Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (7 March 2015)
We live in world filled with wires. As we walk around our homes, we see wires for the telephones, televisions, appliances, computers and various gadgets that are used. Even wireless appliances require some wires. Why do we have wires? There is a need to connect, to energise and to recharge the things that we use. That’s the same with our relationship with God isn’t it? There’s an ever present need to connect.
What does Lent mean to all of us? Repentence? Conversion? Penances? I’d say yes to all of those but it’s also about reconnecting with God. And it’s that last thing that makes all the former intentions for Lent make sense. And it’s also one of the harder things to do. If we recall the Gospel read at Ash Wednesday, we were told that we should fast, pray and give alms during lent. Prayer helps us to connect with God and helps to give meaning to the fasting and almsgiving. Just giving things away might not be as meaningful as recognising who you’re giving the things to and how that’s helping both others and your own relationship with them and with God.
Prayer helps to bring things together. And prayer is not just about set prayers, going for masses, novenas, praying the rosary and other things. St Ignatius of Loyola, in The Spiritual Exercises likens spiritual exercises to physical exercises. Just as the latter takes on many forms and is aimed at getting us fit, spiritual exercises allow us to become fitter spiritually. We become stronger in faith and get closer to God, connecting with God so that all the other actions in our daily lives make sense.
To make things a little clearer, we take an example from our Blessed Mother. In the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), Mary prays a beautiful prayer when she visits Elizabeth and that can be seen to be model prayer for us as well. In it are three elements that stand out – Praise, Gratitude and a recognition of Self and Others. This is not the usual definition of prayer but it seems to make sense.
- Praise. Praise stems from our deep knowledge of an eternal God that is so much greater than me, being there for me all the time. This comes when Mary says ‘My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my saviour!’ There’s trust and hope in this praise and a great joy in the acknowledgement of God’s continuing presence with us.
- Gratitude. Being thankful comes next – thankful for all the graces that we receive and for our very lives as creatures of the creator. In this is a recognition of our inability to do things on our own. ‘The Almighty has done great things for me and Holy is his name!’ Mary is able to know that God has done and continues to do great things for us and praises God for that.
- Self and Others. Knowing who I am in relation to God and others is important. We need to know that we’re not alone and that we and all those around us are children of God. We need to be aware of ourselves without being proud or selfish. We realise that we can and should do what we can for others and that includes praying for them too. Mary remembers the poor and and downtrodden in the prayer as well.
Our Blessed Mother does all this in her life and in her prayers. We can use the Magnificat as a model for how we can build better connections to God during Lent. Prayer can strengthen our resolve to stick with our Lenten observances in the face of temptation. And these better connections can help us to truly feel God around us and walk closer with the Lord this Lent.