Friday 31 October 2008

Works and deeds, prayer and the rosary, and the exhausted praying Catholic, at midnight

(Journey in a Broken World)

Article by Marc Aupiais

Darkness merged with darkness, and fatigue began to touch my limbs, as gravity tries to chain one to the ground.

Each few minutes my hands would fumble, and every now and then I would forget what I was doing- as I continuously mumbled soft whispered busts of phrases. Every now and then I would stop, exhausted in my extravagant needs. I had only began praying- I had perhaps over an hour's worth of prayers before I could go to bed.

Perhaps clarification is needed- the reason I was praying for so long, why I prayed, and finished to go to bed at 12:12 AM the next morning, was not zeal, but laziness. I had neglected my morning prayers, and therefore was combining them with my evening ritual- which generally takes 40 minutes to an hour or so. In the evening I pray to Saint Philomena at least 60 times, and to Saint Michael the Archangel about 5 or six times, to God the Trinity about ten times, and Mary about five. It's something I started to do some time ago- and it is odd, my soul almost needs to pray these, it is as though an invisible order had gone out- that I was to pray- and ask for God's world view, salvation, and godliness.

So why bring these things up- the reason lay in what I had wanted to do- as my hands fumbled expertly over the last rosary bead, and I had finished Hail Holy Queen, and Oh God whose- I did not want to continue. I just wanted to sleep, but the same voice that led me to the church- the same slight touching on my heart's shoulder told me as it had the first time- that I must finish my prayers if I wanted to sleep, and trusting what people call intuition, I knew I had to do so, even as these thoughts were with foreign words, almost dazed words as I was losing my functioning with the late hour.

A gray dusk settled on me, and my hands were almost guided, perhaps by habit, or by the ghostly presence that comes with prayer. My long prayers went forever, and I realized that I had not nearly finished even a 16th of my prayers, when already I felt like stopping, and every sort of temptation began to enter into me with force. I truly empathized with Saint Peter in the garden with Christ. I did not want to pray, but the intuitive voice would not let me stop, and so I fumbled across my collection of paper, prayer-book, cell-phone and rosary, and continued to pray. To do this- I detached myself from any sense of time.

I prayed and did what I sometimes do with the oh so short rosary. Whenever my hand hit the separated bead, I would stop and begin a few more of my prayers, before reading a novena to my beloved saint.

Finally, as the winds outside softly caressed my window, or perhaps there was silent nothingness, I began to speak almost gibberish. I empathize with the Charismatic movement seldom, but I was not speaking in tongues. I was saying the wrong words. Once before I have said this- when I was in terror, and prayed the Our Father, and the Hail Mary came out, and before also have I spoken words which are not what my mind had wanted. Despite this I finished my prayers, said my final please, and quietly put my rosary, papers with prayers, and a small pamphlet away.

Why hadn't my intuitive sense allowed me to skip the ritual, well I believe it lies in the concept of prayers and work. I had asked, cannot my novena count for all that prayer, cannot I substitute the rosary, but this was not allowed. We can never substitute one righteous deed for another. We can do one or the other or both- but obedience cannot be bartered with. My prayers had become works, and I had already, even as I had been praying there, covered in protest and fatigue, but also in obedience- begun slightly- to understand last night's lesson.

The physical world can never be replaced- prayer can never replace firm actions, but nor can firm actions replace fear, which causes despair, and they cannot substitute for prayers. The word spirit has in the English phraseology so mixed its essence up with the word morale, or culture that we forget that even spiritual things have solid substance, and are utterly real. Action, can also never substitute prayers. Prayers open the way for actions, like weapons of war- commandos, or scouts- they clear the territory, and yet the actions are like the gun turrets on large battleships, and the prayers that follow these like an air-strike.

Actions are given substance and power in prayer. Our lowly, practical, and often extravagantly expert- prayer firstly alters our environment, and then, the bursts of our souls- the constant prayers- they resonate and echo within the power of our actions, turning them from pathetic pleas, to powerful blows against untruth, through merciful justice, of listening and acting at the right time, and with dual force- physical and spiritual, and finally we feel hurricane forces- winds which raise the sand in protest- prayer's aftershock- their effect on ourselves and others.

Like submarines, we operate on the open ocean. Prayer is like breaking beneath the surface of waves- and before actions we pray. As we are surfacing to attack we also pray, and once we have launched our torpedoes we pray again. Prayer is like breath, it is that which must saturate and inebriate the veins of our actings. Actions are like our blood, and prayer like the soul which permeates every small tiny drop of substance in a man.

Without prayer nothing spiritual is possible, but without action, very little physical can we done. Like large cruising battleships on the open ocean, we must be rested on prayer, and moving on momentum with action, for the essential essence of what we seem to be- exists but as one single being, but on both dimensions of existing, and must always move as one who has two worlds to contend with. One like the water, the other- the air around us.

Prayer can never substitute action- yet this can help effects of it.

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