Who’d ever think that the word “prayerfully” would become a buzzword in ecclesiastical circles? Now it’s up there with other over used words of years past; groovy, gnarly, cool, sweet, neat, kielbasa, etc. This becomes clear when we hear the kerfuffle Pope Francis’ new restrictions on the Old Latin Mass have created. For those not of the Catholic species or too young to remember, the traditional Mass is recognizable by the priest with his back to you, rarely speaking aloud, always in Latin with precise, economical gestures that you don’t see. The congregation was there to glorify God but participation was accomplished by following along in the St. Joseph’s Missal, praying the rosary or checking the bulletin for the Bingo prize money that week.
Many bishops throughout the world responded with “What did he do now?” “Is he nuts?” “Bring back the guy who wore the Prada shoes!” This would be accompanied by the bishops sending words of encouragement/discouragement/disbelief/ignorance to the Latin Mass people in their respective dioceses. The Episcopate is just trying to stay out of the line of fire. Most of their statements included “prayerfully.” Unfortunately the word connotes different meanings for what the guys with the pointy hats want to impart; so much so that it becomes a fuzzword. A few examples are in order.
One archiepiscopal gentleman, a strong supporter of the Latin Mass, used it as a delaying tactic. “I will prayerfully look over this document before making a precipitous or knee jerk reaction.” [paraphrased] Delay works for the Old Mass crowd like it did for the early Christians martyrs, insisting on saying Grace Before Meals as the lions charged. Many bishops are using it in the same way, as a logjam until they can see which way the river will flow. This is a classic Church tactic which kicks the thurible down the decade hoping everything goes away. Then there is the unassailable use of prayerfully.
“I will prayerfully consider my decision.” When the leader of the diocese makes this statement, be assured that he has already decided but wants to cloak the decision in the mantle of infallibility. “How dare you question my judgment on Bonzo goes to College; I prayed about it!” “The hot tub in the chancery? Of course it’s there, I prayed about it.” The problem here is you can prayerfully consider something, make a decision and still be dead wrong. Church history has many examples and it is confirmed each time I attend a casino. There is a third use of prayerfully that enthralls most bishops, ignorance.
By far the most esteemed of the prayerfully meanings, it is closely related to delay. However, this meaning admits he doesn’t know where the document came from, who REALLY wrote it, didn’t understand why Rome wouldn’t send a smoke signal up last year to warn all bishops and what happens now. “I will prayerfully read this document and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what the hell in going on in Rome.” There is a baby bishops course in Rome that newly raised to the purple presbyters attend (really). The chances are they don’t hold a lecture on “What you do when the Holy Father issues a controversial church law.” Shouldn’t there be an official in the Vatican who states of the controversy, “What the Holy Father MEANT to write is…” What happened to that guy? But back to prayerfully.
I was taught by Ursuline sisters who instilled the pain of the ruler and an appreciation of doing everything prayerfully. The only thing we shouldn’t be doing with prayer is sinning, which we would avoid more if we constantly prayed. Our greatest prayer as Catholics is the Eucharist but there are other forms of communication with the Lord; being in the company of family, enjoying conversations with friends, working, playing and even sleeping. That is our lofty goal, always at prayer; it becomes real in a lifetime of trying. Stretching out the various prayers and styles of prayer help us realize that it’s not just about talking to God, it’s also listening.
The great Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, “Some people treat God like their friends, they do all the talking.”
How much is the Bingo jackpot this week?