In Cardinal Sarah’s great book, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, he quotes St. John Vianney on prayer, “See my children, A Christian’s treasure is not on earth. It is in heaven. Well, then! Our thoughts must go where our treasure is. Man has a fine function: to pray and to love. You pray, you love: that is man’s happiness on earth!” (p 151).
When Women Pray
Prayer is the way of knowing God the Father, Jesus, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The value we place on prayer amounts to a choice between wisdom or folly. It’s that simple. Prayer is a necessary, holy duty. Prayer is wise because it is the will of God. Prayer is worth the effort and brings fruitfulness. Prayer empowers the active apostolate and forms “contemplatives in action”. But for prayer, we need courage (Catechism clearly states that prayer is a battle) and we need encouragement from others who practice the way of prayer.
For this reason, I invited ten women who are known in Catholic circles for their fruitful apostolates (activity or work) in and for the Church. I invited these leaders to write about the hidden part of their spirituality: their prayer lives. The Holy Spirit wove together a beautiful tapestry on prayer life that is altogether relatable, informative and inspiring.
Johnnette Benkovic penned, “For the Christian who is serious about who he really is, prayer is not optional. As lungs are to physical life, prayer is to spiritual life. Prayer informs, reforms, transforms, and conforms us to Christ.”
Dr. Ronda Chervin wrote, “The Holy Spirit led me to infuse prayer into the classroom, not just at the start and the end of each class, but as occasion arose. If a student mentioned being anxious about a sick relative and wondering how a God of love could let people suffer, I would stop the class and have us all pray for that person.”
Dr. Pia de Solleni wrote, “St. John Paul II wrote, “Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts.” Could this not refer to the way in which a woman’s body disposes her to see and interact with human life in its very beginning?”
Dr. Mary Healy offered, “Throughout this time I found one kind of prayer to be more life-changing than any other (in fact, I think it is the best kept secret of the spiritual life): the power of praise. I first experienced this gift through the “festivals of praise” at Franciscan University-gatherings where the students would spend hours doing nothing but praising and worshipping God.”
Lisa Hendey wrote, “Being a mother for the first-time evoked emotions that drove me (often literally) to my knees. My begging pleas, amid the barrage of dirty diapers and sleepless nights, for the skills to be a worthy mom formed my lamentations.”
Joan Lewis penned, “Then I realized that I am not Teresa of Avila or Therese or John Paul II or a psalmist, those to whom God had given greater graces. I am Joan, created in God’s image and likeness and with my own gifts. Those gifts did not include soaring, powerful love phrases. Perhaps my gift is being able to talk, and sometimes cry and laugh with childlike simplicity, with my friend Jesus.”
Kathryn Jean Lopez offered, “When I pray, I feel the presence of some of these women I’ve mentioned—the saints whom Pope Benedict XVI helped me to know better. It’s often the events of the world that I cover as a commentator and editor that draw me deeper into prayer.”
Marilyn Quirk wrote, “The fruit of prayer: 1) We experience fellowship, 2) He changes us, 3) He teaches us, 4) He helps us to discern, 5) He strengthens us against temptations, 6) He uses our gifts.”
Vicki Thorn penned, “With Project Rachel, I’ve come to appreciate Jesus’ special relationship to wounded women. Often, we carry our wounds with us and hold God’s mercy at arm’s length because we feel unworthy, but we should not do this. Praying with the Gospel passages in which Jesus heals women can be very fruitful.”
Kelly Wahlquist offered, “In these times when I am struggling, I go to where I know Him to be… even if I don’t feel Him there. I take great comfort knowing that although I may not be able to find Him, He will always find me. Just pray.”
Excerpt from Foreword by Sr. Regina Marie Gorman, O.C.D.
Somewhere in the secret chambers of a woman’s heart there is a gentle, persistent longing for holiness. We use various words to describe this longing: a desire for depth, for wholeness; a hunger for something more meaningful than our daily routine, something greater than ourselves. Sometimes we become aware of this longing during those precious moments of peace and leisure. At other times the yearning makes itself known during barren days of angst or during crushing periods of darkness.
Why such a persistent longing in a woman’s heart? How does she satisfy the longing during all the fluctuating seasons of the soul? The answers to these two questions are intrinsically linked. If you understand the answer to the first question, you have already solved the problem of the second question.
The persistent longing was actually embedded in our DNA the moment we were conceived. We were made in Love, by Love, and for Love. God, who is total, infinite, unchanging Love, thought of you, and His Heart was flooded with love for you. He created you that He might carry you in His love, that you might be in intimate relationship with Him, talk with Him, allow Him to love you, to touch you, to speak with you. You didn’t do anything to deserve this love. You can’t do anything to lose His love. It is yours. Forever. No matter what. That is why we are never completely fulfilled except when we are close to God. That is why we experience the longing, that He might fill it as only He can.
How do we weather the seasons of the soul? As best we can. We are frail human beings. That is all we ever will be. Our frailty poses no obstacle whatsoever to God.
The Lord cannot take His eyes off us; it is impossible for Him to tear His Heart away from us. We are never alone. But so often we can feel alone and can become absorbed in our little world. That is because we can forget the unimaginable power and blessing that belongs to us: we are able to communicate with God.
In the Old Testament, we discover women who prayed, women whose influence continues throughout the centuries even to today: Esther and the power of one woman’s intercession; Judith’s audacious faith and unstoppable resolve; Deborah’s far-reaching influence as the only woman judge. In the New Testament, we come upon that unknown child whose simple trust in the Word of the Lord brought about her unconditional Fiat, and the world was changed forever. These women spoke with God, they listened to Him and responded in faith.
Our Lord does not need special people or extraordinary circumstances. Look at the people He chose: a Hebrew girl, a carpenter, a few fishermen, Magdalene, a group of women who accompanied Him. Holiness is integrated within the routine and commonplace, within the scheduled and unscheduled happenings during each day’s unfolding. In that unfolding, our individual paths are often fraught with suffering and pain, that is true, but they are also emblazoned with the fire of love that overcomes and prevails.
We encounter joy and peace in the surrendered heart. A broken heart becomes the seedbed of new life. There is an unspoken confidence owing from the sure and certain knowledge that God accompanies us every step of the way.
In the early 1950s Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen made a compelling statement on his popular television program Life Is Worth Living.
“The level of any civilization is always the level of its womanhood.” The testimonies in this book are unique and personal. The authors share real struggles, tragic pain, palpable triumphs. These women have one thing in common: in the midst of their very human condition they learned to pray. It is that simple. Each woman emerges as a source of life to others. Each touches other hearts and raises the level of our civilization. This book is an invitation to step into your rightful place alongside women who have prayed through the centuries; women who have heard the beating Heart of God and changed the world forever.
Editor’s note: This article is a preview of When Women Pray: Eleven Catholic Women on the Power of Prayer, which is available as ebook or paperback from Sophia Institute Press.
The Diocese of Orange, CA Book Club chose, When Women Pray as a featured selection and will host an Author Event at Christ Cathedral on July 20. Visit: http://occatholic.com/oc-catholic-book-club/