Although I usually spend my blogging time speaking of the daily Scriptures, I want to spend just a moment speaking of intercessory prayer as we remember a valiant woman today, St. Monica. I suspect that most of my readers will know that she is regarded by Catholics as the example of a mother's love for her wayward child, the man who became St. Augustine of Hippo. St. Monica is said to have devoted herself to interceding for the conversion of her son who was, by all accounts, something of a libertine. This pair of mother and son is not the only example of a mother who brings her son to God through prayer, but it is, perhaps, the most famous.
Intercessory prayer is often a topic of conversation that raises questions, especially when Catholic Christians pray to the saints or to Mary. I was once asked by a very vocal Christian mail clerk at the Post Office why Catholics pray to Mary. I told her that I would answer her question if she answered mine first. When she agreed, I asked her if she had ever asked a friend to pray for her or if she had prayed for someone herself. She immediately said, "Of course, all the time!" At that point I told her that Catholics were simply doing the same thing when they asked the saints to pray for them and their intentions. "But they're all dead! I ask living people to pray for me." My response was simple, "I thought we believed in eternal life? We can't have it both ways; either those who have died in Christ are still alive and able to intercede for us, or we don't really believe in eternal life – one or the other!"
Just as Monica interceded for her son, she continues to hear the prayers of mothers everywhere who pray for their sons. Our Blessed Mother and the saints are now living with God. They bring our petitions to Him and ask for God's mercy and healing power.
In the past few days, weeks, months, we have all heard of Christians who have suffered at the hands of their persecutors for their faith. Churches have been burned; Christians have been tortured and killed. Recently, Pope Francis raised the issue of prayer and sacrifice for the sake of persecuted Christians and asked whether we would be willing to abstain from meat on Friday and pray the rosary every day for these people who are suffering because of their faith. CUSANS know this kind of prayer and sacrifice routine. We do it every day. Perhaps it is time for Catholic Christians to remember the power that comes from such regular prayer and fasting. Whether we do this for those who are suffering persecution or for some other intention, it is a time-tested response to afflictions of any kind. My former grade school principal signed her letters to me in the seminary with the words: Oremus pro invicem. (Let us pray for one another.)
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator