January 16, 2013

A Culture of Life and Family Prayer

When Blessed John Paul II came to Denver over twenty years ago, he called on the young people of the world to build a culture of life and civilization of love.   He pointed to prayer, to an encounter with Christ, as the basis of this great undertaking.   One simple way to introduce prayer into our culture, one we have complete control over in the privacy of our homes, is the practice of family prayer.  Family prayer, no matter how informal or chaotic, is a moment of thanksgiving for the gift of life shared together, and a moment of love in which families learn how to bear with one another out of reverence for Christ and how to raise one another up to the Lord.  Genuine progress to life and love can only be realized by such prayer.

This is not to say that society has not been progressing without prayer -- but society without God only progresses through various circles of hell.  A loveless civilization has been progressing out of control for quite sometime, and in the process corrupting all that is holy and true about the American way of life.  Here, Obama Care and the HHS mandate to implement it are simply signs of another stage in the same evolutionary process that brought us Roe vs Wade.  Absolute power over life and death is a divine right, and our government has no fear of God in usurping this role.   A litany of court orders, executive orders, laws and regulations appeal to safety and security with emotive force and righteous indignation.  Each new invocation advances another lifeless and loveless cause, causes which if carefully marketed provide another pretext for the powerful to protect themselves from the dreams and aspirations of what they can only see as an unholy mob.

Prayer allows individuals to bind together as a people in freedom, prayerlessness allows a mob to bind the individual against his will.  The particular form of social progress we are currently enjoying in America goes hand in hand with the ever increasing cultural hostility to prayer we have accepted as a norm.  The more a society progresses down to a prayerless mob, the easier it becomes to manipulate.   Wihout prayer, the promptings of conscience which normally protect communities from implicating themselves in grave social evil are silenced.  This seems to be at work in our culture as we have moved away from prayer and pre-occupied ourselves with all kinds of political rancor and envy, news cycles and narratives.   Although abortion is not as popular as it once was, those we have invested with political or cultural power (for the lastest example, check out the efforts of the Governor of New York) are as adamant as ever about compelling the whole of society to participate in this evil, no matter the dictates of individual consciences.  In fact, compelling whole religious organizations to provide immoral services is now heralded as the next stage of social progress.

The less we pray, the more vulnerable we are to evil, and the weaker our witness to the greatness of our religion.  Like the criminals convicted at Nuremberg trials, people of faith are expected to act against what they know is right because the authorities have ordered them to do so.   When individual members of a society feel compelled to act against what they believe is noble and true, is it any wonder why that whole society should be burdened with every form of unhappiness and misery?  To live in such self-contradiction is to be damned.  No amount of convenience or luxury or diversion can address the weight of unacknolwedged guilt that haunts such a people or overcome the burning alienation from one another abusing and being abused by power causes.  If people of faith forsake prayer in the face of such evil, how can they offer a reason for their hope when such a word of hope is most needed?

For lack of prayer, the gift of freedom has become at risk in America.  A government, even if democratic, always progresses toward unholy forms of tyranny whenever it violates such basic goods as religious freedom, the institution of marriage, the rights of children to maternal and paternal love, and the right to life.  How can a society stand if it will not welcome and nurture the gift of life, if it will not reverence the holiness of marriage, if it will not allow people to follow their moral consciences?  And what kind of wealth does such a people possess if anxiety over it makes them afraid to take care of the most vulnerable and beautiful gifts God bestows?   As Mother Theresa once explained, it is a great poverty to think that a baby must die so that one might live as they wish. Yet a callous poverty is progressively robbing America of the noble destiny God has invited us to share.

Although many Americans have forgotten God, God has not forgotten America.   The noble calling He invites America to accept involves our becoming an even brighter beacon of human freedom than we have ever been before -- and this is possible even now under the current oppressiveness of our government.  Advancing a genuine freedom rooted in the truth demands that we not fear to seek and protect the dignity of the human person -- from womb to tomb.  This dignity can only be rightly seen and fully protected by prayer.

Prayer makes space for love.  This is true in the heart of each believer.  This is true in marriages.  This is true in families.  This is true in communities.   Love, in the form of social friendship, is the only foundation on which civility can be maintained. Real social friendship is not something innate or apriori in human nature.  It is something learned -- in fact it is the hardest thing to learn, because one cannot learn it except at the expense of his own life.  This is exactly why God sent his Son into the World - to show us how to love one another and God, and to give us His own power so that we might begin to relate to God and to one another in ways not subject to death.  Because family prayer (and the family rosary in particular) dispose parents and children to that unfathomable Divine Love Christ makes present in both our social and personal histories, the daily prayer of families together offers a remedy that may help America progress towards that culture of life and civilization of love God has called us to be in the world.