill the men on the Giving Team with the Holy Spirit so that they, too, may carry Your Love to the men whom they are serving this weekend. Lord, please let the Receivers accept their gift of charity with gratitude. Amen.”
I liked the way this was going. I gave a brief prayer of thanksgiving for allowing me to think and express what was in my heart.
The third Joyful Mystery is The Nativity of Jesus in Bethlehem. As I recalled how Joseph, Mary and the shepherds adored Jesus, I prayed that the men on the weekend would see Christ in each other and, in so doing, increase their love for Him and one another.
With the fourth Joyful Mystery, The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, I thought about how it was revealed to Simeon through the Holy Spirit, that Jesus was the Messiah. I prayed, “Lord, let the men on this weekend also have it revealed to them through the Holy Spirit that Jesus is truly the Messiah. Amen.”
As I recited the fifth Joyful Mystery, The Finding of Jesus in the Temple”, I thought about the anxiety that Mary and Joseph must have felt losing their son and the joy they must have felt when they found Him again in the temple. I prayed, “Lord, let the men on this weekend, who may have been away from Jesus, also experience the joy of finding Him again. Let them find comfort and safety in His presence. Amen.”
I finished out my hour of prayer by simply recalling my experience when I was in their shoes; how the witnesses given by the men of the Giving Team broke down the walls I had constructed to keep Jesus out of my life, and how, through the Holy Spirit, I was transformed. I prayed that through that same transformation process, the ten men there this weekend would be renewed in their faith.
“Mother Mary, please take these prayers and, through your intercession with Jesus, ask Him to open the minds of these men to His word, and to renew their hearts, through the Holy Spirit, by kindling in them the fire of His love. Amen.”
(A Joyful Hour was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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