BY JUSTIN WHITE | March 12, 2019
Today’s Readings

There was a time in my life when I did not even know the words of the Our Father. My parents enrolled me in Catholic school when I entered the sixth grade. I had been in public school up to that point so I experienced a bit of culture shock. I was not baptized Catholic at the time, and the extent of my family’s participation in a faith tradition involved attending church on Easter once or twice and praying before dinner. My understanding of God came from what I saw in TV shows and movies. Then I went to Catholic school and everything changed.  

I called my teacher Sister…but she was not my sister!

We said prayers called the Hail Mary and the Our Fatherbut who is Mary and whose father are we praying to here?!

I went home that first week of school and practiced the prayers in the back of my book relentlessly. I particularly wanted to nail down the Our Father because I somehow knew that it was a particularly important one. I’ll never forget, one afternoon I sat in the living room practicing. I recited it so many times that my Dad woke up from a nap on the couch and said, “Hey I think that’s enough for now.” I eventually learned the prayer by heart and was very proud when I was able to recite it without my little cheat sheet.

It was as if my younger self knew how important the prayer would be to me as I got older. Over the years, where I’ve prayed the Our Father and who I’ve prayed with have led to some of the deepest feelings of Grace I’ve ever felt.

At the gates of Fort Benning Georgia with the Ignatian family.  

With a delegation at the altar where Saint Oscar Romero stood when he was slain.  

In a community center in Chalatenango, El Salvador with host families.  

On the streets of Baltimore with its citizens mourning life and crying out for justice and redemption.  

In a meal program with men and women experiencing the crippling cycle of poverty but still living with hope.  

In the classroom or on retreat with students as they discern God’s call for them.  

Jesus knew that building and maintaining a beloved community of faith would be tough and at times dangerous. So, He gave us this prayer that fosters kinship, fashions purpose, and plants hope. As we journey through the season of Lent and the season of life, wherever and with whomever we pray the Our Father, may it break all doubts and despair and remind us who we are and whose we are.

14 replies
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    Mark Peters says:

    Beautiful reflection, thanks for sharing your story! Praying with other social justice seekers, especially at times of pain, fear or anger at injustice, has been some of my most meaningful prayer as well.

    Reply
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    Tom and Nancy Chisholm says:

    I served at Ft. Benning in the early Seventies in Martin Army Hospital when our children were very young. TheCatholic Community was active. Benning is intensely Infantry and the Jump School was/is there. I did not know that the School of the Americas trained, indoctrinated Latin Military there for “leadership” roles in Latin America until I joined Vets For Peace (see veteransforpeace.org) and other anti-war groups in The Twin Cities led by Fr. Bourgeois in the early Nineties. Now the group protests at THE WlLL along the Mexican border. Prayer is powerful but not enough. Join the Protests! The Refugees are all victims of US political, military and economic interventions for at least 200 years.

    Reply
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      Justin White says:

      Tom and Nancy,

      Thank you for your response, your witness, and your all work. You are absolutely right, prayer coupled with action is a powerful and effective way of proceeding.

      Reply
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    Kristin Shewfelt says:

    As my parents grew elderly, I moved back to Colorado and lived with them for a number of years until they were at a place where they had 24/7 caregivers. At that time, with more people in the house, my daughter and I moved to an apartment nearby. Their faith has been a strong foundation of their marriage, and I still take them to Sunday Mass every week. One of my favorite moments is the singing of the Our Father, holding both my mother’s hand on one side and my father’s on the other. It is a quiet, deep, solemn expression of love and faith as we each quietly sing this prayer of all prayers.

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      Justin White says:

      Kristin,

      Thank you for your response and sharing that intimate, powerful, and prayerful experience with your parents…truly Grace-filled.

      Reply
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    George Bur, S.J. says:

    Thanks, Justin. I remember praying the Our Father in some of the sites that you so fittingly enumerated. I want to add, too, that I have said the prayer often with those in hospice, near death and even those suffering from severe dementia. It always fills me with hope when the lips of those suffering begin to move with the words.

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      Justin White says:

      Fr. Bur,

      Thank you for your response, your witness, your ministry and all your work. Your comment directly speaks to the beauty that Grace surrounds us at all stages of life.

      Reply
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    Carla Foote says:

    This is meaningful. There is a woman at my church who has a degenerative brain disease but still likes to come and sit in church. Sometimes I drive her to church when her husband can’t. I was sitting by her and wondering if she understood anything that was going on, because she has a blank look much of the time. Then she started saying the Our Father with everyone else – and I realized that memorization of prayers and scripture can be so meaningful – as the recesses of our soul and brain can respond to God, even when it seems that we are not “with it”.

    Reply
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      Justin White says:

      Carla,

      Thank you for your response and sharing that absolutely beautiful, intimate, and Grace-willed witness. Just so powerful…

      Reply
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    Donald A. MacMillan, SJ says:

    This reflection is so “spot on”. The Our Father is Jesus teaching us not to be afraid to speak directly to God acknowledging his presence and our relationship with God and all God’s family who say this prayer.

    Reply
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    Caroline says:

    Thank you so much, Justin, for his rich reflection on our need for community, how Jesus knew, and gave us a prayer, short and sweet, to build community! So very true!

    Reply

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