May 27, 2016

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Let the Holy Spirit lift you up in prayer and your life of faith

Sean GallagherThe vocabulary of my 2-year-old son Colin grows more each day. I was impressed recently when he said “scissors”—not bad for a toddler just learning to put the various sounds of the letters of the alphabet together.

My heart has been touched when I hear him try his best to join Cindy, me and his brothers when we pray before meals. He’ll usually say the last word of each line of the traditional Catholic meal blessing: “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts,/which we are about to receive/from thy bounty/through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

We adults, so limited by our reason, might think that Colin isn’t saying anything intelligible, let alone praying, when he parrots these words. But faith can embrace reason and rise beyond it. I believe St. Paul’s words to the Romans can be fulfilled in the fledgling prayers of a child:

“The Spirit, too, comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will” (Rom 8:26-27).

Colin saying “gifts,” “receive,” “bounty,” and “Amen” is a prayer itself. How much more of a kind world would we live in if each of us would humbly say “Amen” to the fact that we receive gifts from God’s bounty, and don’t support ourselves by our hard work alone or, worse, asserting ourselves over others?

The seeds of faith that were planted in Colin at his baptism are the first signs of sprouting. With the help of God’s grace, Cindy and I will try to nurture this faith as Colin continues to grow.

I know that there will be difficult times for my young son as he grows. It will be then that he’ll need the help of the Holy Spirit to raise his heart and mind to God in prayer. Even when he becomes a rather rational adult, there will be times when life’s crosses will make prayer difficult, and he’ll need the Holy Spirit to intercede for him.

Indeed, the more he depends on his reasoning alone, the more he might need to turn to the Spirit for help in his relationship with God, not to contradict reason but to embrace and rise above it.

The Church celebrated the outpouring of the Holy Spirit recently on Pentecost Sunday. This feast recalls the day 2,000 years ago when the Spirit descended from heaven upon the Apostles gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-41). Before that day, the Apostles cowered in fear behind locked doors. Once the Spirit came upon them, they burst onto the streets of Jerusalem and boldly proclaimed the Gospel.

Surely such a sudden and complete change was brought about by the intercession of the Holy Spirit. We might not experience such a rapid turnaround in our own lives. Often important changes in our lives come about slowly, step by step. But the story of Pentecost can encourage us to depend again and again on the prayers of the Spirit for us when we are troubled, and don’t know how to pray as we ought.

Even if he might not yet be able to express it in so many words, Colin is relying on the help of the Spirit in his prayers. Let’s follow his lead and let the Holy Spirit lift us up in our prayer and daily life of faith. †

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