Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A mid-week contemplation

Well, this has been an exciting week. Lots of happy dancing and babies being born, my mind has been up in the clouds the past few days. Yesterday, I had 2 students drop into my office. I was nice to them, of course, but rushing them because I needed to get ready to go to a meeting shortly. I had given them the crux of the information that they needed, but I was right in the middle of elaborating on a point when my phone rang. Naturally, I was prepared to let my phone ring and have it go to voicemail since I had people right in front of me that needed my help, but when I glanced at the caller id I saw the Maine exchange. I cut myself off in the middle of a word.

"Oh! I'm sorry! My sister had twins today. I HAVE TO TAKE THIS."

Obviously, this is not something I do everyday, but this was clearly an exception. It's not easy to make time for phone conversations when you've just had a c-section and are trying to nurse and take care of twins. No way was I missing her call.

They both widened their eyes and backed out of my office quickly, shutting the door behind them. I felt bad. But only for a second. :)

In dancing land, I've been listening to my music a lot but trying not to "overpractice." Is there such a thing as overpracticing, you may ask? Yes, there is, and I'm a master at it. Performing is mostly mental (for me at least) rather than physical. I can easily "psych myself out" and convince myself that I'm going to do something horribly wrong, I'm going to mangle my veil envelope, I'm going to drop my sword into somebody's falafel and crush one of their appendages, I'm going to have a horrifying costume malfunction after which I can never show my face in public again, and on and on. I've just been trying to put myself in a confident mental place, in which I feel all "Girl Power" and "You Can Do This, Sister!"

I have also been employing good old fashioned prayer. Prayer that I am able to feel calm and do my best. There's no time to start a novena to the patron saint of belly dance, whoever that lucky soul may be, but on Monday I was reading my Living Faith meditation for the feast of St. Therese. And the entry included an excerpt from St. Therese herself, in which she addresses prayer. She said that it was difficult for her to read prayers written by others sometimes because there are SO many beautiful ones out there that it gets overwhelming, and she felt like she couldn't "compete" (if you will) with those sentiments. She often liked to simply ask God to help her, or to say an Our Father or Hail Mary, and found that in these common prayers was a great deal of strength and solace.

That struck a chord with me because it brought a memory to the surface of my brain (no easy feat the older I get, I tell you). When I was in law school, I joined up with the Christian Legal Society. They were a really nice, warm group of people and got together every week or so to pray and study the Bible. This was right after my "reversion" back to my Catholic faith, and although I was attending daily Mass it didn't occur to me to seek out a Catholic Bible study, that there would be differences there. At any rate, nothing really objectionable came up, that I can recall at least. But at one get together we were talking about prayer. And one student there mentioned that he was raised Catholic. That's an interesting way to identify oneself, no? I've heard it many times now. "Raised Catholic." It usually means (in my experience) that the person (1) subsequently left their Catholic faith and now identifies with another faith, or is (2) technically still Catholic (never renounced their faith or officially joined up with another church) but does not actively practice their faith.

In this instance, I believe the student fell between the two categories. His relationship with God obviously meant a great deal to him, and by all accounts he was a Catholic, but he was sort of looking around for another church that he felt was a better "fit" for him. Anyway, he made the "raised Catholic" statement, and then said that prayer was one of the reasons he was uncertain about Catholicism. He said that he was taught that when one prays, you "just say a rote Our Father or Hail Mary" and he felt that this was wrong. That prayer is a more spontaneous conversation with God.

I wish I had thought to say this at the time, but prayer is of course both of those things. And you shouldn't neglect one in favor of the other. I often find that when I ask Henry to say a prayer he will recite a Haily Mary or Our Father, which is fine, but I make it a point to tell him that he can just "talk to God" for a minute instead. It is in fact very child-like to rely on the prayers that the Bible gives us, that we memorize at an early age. But is that "rote" or "not really praying, since it's not your own words?" Of course not. Simply because something is memorized does not automatically make it "rote" and by implication not meaningful. The Our Father and Hail Mary are quite meaningful when we contemplate each word as we recite them. And letting God take the lead by using the prayers from the scriptures is exemplifying the type of child-like faith Jesus was referring to, at least in my opinion.

I'm certain that on Saturday I'm going to be relying quite a bit on the old faithful Our Father and Hail Mary. I'm grateful to have these prayers and to have St. Therese as an inspiration.

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