I’m feeling quite inadequate. How many rosaries, chaplets and novenas can one woman pray? How much mental prayer can one offer while still attempting to be a decent enough mom to interact with the children?
I’m feeling quite ineffective. How many needs can be “covered” as I offer up the sore neck I woke with or the horrible swelling and pain in my feet that makes it so difficult to even walk from my bed to the kitchen and impossible to walk up the stairs to get my 3 year old or go to First Friday Mass? (I think I’m doomed to NEVER complete 9 consecutive Fridays.) As great as my suffering seems in my mind, it is so very limited. How much is it worth? And can I ever pray sufficiently?
My suffering in contrast with the suffering of Christ is miniscule. Does that matter? Christ’s suffering was sufficient for the entire world, every person in it, for all time. But that is His suffering, not mine. How come I feel like I can’t offer up my suffering to much of an effect for all those whose needs have been laid on my heart? Am I missing something?
I was not raised with the thought of “offer it up.” I was not taught that I could unite my sufferings to the sufferings of Christ to
“rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church,” (Col 1:24)
“rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.” (1 Pet 4:13)
The idea of offering it up, the idea that I can enter that mystery of Christ came to me later in life and sometimes I think that I don’t quite get it. I get the theory, but I doubt the efficacy of my own pitiful attempts to enter into that mystery. I wonder, and yes, it sounds silly to me, too, how many needs I can actually “attach” to the stubbed toe, the headache, the sore neck or painful feet. And really, I’m not about heaping things on with the idea that by volume I can make something happen. I’m not talking about earning or buying my way into anything…. I do understand that much.
(I realize that I sound like an idiotic number counter, but that is not what I’m getting at. In practice, what does one do? One headache = one need “Lord, I offer this headache for the Holy Souls” or “Lord I offer my foot pain for soandso’s marriage” OR, in practice, does it look more like this: “Since my offerings are puny anyway and fully rely on you and your sufferings, Lord, which are COMPLETELY efficacious for everything ever, I offer my sore neck for: babies threatened by abortion, my friend’s marriage, a successful pregnancy for soandso, the Holy Souls, the Holy Father…… “ etc., offering an unending list of prayer needs? And even though I sound idiotic, I’m leaving it in the hopes that someone will understand what I’m getting at!)
As I think about this, the “mingling of water and wine” comes to mind. Once that drop of water is put into the chalice with the wine, the water that was added is indistinguishable from the rest. The water that is added is fully incorporated and inseparable from the wine. Go ahead, add a drop of water to a glass of wine and try to get those specific and particular molecules back. Is that how it is with how we “offer it up”? No matter how small of a drop our sufferings and pains are, do they become part of the great and unlimited power of the suffering of Christ, His death, and His Resurrection and therefore, “unlimited needs” can be offered in even the smallest thing? I think that’s it. I think that I unknowingly was depending too much on me and “my part” and not enough on Christ. It now seems to be a “DUH” thing.
This is making more sense to me as I write it, though I still struggle with the thought of, “okay! that’s enough! how much do you think your puny little sufferings are worth?!” Yes, I need to just brush those thoughts aside and simply trust in the power of Christ’s sufferings and not try too much to measure my own pitiful offering. He is big enough for me to offer up the slightest hangnail for every possible need in the world. But I don’t think the struggle within me on this is over. We hear about “how much” this person, suffering from a horrible disease, has to offer… what a blessing. That sort of thing is a true challenge for me. If someone who is dying from cancer has very much to offer up (and they do!) and if we speak of it as more valuable, as greater, that brings me back to my questions about my (relatively) insignificant suffering. This will take quite a bit of time to figure out, I suppose.
And then there are the thoughts regarding prayer that are on my mind. With the overwhelming prayer needs of so many, how can my flighty, finite mind ever remember everything I want to bring to the Lord? Of course I know all of the “ideas” ~ prayer journals and lists and the like. Problem for me is that I am very much not a list person. I do use a prayer journal (though there are periods of time when I find myself taking a long break from it) but I use it more for myself (man that sounds bad!) I use it to bring to the Lord all that is broken in myself, to converse with Him about where I need repentance, healing, wisdom, and grace.
Naturally, my family makes its way into the journal, as living this vocation of mine is done in the community of family and my family are most often the victims of my failings as well as the recipients of my God-given successes. Occasionally, friends or overwhelming needs of the country or world will find themselves there, but mostly a prayer journal, for me, is about me and my overwhelming and constant need for transformation, and the self-examination necessary to seek such transformation.
Somehow writing out my mental prayer, pouring it out on paper, opens my mind and heart to hear the Lord speak to my heart His healing, His love, His hope. Once I put it down, I tend to be able to begin to discern things better. I “hear” things as simple and obvious as, “bring that to confession,” or “you must apologize and make amends,” or “it requires only an act of the will.” Yes, quite obvious, I know, but I also know that am quite obviously blind much of the time.
