Monthly Spiritual Message, August 2014
Fr John Cooper OFM Cap
Parents are the first teachers of their children. Usually they are not alone in this responsibility, but part of a wider group of family, especially grandparents and friends, who in varying degrees assist the child in discovering what life is all about. The teachers at school are professional teachers. It is their task to discern at every level if your child needs specific assistance in any particular area to bring them up to a reasonable level for their age. But it remains the responsibility of parents to teach their children faith, morals and the essentials of good behaviour.
Parents and Godparents are told at the very beginning of the Rite of baptism:
“You have asked to have your child baptised. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him/her in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty, to bring him/her up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbour: Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”
Also at the end of the ceremony during the Blessing of the Father we are reminded again:
“God is the giver of all life, human and divine. May he bless the father of this child. He and his wife will be first teachers of their child in the ways of faith. May they be also the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do…”
Of all the things we need to teach our children the most important is to teach them how to pray.
WHAT IS PRAYER
Prayer is simply talking to God as if he is right there with you at all times. Of course God is always with you or God would not be God. So, when it comes to God you can never simply talk to yourself, because God created you, keeps you in existence and is intensely interested in you. However, because God appreciates love above all else, he is also very protective of your freedom. It is the essence of love, so God will let you wander off on your own if you really want to do so.
Both St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas said that the deepest desire of the human heart is the desire for happiness and the desire for happiness is nothing less than the desire for God. This desire for God is vocalized in prayer so it is through prayer that we come to live in an intimate relationship with God. Prayer is then, simply an on-going conversation with God, and the key to a deeper spiritual life of extraordinary grace.
This kind of simple prayer allows us to live in the presence of God. “Well, Lord, what’s next to be done?” And if you forget to put “Lord” at the beginning, you can even put God last. “What have I forgotten, Lord?”
Simple prayer is the best prayer we can teach our very young children. “Thank you Lord for the rest that refreshes The best kind of prayer is very simple. You can get out of bed in the morning, look out the window and say “What a lovely day! Or you can say, “O Lord, what a lovely day!” The difference is quite profound. By simply putting “Lord…” in front of our statements we are praying. It’s that easy.
“Lord, what a cold day!” “Lord, can we talk this over?” “Lord, what a beautiful child, wonderful flower, mighty tree…”
So, let us get our spiritual focus right, just as the most beautiful thing in a child’s life is the face of mum and dad so too with the ancient Psalmist in the bible we pray: It is your face, O Lord that I seek; hide not your face. (Psalm 27) This prayer was fulfilled when Jesus was born. “To have seen me is to have seen the Father”.
The simplest way to remember the many different kinds of prayer we can use in our conversation with God is to note the memory jogger word: A.C.T.S. We are using it in the sense that we say make an act (Prayer) of contrition. So we have acts of:
Adoration: A profound love and worship due to God alone as our Creator. “My God and my All!” Contrition: A deep sorrow for our sins and failings with a real desire to grow into a person of integrity and compassion. Try: simply “I’m sorry Lord.”
Thanksgiving: Essentially a sense of gratitude and appreciation for all God’s gifts to us and the opportunities open to us. Try: “Thank God” or “Thanks be to God.”
Supplication: Basically a humble realization that we cannot do everything on our own, life is too complexed, so if we are going to cope we need to ask God to help us in our needs and for the needs of others. Try: “Help!” or “Help me Lord, I can’t do this by myself!”
The Charismatic Movement reminded us that we should also offer God prayers of Praise.
Praise: The single word “Alleluia” from the Greek, is originally Hebrew in origin as “Hallelujah” meaning “Praise God” or “Praise the Lord” is the best expression of praise. Try saying it softly with a slight nod of the head if you wish. That should get you started…
So if we add a “P” to our memory jogger we have: P.A.C.T.S. The dictionary gives us many synonyms for PACTS: deal; promise; contract; agreement, treaty, concordat, but we have one better: Covenant.
So prayer maybe said to be the dialogue of Love that gives expression to the New Covenant. In this language of love, if we are to grow spiritually, we are going to need to learn the language of perfect joy and that language is personal prayer which includes a lot of sighing and even sometimes a lot of moaning and groaning as we learn to cooperate with the Holy Spirit.
Fr John Cooper OFM Cap
National Spiritual Assistant