For Sunday, October 9, 2016, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
An African-American hymn sings: “Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Lord! I just want to thank you, Lord!” I was introduced to this hymn while in seminary. It became one of my favorites, because the words reflect the attitude of gratitude at the heart of Catholic Christian life: “Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God. It is right and just.” The Dominican mystic, Meister Eckhart, put it this way: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
But gratitude seems to have been on the decline in our culture over recent years. The Today Show did an experiment, wherein one of their staff stood at the entrance of Rockefeller Plaza and held the door for people as they entered or exited the building. Fewer than thirty percent of people said, “Thank you.” Some people did look into the eyes of the person who held the door and smiled, but the majority of people simply walked through without any response. That experience led me to ask: Is it because people take courteous acts for granted? Is it because people feel entitled to simple acts of courtesy like this? Is it because people are too preoccupied with hurt or worry? What is the reason? (more…)
These days there are numerous phone apps that can help you keep track of your health – diet, fitness, and even heart rate. One such app that I stumbled upon recently is called Breathe, which notifies you periodically to stop and practice a deep breathing repetition for a couple of minutes.
It’s really not a bad idea. With the pace many of us keep, it’s difficult to quiet our racing minds and relax. Deep, repetitive breathing is one of our body’s built-in stress relievers.
There is a great way for Catholics to practice repetitive breathing while praying. A prayer from the ancient Church called The Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”) is often prayed with deep breathing.
One way of praying it is mentally breathing in the first half – “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God” – and exhaling the second part – “have mercy on me, a sinner. ”
Eastern Orthodox Christians often use a prayer rope that has 33 knots on it (for each year of Christ’s life) to keep them on track, much as we do with The Rosary. The repetition of this with the accompanying breath pattern is very effective for creating a restful time with God and reminding ourselves that we are in need of God’s mercy.
The scriptural origin of The Jesus Prayer is the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18) where the Publican prays “God be merciful to me, a sinner” as opposed the Pharisee’s self-righteous prayer. The earliest references to its use are in the fifth and sixth centuries. It was considered to be a prayer that produces inner stillness and peace.
Today this prayer is primarily practiced by Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics. Along with the Hail Mary, it is a go-to prayer for me. It is ideal for the Year of Mercy and an excellent way to still our over active minds while calling upon the help of the Lord.
Chuck Frost is Pastoral Associate at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Roanoke, Virginia. Chuck was received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in 2000 after spending 10 years as a United Methodist Pastor in Mississippi and Alaska. After becoming Catholic, Chuck served for 9 years as Diocesan Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Savannah, GA. Chuck has a MDiv from Duke Divinity School.