“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
AT a breakfast after mass at the Holy Family Church during a school fundraiser in Glendale California one beautiful fall morning three years ago, a statuesque, well groomed lady holding her breakfast tray asked my husband, my sister Olga and myself, if she could join us. We said yes of course. There weren’t enough tables and chairs in the auditorium at the time.
After a few pleasantries and the frost among strangers had thawed, the woman indicated that she was from the East Coast and she was visiting her son who lived in the city. She was staying in a hotel for a few days and had checked online for the nearest church where she could attend mass. She remarked that the Glendale Holy Family Catholic Church with Spanish architecture built in the 1920’s was beautiful.
The conversation around the table was light at first, meandering around innocuous, safe topics. Out of nowhere, she asked us to pray for her son. Startled at first, I asked what her son’s name was and we all must have made a mental note of it. It seems that her 36-year old son who is an engineer, with so much going for him, had a major relapse in his bid to overcome his alcoholic addiction — yet again.
His poison of choice – vodka. She was in town to check him in to a rehab facility and taking a chance on a new drug that would have adverse, irreversible ramifications if there is recidivism or if he ever went back to the bottle. In short, it was a last ditch attempt to end his addiction.
Over breakfast we had a glimpse of the turmoil the woman was going through in seeing a loved one going through the repeated cycles of addiction and rehabilitation, only to go through it over and over again– a seemingly hopeless struggle that many battle with these days.
It is like Sisyphus of Greek mythology who was punished by the gods for chronic deceitfulness and wickedness. He was cursed for eternity to roll a rock uphill only to have fate roll it back downhill just when success at lodging it safely on top of a steep hill was a sure thing.
She let slip that another son had died in the last year, the reason for which, she didn’t mention. And she would have to come again and visit in December because her alcoholic son has an ex-girlfriend who is pregnant and is due by then. You can’t make this stuff up. Life is just so tough that her face was etched in pain. Yet there was also a brief glimpse of hope for the baby about to be born. Grief, just like joy, has way of welling up within and spilling over.
We listened to her over breakfast aware that she just wanted to ease up some of the heavy burden that was troubling her. A lot of us are like this woman. We each have problems that seem too much to bear until we reach out and ask others to pray for us, even strangers we will never ever see again. We ask others to knock and bang on the doors of heaven with a battering ram, if need be, to beg for help on our behalf.
In many ways, each one of us can be a prayer warrior. Often, we come to church just to be with others who are a bit like us, seeking one another’s company in seeking God’s help in many ways, big and small. Because we know deep down, by ourselves we can do nothing.
Just as gravity holds the physical universe together, prayer draws the spirit universe together among kindred souls. The power of prayer is unimaginable among those whose faith is built on solid rock.
If you can, please pray for this anonymous woman Mrs. B and her son G. Mother and son both need prayers so badly; for the son to break the bonds of addiction once and for all and for the mother or the strength and the fortitude to endure her trials and finally, for both mother and son to find the peace, serenity and just maybe, hope and joy even in a season of darkness.
And while we’re at it, we might as well decide to make time for prayer ourselves. We need to grit our teeth and cut off the electronic leash that is so much a part of our lives these days. We know we are in deep trouble when we have to post the latest “selfies” on FB even while we are in the restroom. Isn’t it time we weaned ourselves from having to spend too much time tethered to our gadgets? Our obsession with our tech toys may very well be another form of addiction.
Dwell in the silence for that is where God is. How can God speak to us if our ears are stuffed up, our hearts are not right and our minds are cluttered with non-essentials all the time? Modern life is much too full of inane, sometimes insane, distractions assailing all our senses during our waking hours to make time for God.
Perhaps we can even pray for complete strangers and those in our immediate orbit who we know are in dire straits but are either too timid or too proud to ask for help. There are people who feel diminished if they ask for help. They label themselves as proudly independent. The truth is that they are poor, unfortunate fools severely afflicted with hubris. Hubris, that extreme form of pride, the same brand that brought down the fallen angels, always prevents humans from seeking help.
When we pray, we need to learn how to delete specifics. God knows specifics — our blood type, our DNA, even the number of hair on our heads. God knows what we are asking for. The how, what, why, when and where of answers to prayers will have to be his call and his alone.
God’s love for us is beyond all telling. It will be between God and each one of us alone in the silence of our hearts. It will be that space and time where there is no FB, no Instagram, no Snapchat, no Twitter — none of the things that tend to make pompous asses of ourselves demanding attention and approval from others.
The answer to prayers is God’s call alone. We ask for help but end our prayers in humble supplication saying as Jesus said in agony as he prayed to the Father, “ … yet not my will, but yours be done.” We are simply conduits, pipelines of the flow of good that comes from God. But there is a residual effect when we suit up and become prayer warriors.
The prayers we pray build layer upon layer an intangible aura of light and goodness that soak us, permeate and envelop us. And just like in the physical universe, what goes around always comes around. The laws of cause and effect also govern the spiritual universe.
It is uncanny but most of us who try our best to nurture a spiritual life even as we take care of our bodies, have that instinctive gift for detecting which among us emanate this invisible shield of energy and light. They are usually the ones with the quiet or sometimes effusive, contagious joy about them. Strangely, we tend to gravitate towards such people.
After all, as humans, we are all in this together, from one generation to the next. As the Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once so astutely said of humanity: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
I have the strangest feeling that with faith and unceasing prayer, both mother and son and his new family will be just fine in the end. There is no doubt it will be a long tough slog but they won’t be alone. The woman has faith. She reaches out and asks for prayers and the ripple of powerful heartfelt prayers builds up like a tsunami wave that will burst open heaven’s door for the graces they need.
Will we ever know for certain of the outcome? Perhaps not, but that is what faith does. We do not need to know. We simply trust in God’s ways.
* * *
Nota Bene: Monette Adeva Maglaya is SVP of Asian Journal Publications, Inc. To send comments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org