This World Day of Prayer came this year at a time unlike any other most of us have ever known. Hardships of every kind are at our doorsteps and many experience a sense of general desperation and frustration. We cannot be blamed for feeling like a kitten dropped into a pen filled with legions of mice, wondering which we should tackle first.
This year’s theme of Build on a Strong Foundation has us examining our own foundations. Hate and divisiveness threaten to eat away at the bedrock of our families and communities. The plague of Corona Virus 19 and now its ever-expanding variants make us feel more like people of Moses’ time, than members of a modern, enlightened 21st century society.
We walk this pilgrimage with many others, as all countries struggle. Our communities of faith and prayer groups take on increased meaning for even the most devout. I cherish my beloved Pilgrim Walk, which hangs in my study space, by friend and artist, Stacy Wills Stall. The blank face reminds me of the personal pilgrimage I walk, within those groups, and of those who walk with me. She walks in darkness lit by the light of the moon. Her robe seems to absorb the sacred ground she trods, into her being. It represents to me the thinnest of spaces with my Lord.
Online prayers groups, gratitude sites and my writing group complete my worldwide tribe. We pray together, as we work. We pray together, over our families and friends and our countries. We pray for our governments even when we find ourselves on opposite sides of sensitive issues, because that is what we are called to do.
I study as a novitiate, with the monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, toward my Benedictine oblation. I chose this path to be schooled in the art of prayer and service to the God I adore.
In a lesson on Fidelity to the Spirit of the Monastic Life, Fr. Justin DuVall, OBS, Archabbot emeritus of Saint Meinrad Archabbey says, “for St. Benedict the word ‘school’ meant something more akin to a trade guild, where a young person began as an apprentice, learned the tools of the trade and practiced for life what was learned. Just as with the guild no one graduates from ‘the school of the Lord’s service.’ In lifelong learning, we practice what we’ve learned and learn what we need to practice.”
As a late starter, it would be so easy to feel so far behind but for the prayers and support I receive from my fellow pilgrims. The first World Day of Prayer theme in 1927, set by the US, was Pray Ye Therefore. Coupling this now with this current year’s theme, chosen by the South Seas people of Vanuatu: Build on a Strong Foundation, seems perfect, moving forward.
The people of Vanuatu, a tropical archipelago prone to earthquakes, cyclones, volcanic eruptions, and rising sea levels have first-hand knowledge of the importance of building a strong foundation both practically and in the faith walk the country was founded upon. The country has only been independent for 40 years. Its official motto is “in God we stand.” They collectively accept that without God they can do nothing. Oh, how I wonder how many of the world’s ills might improve if we only adopted and lived this same simple slogan both corporately and individually.
As we look to March 8th, International Women’s Day, with its theme, ‘Choose to Challenge,’ I wonder if we began by first challenging ourselves, to make every day a world day of prayer, joining with others to pray before standing not only against injustices, but for what is holy. How much it could change us? Perhaps we would turn to prayer first before we speak out, thereby asking that our words and actions be guided by divine leadership. Perhaps we would indeed seek to first understand rather than be understood in our missions, to better be able to answer the objections and arguments of those who would oppose others’ human rights.
Dear Father, as we move forward following this World Day of Prayer, may we each walk beside you. May we listen to your guidance, study your word, pray with our sisters and brothers around the world and around the corner. May we seek to aspire to what you would have us aspire to. May we trust as the people of Vanuatu do that without you, we can do nothing of good in this world. And may we have the faith of knowing that, as Nelson Mandela said, “we can in fact change the world and make it a better place.” Amen