I had a dream last night. It was just a brief moment, almost like a page in a storybook. In the dream, a husband and wife were lying in bed under a puffy quilt, comforting, soft and large. The couple was relaxed and sleeping deeply and soundly. The room was midnight blue, except for a gentle shaft of butter yellow light softly shining in, and casting a mild, half-moon image on the wall. In this quiet, in this darkness, there would be teeny, bright pinpricks of light. Tiny pops in the darkness, here and there. There might be a moment or two, then a burst of them, here in the room, on the left side, then the right. Two together there, then for a moment, one, or none. It was understood that whenever a pinprick of light popped, someone, somewhere in the world, was thinking about one of the two people who were lying in that in bed, or praying for them. It was beautiful. I “stood” there pondering this for a while, and then I woke up.
Our minds play games in dreams, and of course they are just images our own mind creates; but that dream stuck with me in the morning and all throughout the next day. I couldn’t help but think of that scene as a little metaphor for prayer. We are in darkness, not always uncomfortable darkness, but a blanket of one nonetheless, and when someone prays for us, it’s like a little pop of light for our souls, like the pinpricks of light in my dream. Our prayers can illuminate the darkness in tiny little ways that are beautiful, and almost imperceptible except to those who really pay attention.
We can help each other get through a difficult moment, a minute of fear, a temptation to be offended, and so on simply by offering a quick prayer. Thinking of your husband? Pray an Our Father for him. Your daughter far away? Send her a Memorare. An old friend? Hail Mary on the way. And so on.
Ejaculations are short mini-prayers, also called “aspirations” or “invocations.” They can be said throughout the day when you are worried, want to reach out to God in prayer but don’t have a lot of time, or just to remind yourself of the purpose of this life: heaven. Pray these as you walk to your car, as you cook dinner, as you fold towels or change the loads of laundry. If you have a spare minute in your office between phone calls, and so on. Praying these short prayers, little treasures in the Church, keeps our minds focused on heavenly things and to remember to consecrate our efforts. It is good to adopt one of these as your own so that particularly in times of trouble or anxiety, the words that can focus your attention back to the holy come easily.
• My Jesus, mercy!
• My Lord and my God. (John 20:28)
• O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. (Luke 18:13)
• Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
• Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
• Blessed be God!
• Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. (Roman Missal)
• Holy Mother of God, Mary ever Virgin, intercede for us. (Roman Breviary)
• Holy Mary, pray for us. (Roman Ritual)
• O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!
• Thy will be done!
When I was in high school, one of my teachers had spent some time in the monastery where there was constant silence and prayer. A couple of boys in class challenged him in saying, “What good is that? Just praying and not doing anything.” I will never forget the teacher’s response.
He replied: “What if what was the reality was that there was a spiritual, not just material world? What if the prayers of people could hold together physical realities as well as spiritual ones? Because that is true. If suddenly, all the contemplative orders of nuns and monks ceased praying, so much could befall mankind. We don’t fully know or realize how much is held together in this material world by prayer.” At just 17, the profundity of what he said stuck with me.
Novenas and Mass, the rosary and litanies are all good forms of prayer. It is good to offer sacrifices for intentions for ourselves and others. But it is also good to say just tiny little prayers here and there, when someone pops in our minds. These prayers can be little pinpricks of light in a dark room, illuminating the realities of those we love.
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