Rediscover the power and peace of prayer

| Bishop Andrew Cozzens | January 15, 2014

BishopCozzensArchbishop John Nienstedt has not yet returned to writing his column. Bishop Andrew Cozzens, auxiliary bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, offers the following guest column for this issue.

Something we haven’t heard as much about lately is the Rediscover: initiative launched by the archdiocese last year. Some may wonder if it was a one-time effort, perhaps simply timed with the Year of Faith, which wrapped up with the big event at the St. Paul RiverCentre last October.

However, Rediscover: was created as an ongoing effort in this local Church to fulfill our call to the New Evangelization. The first evidence of our commitment to keeping this successful effort going is right here in our archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Spirit. You may have noticed that our Rediscover: section is continuing into the new year. And, it will continue throughout the year, along with all of the many other elements of the initiative, including the 2014 “big event,” set for Oct. 3-4 at a much bigger venue, the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Other elements, such as the Rediscover: faith Speakers Series, “The Rediscover: Hour” weekly radio program on 1330AM Relevant Radio, and more than 500 Catholic book clubs at parishes all around our archdiocese are all continuing for Year 2.

And, I hear that we can even expect improvements to our website, Rediscover-faith.org, and our innovative mobile app to launch in another month or so.

So, Rediscover:, an effort that drew thousands of people to rediscover the depth and beauty of our Catholic faith last year is alive and well and fired up for Year 2.

The focus for this second year revolves around prayer: What is prayer? Why pray? How to pray? There are excellent opportunities throughout 2014 to learn and engage in new and helpful ways and, of course and especially, to invite others to rediscover their Catholic faith and start with prayer.

Without this element of invitation, Rediscover: is just another faith enrichment program for those who are already engaged. We need to ensure we continue to grow well beyond that, and this requires us to live out our faith with joy and invite others to find out more about the source of that joy.

As we end our Christmas season and enter Ordinary Time, this theme of prayer is being highlighted from the most important source of all. If you had the chance to go to daily Mass the last few weeks, you might have noticed a couple of times in the Gospels a very important little phrase that showed up.

On Wednesday, Jan. 8, the Gospel of Mark told us that after Jesus fed 5,000 people he took leave of those people and his disciples and “he went off to the mountain to pray” (Mark 6:47). Then on Friday, Jan. 10, St. Luke told us that Jesus’ fame was growing in Galilee and daily large crowds were seeking him, but often “he would withdraw to deserted places to pray” (Luke 5:16).

If you read the Gospels, you find this is a consistent fact. Frequently, Jesus leaves the crowds which are seeking him, leaves the disciples who are following him and goes off early in the morning or late at night to find a deserted place where he can be alone with his Father.

We might ask ourselves why? Why does Jesus, the Son of God, the one who is always united perfectly with the Trinity, need to find deserted places for quiet in order to be with his Father? Why does he think this is so important that he does this so frequently it seems almost every day?

We might also ask, what happens when Jesus speaks with his Father in these moments? We could even ask, what is the Father saying to Jesus in these moments?

I’m quite sure that these moments are recorded in the Scriptures for us precisely because Jesus wants us to ask these questions, and because he wants us to apply them to ourselves. We might put it this way: If the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, needed to find quiet time away from all distractions to be with his Father, how can you and I, who claim to be his disciples, expect to live a Christian life in imitation of Jesus without regularly finding quiet, deserted places where we can be with God in our hearts?

Listening to God’s voice

First let me clarify what I mean by prayer in this context, since as Catholics we have so many types of prayer. Here I’m talking about what the Catholic tradition has called “mental prayer.” One might call it relational prayer, or sometimes it is called prayer of the heart.

It is a conversation between persons that leads to a deeper relationship. It means learning to listen to the voice of God in my heart and responding to that voice in the way I live. It is the life of prayer that leads to union with God, about which ALL the saints spoke. Saints often said different kinds of prayer and drew life from the prayer of the liturgy. But each of them also had a personal relationship with God in prayer where they surrendered their personal difficulties and struggles to him and where they learned to listen to the voice of his heart speaking to theirs.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, one of the great saints of our age, explained this prayer to her sisters, the women religious in the community she founded called the Missionaries of Charity. Notice she is writing to consecrated women, and she still expresses her concern that they need real relational prayer with Jesus:

“Jesus wants me to tell you again, especially in this Holy Week, how much is the love He has for each one of you — beyond all you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus — one to one — you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in chapel — but have you seen with eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus — not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace, He is longing simply to give it. Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able to hear Him saying ‘I Thirst’ in the hearts of the poor. Never give up this intimate contact with Jesus as a real living person — not just one idea. How can we last even one day living our life without hearing Jesus say ‘I love you’? — impossible. Our soul needs that as much as the body needs to breathe the air. If not, prayer is dead — meditation only thinking” (Mother Teresa, “Varanasi Letter,” in Joseph Langford, M.C., “Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire” [Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 2008], 54-55).

The point is this: We cannot claim to have a real, living relationship with Jesus if we do not have some time each day when we consciously set aside everything and spend time in prayerful conversation with Jesus and the Trinity. If we do not have this, then Jesus is just an idea and the Church teachings just a list of rules to follow.

If, though, we begin even for a few minutes a day to imitate Jesus and find a quiet place, an adoration chapel, a corner of the house in morning or at night, and begin to place ourselves in God’s presence and speak to him, we will find it changes everything. This is the power of prayer; it begins to change us and our whole lives.

As I spend time reading the Bible or another spiritual book, as I begin to reflect on what Jesus is saying to me, then I begin to see myself and the world differently. I begin to see truly! I begin to see as Jesus sees and desire what Jesus desires. I begin to become more like Jesus.

As St. John Chrysostom said: “Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy. . . . For it is impossible, utterly impossible, for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin.” (Quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2725)

Get involved

As the Gospels clearly tell us, Jesus himself experienced the fruit that came from quiet time with his Father. This was the silent strength of his mission in the world. It was the place that he went when he was most distressed, as we see in the Garden of Gethsemane, and when he needed to be refreshed in his busy ministry.

He desires to have the same living relationship with you — a relationship that is deeper than any other relationship, if only you will take some time to be with him alone, to tell him what is on your heart, to listen to his words.

The Rediscover: initiative was founded on a simple idea, which the last four popes have all said is the goal of all evangelization: create the possibility of an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.

So, as the Rediscover: program moves into its second year and focuses on prayer as a means to this encounter, I invite you to get involved and take advantage of all of the resources that will assist you with practical teaching about how to pray and why to pray. And, invite others to join you!

When you are beginning, it can be intimidating to sit down to pray for 15 or 30 minutes of silence, much less a whole hour in the adoration chapel! Through the upcoming Speakers Series on prayer, we want to help you learn to pray in new ways and develop this encounter, this personal relationship with Jesus.

In addition, we are providing opportunities that also move beyond learning about prayer to engaging in prayer through the powerful and peaceful experience of “Cor Jesu.” Details about “Cor Jesu,” and all of these opportunities, will continue to be found here in The Catholic Spirit and on all three of our websites at http://www.TheCatholicSpirit.com, http://www.archspm.org and http://www.Rediscover-faith.org.

In the coming year, let’s come together as Christian disciples to rediscover the power and peace of prayer — and invite family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors to join us. And, may we look to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as our model for both.

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