When I seek to bring the Lord all those other needs, the needs all around me, I get overwhelmed. When I have something to offer up, I feel as though I can’t even begin! How in the world do I pray well for them all? It is easy to remember those I love most dearly… Chief, the kids, close friends, extended family, but what of the others? The acquaintances and the ones I don’t know? The ones I have no natural, personal affection for? (that is not to say that I have no concern, but it is easier to pray for those who are in your life, who you know, even a bit, whose life you’re actually involved in in some way.) What about the family that I do not know that just lost a 3 month old in a horrible accident? Or those who’ve lost a spouse? Or those whose marriages are failing? Or women who are about to give birth, those about to deploy, those who’ve lost jobs…. and the constant stream of needs that fill my inbox and are found in the blogs and news sites I read? Just this morning in checking email, news sites, and blogs I follow, I’ve mentally added several people and situations to “The [mental] List.” How do I remain mindful of these? I don’t object to jotting it all down. I probably should make it a goal to do that, but in the meanwhile, when lists and the like, even once started, aren’t given a second thought, how do I be faithful in these intercessions?
I have gotten better about stopping and offering an Ave or the Miraculous Medal prayer as I come across these needs so that I am sure that they are not completely forgotten. But as I go on through more deliberate prayer times, I do not bring all whom I desire to bring to the Lord. I just don’t. I also try to remember to add: “And for all those I’ve promised to pray for, those who need prayer the most and those who have no one to pray for them, I entrust their lives and their needs to you, Lord.” This is a good and legitimate (I think, anyway!) way to end times of prayer. It allows us to do just what we say, entrusting all to the Lord and covering any that we intend to pray for but for whatever reason, didn’t remember to pray for by name and need. But sometimes, it feels lame!
I think that through all this thinking on these things, I have finally come to truly understand the value of a morning offering in a new, deeper way. Of course we want to consecrate our day to the Lord and in doing so, we ought to be mindful not to offer him garbage as we go about our day. By reminding ourselves and the Lord that we offer intercession and reparation – for His glory, for the good of our own souls and for all of the prayer needs that we find on our hearts, perhaps we can begin to cover what our limited minds too often forget. It’s not a shortcut or a cheater’s way to pray, but rather a complete acknowledgement of distracted minds, hearts and lives, but also our true and deep desire to intercede for all.
By making a good and sincere morning offering, we are acknowledging first, the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We also place ourselves under His cross and we consecrate all of our actions to Him for Him, for ourselves and for others. And we, in a sense, cover all of those things that we are certain for “forget” or get distracted from. If we don’t let it become rote, it is a very good means to calling to mind our desire and obligation to live each and every moment of each and every day to the greater glory of God.
Here is a traditional morning offering:
through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You my prayers, works,
joys and sufferings
of this day for all the intentions
of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
and in particular
for the intentions of the Holy Father.
Here is the morning offering of the Little Daughter’s of the Sacred Heart Apostolate for Mothers:
Jesus, unite all my thoughts words, actions and desires of this day with Your Sacred Heart. Let the power of Your Holy Spirit flow freely from Your pierced side, enveloping my wounded heart, healing me from the ravages of sin. Set my heart in the flames of Your love today so that it may be purified and my will conformed more perfectly to Yours.
Jesus I want to love with Your heart. I desire to be Your hands to bring healing to this world. Give me, I beg You, Your eyes today Lord, that I may see You in those You have entrusted to my care. When someone calls to me, complains or whines, I desire to hear Your voice beckoning me. If I grow weary of the constant demands of my vocation, refresh me with the grace to understand that You do not ask me to carry this cross alone.
Enable me to find You beside me in the midst of all my daily duties and struggles, and please elevate them to Your holy heart.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, I need You. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I love You. Help me, your little daughter, to love you better today.
I am hoping that I can come to a deeper appreciation and understanding of these things as I pray about and ponder them. I desire to tuck more and more of this deeper into my heart and to pass it on to my children. My own Catholic upbringing was weak and my failure to grasp these things better by now is likely a “legacy” of that.
The riches of our faith are overwhelming to me sometimes for it seems that even with my deliberate study over the course of 20 years I still “don’t get” so much. Though it does seem more urgent for me to understand the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Papacy, the necessity of baptism, marriage as a sacrament, the truth of human love and sexuality, confession… and more. I suppose that with such things taking up my time, it shouldn’t be too surprising to me that I still struggle to grasp some of these other things as fully as I ought. But I intend to learn these truths more fully, too.
Pray for me.
(oh, and one question: does 2100+ words count as “a few thoughts”??? Sheesh!)