Cathedral parishioner makes a habit of prayer

| Susan Klemond | March 1, 2016 | 0 Comments
Tony Guajardo prays in the Piéta chapel at the Cathedral of St. Paul. It’s one of his favorite places to lift up his prayer intentions. Other spots include the eucharistic adoration chapel and the Mary and Joseph chapels.

Tony Guajardo prays in the Piéta chapel at the Cathedral of St. Paul. It’s one of his favorite places to lift up his prayer intentions. Other spots include the eucharistic adoration chapel and the Mary and Joseph chapels.

Cathedral parishioner’s habitual prayer for the living and the dead flows from call to serve the Church

Part four in a 14-part Year of Mercy series highlighting local Catholics who live out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

With a green spiral-bound notebook in hand, Tony Guajardo walks into his parish, the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.

In his notebook, he’s written the names of at least 100 people or groups for whom he prays regularly. Some have asked for his prayers, while others he’s been inspired to pray for. Once a name is in his book, he doesn’t stop praying.

Tony Guajardo’s prayer journal is filled with inspiring messages, plus names of people he is praying for.

Tony Guajardo’s prayer journal is filled with inspiring messages, plus names of people he is praying for.

He reads the names, places the book on the altar next to the monstrance, kneels and bows his head in prayer with petitions and a Catholic prayer book containing the mysteries of the rosary, litany of humility, and acts of faith, hope and love, among others.

He intercedes for the living and the dead in this routine three times a week.

“It helps me to place myself in the presence of God, and it also helps me to refocus on my life,” said Guajardo, 56, who seven years ago retired from the landscaping business he owned in Michigan. “I wait for God to move me in ways that are good and just. I ask God for things. I wait for God to speak.”

To end his time in eucharistic adoration, Guajardo prays the Apostles’ Creed and rosary for those in his book and for priestly and religious vocations. When he has more time, he prays a special 15-decade rosary, followed by five more decades on the rosary his dad gave him. Later, he writes his inspirations from prayer in the green notebook.

“You will fall in love with God the more you pray,” he said.

Spreading God’s love

Guajardo’s personal ministry is praying every day for his living and deceased relatives and friends, emergency responders, those in need and even entire cemeteries of souls he never knew.

Guajardo’s dedication is one of seven spiritual works of mercy, which he not only performs at Mass and eucharistic adoration, but also while driving, updating his Facebook status and doing other daily activities. The practice of prayer he learned from his father when he was young is all about offering those in need charity, which he said he receives in return from the Lord.

“My prayer life is constant,” Guajardo said. “I always pray for somebody. Sometimes I pray for myself, and I ask others to pray for me as well.”

Friends and family — even those not practicing the faith — bring intentions to Guajardo, said his wife, Ann Guajardo, who works at the Cathedral.

Because he feels God is even more present during the consecration at Mass, that’s another time Guajardo prays for living and deceased relatives, including his mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and her caregivers. The more time he spends praying for others and in personal prayer, the more he receives from Mass, he said.

Tony Guajardo uses social media to assist his prayer life, using Facebook to send messages to people he’s praying for and to post prayers.

Tony Guajardo uses social media to assist his prayer life, using Facebook to send messages to people he’s praying for and to post prayers.

On his Facebook page, he asks God to help anyone who needs it that day. On the social media platform, he shares what he’s heard from the Lord in prayer, faith-related articles, saint biographies and family photos with his more than 3,100 Facebook friends. And to signify his prayer postings, he adds a “digital sign of the cross” by typing three plus signs.

“I feel fulfilled praying, so I know God is energizing me and motivating me to pray more,” he said. “I feel God encourages me to spread his love and message. That is why I post my thoughts and prayers on Facebook. I want to spread God’s love and message.”

Unceasing prayer

Guajardo cites Scripture verses that encourage Christians to pray without ceasing (1 Thes 5:17) and to pray for others (Jn 17:24).

Each morning, Guajardo begins bringing those needs to the Lord during prayer with his wife and their two young sons in their Maplewood home. Wherever he is, he starts each prayer with the sign of the cross, praying mostly formal prayers as opposed to spontaneous, informal prayers.

But whether formal or informal, he said, “We’re designed to live the prayers that we recite, and say them from our heart.”

As he drives his sons to school, Guajardo prays when police or emergency vehicles pass. He said prayer has increased his respect for law enforcement.

He also prays for the dead while passing cemeteries or roadside markers where someone died. He says a quick prayer for the departed and sometimes asks God to “send his angels down to the souls, that they may rise to heaven.”

“When I was a little boy, my dad would pass a cemetery and he would always say a prayer,” Guajardo recalled. “I just picked up on that habit. I always say God gave me my faith, and my dad put my faith on course.”

PrayerCar

Whenever Tony Guajardo passes by a cemetery, he takes time to pray for the dead buried there.

Prayer matters

While Guajardo was growing up in Michigan, his father taught him to pray for the dead, along with the Our Father, Hail Mary and Act of Contrition, which he and his family now pray at Mass after Communion.

In 2005, his dying father’s request for continued prayers convinced Guajardo of the importance of this prayer. When he read 2 Mc 12:39-45, he realized souls might be in purgatory, where they are unable to pray for themselves.

“If they’re already in heaven, God will apportion prayers to souls who do need them,” he said. “We need to be praying all the time. Prayer is so important — praying for each other, the living and the deceased.”

Guajardo’s prayer for the living and dead has led him to other works of mercy, including teaching catechism (instructing the ignorant), reaching out to the homeless (feeding the hungry and clothing the naked) and caring for the sick.

Because he’s discerned that his prayer is part of a deeper call to serve the Church, Guajardo said he plans to apply for the permanent diaconate this spring.

Acknowledging that prayer isn’t always easy, Guajardo said that over the years prayer has become a joyful part of his life.

“When I was younger, it was not as joyful,” he said. “It seemed dry and more like work. But as I have aged, prayer is a joy.”

He said God has blessed him when he prays for difficult people.

“The best time to love someone is when you don’t want to, when they really don’t deserve it,” Guajardo said. “That’s when God is really blessing you.”

Ann Guajardo said prayer is one reason her husband is a strong man of faith who rarely thinks of himself.

“He just tries to live right, always remaining the same,” she said.

Guajardo doesn’t expect anything in return, but sometimes feels love and joy from God and people he’s praying for, such as a Facebook friend’s “thank you” or comments from others who appreciate his prayers.

Although Guajardo can’t pray for every need, he trusts God will tell him when to write another name in his notebook.

Prayer “does matter in some way, whether it’s helping somebody or changing somebody,” Guajardo said. “When I pray, it makes a difference. When I don’t pray, it also makes a difference.”

Photos by Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

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Category: Featured, Year of Mercy