Mary, our model of prayer, didn’t say much in the Gospels.
Besides her “fiat” to the Angel Gabriel, the most poignant thing that is said about Mary in the Gospels is that she kept all of these things and had deep thoughts themselves in the quiet of her heart.
But this Marian vocation of “living as contemplatives in action” can be very hard in this modern world.
In the book When Women Pray, Kathleen Beckman, L.H.S. gathered the personal stories and reflections on Church teaching of eleven Catholic women. Each of these women proclaims the joy of prayer and the wealth of grace found there.
Here are excerpts from each woman’s reflection:
1. Kathleen Beckman: The Marian Heart Prays
“As the Pope was going out after his homily, the pope’s mobile rolled to a stop near where I was a stand-in, and I was able to look into the Holy Father’s eyes. In his warm, piercing gaze, I noticed incarnate love; he radiated Christ.
I thought, ‘My goodness, holiness is attractive!’ as I fervently prayed, ‘Lord, make me a saint like him!’ This prayer rose from my ardent desire to glorify Christ’s, joyful love.
I repeated the prayer Veni Creator Spiritus. Opening myself entirely to the Holy Spirit, I was profoundly transformed, never to become lukewarm since.
With the breath of the Spirit, prayer becomes like breathing.”
2. Johnnette Benkovic: The Transforming Power of Prayer
“Our Lord’s experiences with the Samaritan woman at the well gives us with a metaphor for prayer. It reminds us that this dialogue is like no other: it informs us, changes us, and transforms us. It heals and soothes, convicts and forgives, unbinds and sets free. It brings light to our comprehending and illumination to our soul. It can do all this and more because this dialogue is a communication with God.”
3. Ronda Chervin, Ph.D.: The Sigh of the Heart
“My first prayer was recommended to me by my godfather-to-be, a professor at Fordham University. I was studying Catholic philosophy in a frantic attempt to find some truth that would keep me from despair.
‘Why don’t you kneel and say the skeptic’s prayer?’ Dr. Balduin Schwarz recommended to me one day.
‘Huh? What’s that?’
‘God, if there is a God, save my soul, if I have a soul!’
This ‘skeptic’s prayer’ came to me during a tour of Europe. On the stop at Lourdes, France, the first answer to my prayer came without my realizing it. Many started to pray for me– first, by showing me the beauty of the candlelight procession of the pilgrims at the miraculous shrine of Lourdes.
Shortly later, a picture of Jesus came alive with His eyes looking right at me!”
4. Doctor Pia de Solenni: Prayer with Sisters in Christ
“My friends’ reply gave me a retrospect through which to comprehend my spiritual life. While I’m blessed to have male friends, both priests and laymen who are generous with their prayers, I realized that it is through my shared prayer life with many women friends that I’ve come to have a sense of what it is to have a sister and to be a sister to a woman.
And while every soul has a necessarily feminine response to God, my experience recommends that there’s something uniquely feminine, even maternal, about the way in which women pray.”
5. Mary Healy, S.T.D.: God’s Overflowing Grace
“Our natural tendency is to praise God only when things are going well. But Scripture tells us, ‘Rejoice always, pray constantly, express gratitude in all situations; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
I once experienced the potency of this injunction when I was at a low point. A combination of tribulations in relationships and in ministry had really discouraged me, and everywhere I turned, there seemed to be insoluble situations. One specifically tough day, as I was trying to pray, I felt like the psalmist who said,‘ The waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold’ (Psalm 69:1-2).
I understood the Lord was calling me to praise Him right then and there, but there was nothing I wanted to do less. It felt as it would be totally forced.
But as an act of faith, I began to thank God aloud– not in spite of my circumstances but for my circumstances. it was a way of acknowledging that He is utterly trustworthy and that He was caring for every detail of my life in His infinite goodness and wisdom. I smiled at the Lord and sang songs of praise.
And as I did, it was as though clouds of darkness lifted and my whole disposition gradually transformed. I understood I could trust the Lord…”
6. Lisa M. Hendy: Praying with the Saints
“The first saint I ever met lived in the curio cabinet on Treebark Circle. That wooden abode was a place in our small suburban home that held the unique treasures that we could look at but never touch.
I would often approach her, whispering my special intentions on tippy toes as I peered through the glass that held her in a tiny circular golden box. More often than not, she answered my prayers. So I believed, despite. My childlike ignorance, in her power as an intercessory friend.
And when I coupled those prayers directed to the Little Flower, whose relic my parents reverenced faithfully, with a decade or two on my over-sized, glow-in-the-dark rosary for the big intentions, I more often than not saw results.”
7. Joan Lewis: A Heart-to-Heart with the Lord
“One thing I continually do is thank God after I pray. Not just with the phrase ‘Thank God’ that so easily trips off the tongue. But a true, heartfelt ‘Thank You, Lord.’
Even before He answers my prayers, I thank Him. I find myself saying, ‘Thank You, Lord’ dozens of times during the day.
I thank God in the morning for giving me another day, for the sun that comes out after a powerful storm, for the leaves that turn magical colors in the autumn, for being able to share a meal or coffee with friends and colleagues, for finding a seat on a crowded bus….The more I do it, the easier and more natural it becomes, just like praying a Hail Mary at a bus stop in Rome!”
8. Marilyn Quirk: A Relationship with the Living God
“Prayer for me is having a personal relationship with the living God. I was blessed to have two holy grandmothers whose prayers and instances led me to have a personal relationship with my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus, from an early age. It was an undeserved grace.
In that personal relationship, prayer was like breathing, and I became aware that I was never alone. Jesus was my best friend and confidant, leading me in joy and sorrow. I learned the power of prayer at an early age. I prayed for my parents, whose marriage was very turbulent. I often wept over the suffering of others. I also learned the practice of offering up small sacrifices to God for various intentions.”