Monday 18 December 2017

Praying helps us on our great journey


I OFTEN ask myself if I have lost my faith. The thought does not stay too long in my head and off I wander on to another subject or topic. But just last week cycling home from work I was thinking about faith and where I am with my faith. Certainly I know it would do me no harm at all to do more praying. But then I ask myself, what exactly does the word 'prayer' mean?

Last week RTE Television carried an interview with Professor John Monaghan, who is Vice President of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society. He was most impressive. At the end of the interview on 'One-to-One' he had no problem telling the nation that he prays and prays twice a day. He also said that he knows that people pray for him.

A young man I know who has just finished engineering in Trinity was taught by John at university and speaks highly of him. He certainly impressed me on the television programme. I'd like to be able to say I take prayer seriously but, I think I'd be telling a minor lie if I said I do.

Back to faith. When I was studying theology a trickle of priests were leaving, then a few years later that trickle turned into a cascade. These days it's back to a trickle. During all those periods I know very few men if any who left the priesthood because they claimed to have lost their faith or stopped believing in some aspect of church doctrine.

Many I know who have left the priesthood left to form a relationship with either a woman or a man. Nowadays we read of priests being laicised as a result of committing acts of sexual abuse. But laicisation occurs for many reasons, some very honourable, and we must not jump to conclusions.

Just last Saturday RTE Radio One aired a programme featuring men who had joined the Marist Congregation. Over a number of years the men lost their belief in God and subsequently left the congregation. I think it was my first time to hear such views aired like that. So what happens a priest, who loses his faith? Or is it that every single priest right across the world has faith. That can hardly be true and certainly is most unlikely. There has to be 'Fr Dougals' about.

What would happen if a priest went along to his bishop or provincial and told him that he was resigning his priesthood because he no longer believed in the doctrine of the Trinity as laid down at the Council of Nicea? What do any of these theological words mean? What about the priest who might question how Christ is present in the Eucharist? Or what about the priest who might wonder at what stage in the life of Jesus did he realise he was the Son of God. Did Jesus know he was divine when he was a four-year-old toddler?

Last week I was invited to preach at a harvest thanksgiving Communion Service in a Protestant church. I was greatly chuffed about being invited. During Communion a lot of thoughts about the differences between Catholics and Protestants went through my head. I was wondering how a 16-year-old Catholic boy or girl would explain Communion to me as compared to a Protestant 16year-old. Indeed, how would an adult Catholic or Protestant explain it? Would the Catholic know about that word 'transubstantiation'? What does it mean when we say Christ is really present in the Eucharist?

Certainly that presence is not the same as how I am present at this desk writing these words. Yes, I believe in God. But what exactly does that mean. I'll spend the next 20 minutes or so, on my bicycle and I'll be back thinking about the God question and where I am with my own prayer life.

The Psalms are great prayers, at least some of them. The Rosary too is a great prayer and so easy to say when walking or cycling. Does praying help us on our journey in discovering the great mysteries of God? I'm sure it does. I hope it does.

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