This week, I have been chatting with various members of the Order of Malta as we prepare for our upcoming pilgrimage. Every single one of them has offered some variation on this theme: “Oscar’s presence will be such a blessing to us. It is our privilege to pray for you.”
This seemed, at first, quite strange to me, considering that these folks are bending over backwards and working countless hours to make this trip as easy as possible for us. (I have joked that I could ask for a pony to ride in Lourdes, and they would probably try to find me one.) But after further consideration it makes a lot of sense to me.
My children require a lot of sacrifices from me, but they are undeniably worth it. Friendships (that are worth anything) make demands of us, and yield fruit. My marriage depends on constant prayer, work, and sacrifice, and it is the greatest blessing of my life. Things that are costly are often costly in both senses: expensive and valuable.
Undoubtedly, many of the holiest people in the world are cloistered religious who sit behind closed doors and make their entire lives a sacrifice of prayer for the good of the outside world. St. Therese of Lisieux is the patron saint of missionaries not because she WAS a missionary, as she longed to be, but because she prayed for them so fervently in her Carmelite convent. Their sacrifice of prayer cost their worldly life, but who knows what it gained?
Intercessory prayer — the practice of praying for others, in word and in action — is always ultimately grounded in Christ’s intercession for us in his self-sacrifice on Calvary. This type of prayer draws us out of ourselves helps us to see that we share our brokenness and our need in common, and unites us in the body of Christ. And it allows others to be lifted when they are not strong enough to pray for themselves (ask me how I know!).
And just as we ask friends to pray for us, we ask the saints to pray for us, and in particular the greatest saint: Mary, the Mother of God. I love a small fable I once heard to explain the way Mary’s intercession works: a poor peasant approaches the throne of a king with a request and a small and paltry gift, a wormy apple from his orchard. But he does not bring it directly to the throne himself, presenting it first to the queen. She polishes the apple, plucks out the worm, and carries it to the king on a golden platter, along with the peasant’s request.
So my friends: this week, our family are the peasants journeying before the throne. We are bringing our own prayers to the queen, of course. But I would love to bring an entire village worth of prayers with me.
Please: leave me a comment, send me an email, and tell us what petitions we can take to Lourdes for you. I am physically writing each one down, and carrying them throughout our pilgrimage.
Your presence in our lives is a blessing to us. It will be our privilege to pray for you.