Saturday, September 3, 2016

Learning About Prayer Visiting My Parents

I thought I knew how to pray, or at least how I was supposed to pray even if I was lax at times. I say my morning and evening prayers regularly, I’m at the hospital as a chaplain so I say prayers for the patients many times a day, I’ve always loved reading and studying the bible, I count a thought of a person during the day as a prayer, and I occasionally get into reading inspirational quotes to help put good thoughts in my mind. I have to say that my prayers have varied greatly over the years, from being a large part of my daily routine to periods of dryness where I find it hard to pray and sometimes I just get lazy or let other “more important” things get in the way.

This past weekend I visited my parents in Minnesota. My mother is Protestant and my dad is Catholic. In October they will be married seventy years. They brought us up as Catholic and my mother taught us all our religion. She knew the Catechism better than we did. She believed in going to church as a family but also wanted to continue in her own faith so one Sunday she would go with us as a family to the Catholic Church and the next she would go her church with her extended family. I remember her sitting with us and saying the rosary with us as we listened to it on our battery operated radio. We always said our prayers before meals and at night she would sit with us to say our night prayers before we went to bed. It was obvious we had a prayerful, religious upbringing.

But this weekend taught me more about how to pray through the example of their prayer. Two weeks ago my mother found out that she has terminal cancer and has been put on hospice. Then the night before I came home I got a call that my dad had fallen and fractured his pelvis and had to be moved to the hospital. Despite those two pieces of heartbreaking news their prayer life remained strong and visible. Even though they were eating separately, they always said their prayers before they ate, even if it was only a couple of teaspoons of apple sauce for my mother. On Sunday morning my dad asked me if I would watch Mass on TV at 7:30 with him in the hospital. Then at 10:00 I listened with my mother to the radio to the service which was broadcasted from her church. They were both very intent on what was being said, responded with all the responses, and even sang a couple of the hymns.

Throughout the day my mother would pick up one of the several prayer books she had by her chair and read some of the prayers and meditations. There were daily meditation and daily bible reading pamphlets, a well used bible and a book I gave her in 1967 called “Prayers” by Michel Quoist. Dad had his books by his chair also. Then in the evening, when she went to bed she had me read from another set of daily meditations and readings. She did not just listen, she listened intently with her eyes closed and nodding her head when some part of the reading touched her.

It was obvious that they prayed continually and persistently throughout the day. They were always thanking God for their family and for the life they had together. They prayed that they could be together again soon so they could comfort each other.

Many times in the hospital I encounter similar situations and I pray for the patients that God hears their prayer and that it be granted but to let God’s will be done. I was sort of at a loss of what to do when I thought of those patients and realized that I had never prayed over my parents. I pray for them all the time, especially at the Prayer of the Faithful at Mass during the  personal intentions but I had never given them a blessing face to face with them. It was very special for me to give them a blessing and I know they were appreciative too. I thank God for the blessing of my parents.

Deacon Greg Beckel

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