"The Son of God had announced to his disciples that they would never be at peace on this earth. The only way to win this great combat is union with God. . . The only true rock for the baptized is prayer and the encounter with Jesus Christ. Men whose strength is in prayer are unsinkable."
(Cardinal Robert Sarah, God or Nothing)In Rumer Godden's book, In this House of Brede, the nuns at a Benedictine monastery are unexpectedly presented with a burdensome debt load. In a quandary as to the resolution to this financial conundrum, one of the nuns regrettably states that selling part of the monastery grounds is the only feasible solution. The Abbess reluctantly concedes to this proposal despite the strong objections from an older sister who reminds her fellow Benedictines that they must place their trust in prayer, for are not their lives dedicated to this ever flowing fountain of grace? She is patronized but not heeded; yet, she is vindicated in the end when it is not the practical plan that saves the monastery but a miraculous discovery that brings the nuns the necessary amount to erase their debt.
What does one do when confronted with tragic news, an undesirable situation, or even just a daily annoyance that perpetually piques his inner abode? After practical possibilities are exhausted, where does he put his energies? Sometimes one plays the victim who is maligned by unfair circumstances, he licks his wounds by complaining or excusing irritable behavior. Perhaps, he finds relief from his frustrations by indulging in impatient or even angry outbursts. Or, it could be that constant chatter and thinly veiled gossip serves as his release. Other times, he seeks solace in mindless activity, relying on technology to help desensitize his anxious heart.
One bemoans a particular evil in the world or a source of sorrow in his personal life but instead of running to his heavenly Father to plead for resolution, he allows angst to morph into purposeless anxiety that only causes more pain and brings no peace. Yet, nothing is gained by the continual clatter of the tongue, nor the bitter thoughts that the brooder allows to marinate in his mind.
Our fast-paced and noise-filled world does not place a high value on patience so it unsurprisingly scoffs at the importance of prayer and quietude. Prayer and fasting appear fruitless because they do not frequently yield quick results. They are antithetical to the immediacy of our comfort-seeking society. However, it is precisely this contradiction that makes them the antidote to the ills we face. One must not retreat to noise and pleasures to drown out worries that plague him; rather, he must seek refuge and solace in the solitude of prayer and the patient practice of penance.
In the play, A Man for All Seasons, Cardinal Wolsey pointedly asks Sir Thomas More what he is going to do about the fact that Henry VIII needs a son for an heir, (insinuating that More must agree that a divorce is necessary for this desired outcome). More replies that he prays for it daily, to which Wolsey cynically responds,"Are you going to pray for a miracle?" More readily assents,"There are precedents."
"Sometimes, in front of happenings in the world, our nation or even the Church, the results of our prayer might tempt us to become discouraged. Like Sisyphus in the Greek myth: condemned to roll a large boulder uphill, only to see it roll down again as soon as he had reached the top. Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est encourages us : 'People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone.'" (Cardinal Sarah)