Sunday, May 26, 2013

Trinity Sunday Homily: Pray Like a Pirate

warning pirate jokes ahead

Today I am going to teach you to pray like a pirate! 

Here's some of my favorite extremely-lame "Catholic" pirate jokes.  

Why do pirates like going to confession?  Because they get to say the Act of Contrition: "Oh my God... I am hARRRRRRtily sorry for my sins... 

Who is their favorite woman?  Mary of course... blessed ARRRRRRRRRt though among women... 

What is a pirate's favorite prayer?  The ARRRRRRR Father.  

I know they are horrible... but tell them to a four year old (or as a matter of fact a high school student) and they'll love it.  

ARRRR, what does it mean?  And why is praying like a pirate helpful?

Let me introduce you to the Acronym: A.R.R.R. 

Acknowledge, Relate, Respond, and Receive.  

St. Teresa of Avila once said, “For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.” 

This type of prayer is an intimate sharing with God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and with Mary.  

St. Ignatius always encouraged us to go to Jesus through Mary.  The wisdom of this is that not only is Mary truly our spiritual mother but she is also the model for perfect prayer.  

The Annunciation was a prayer experience that completely changed the course of her life.  Let's look at this model of praying A.R.R.R. in her experience.  

Mary was engaged to Joseph, she was a virgin, and lived in Nazareth.   She probably had a lot of different emotions going on.  Maybe she was excited, nervous, unsure, filled with joy and the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to her.  


The First step is simply to acknowledge whatever you are thinking or feeling.  It is simply being aware of the movements of your heart, the thoughts that are going on and the emotions that you are feeling.  The important part is that we are authentic.  We have to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge how we are truly feeling.  Notice how Mary acknowledges her true feelings: "she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be."  Two things were going on in Mary's heart:  She was greatly troubled and she pondered.  How many times do we do this?  We get troubled about something and we ponder and think about it.  It's a very real experience and very relatable to us.  

It is a wonderful first step just to realize and "acknowledge" what is going on in our hearts.  So often we are running from thing to thing without taking time to be aware of the state of our heart and our soul.  This is a grace and a gift, but for it to become prayer we can't stop here.  Often times we may even "acknowledge" our feelings, but we try to sort through them ourselves, we try to make sense of a situation, or stop ourselves from worrying.  If we don't do the next step we end up trying to do things ourselves, work our problems out on our own, or make decisions without God's help.  


The second step which flows from "acknowledging" is to "relating" whatever is going on in our hearts and our minds to God.  Mary having this notion that she will "conceive and bear a Son" first begins to feel some things and aware of what she is feeling takes the next step and "relates" her feelings to God.  Acknowledging that she is "greatly troubled" and after thinking about it for a while she "relates" her question to God.  

"How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?"

To relate, means in some way to share whatever is going on with God.  It's one thing to Acknowledge it to ourselves but it becomes Prayer when we "relate" and share what is going on with God.  This is the "Intimate Sharing" that St. Teresa of Avila speaks of.  It may be just telling God how you are feeling, it may be expressing some emotion of anger, joy, sadness, or peace.  It may be a question, doubt, concern or petition.  Whatever it is "Relate" it to God in prayer.  


The Third Step is often the most difficult and likely the one we are to skip past.  We must then "Receive" whatever God wants to give or do to us at that moment.  This is the part of the prayer that requires some listening, waiting, and silence.  It's always good to do this part with Scripture, because Scripture is the Inspired Word of God and the way that God most speaks to us.  You could do this with the Sunday Mass readings, the daily readings, your favorite bible story or just open your bible up to any page.  Then wait, listen, and be open to God.  

Mary does get a response from God.  The Angel Gabriel spoke to her in reply:  

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you,and the power of the Most High will overshadow you."

Instead of Mary just trying to figure it all out on her own she asked God and God gave her an answer.  She listened, heard, and received what the Angel spoke to her.  

Having Acknowledged our feelings and Related them to God we must now be willing to "Receive" whatever God wants to give us or do in us.  Mary "received" the message from the Angel Gabriel.  She actually got an answer to her question.  


Finally, hopefully you will feel required to respond in some way.  This needs to be authentic too.  For Mary it was "May it be done to me according to your word."  For us, hopefully we respond like that, but it may be a different response.  It may be another question.  We might express hesitation or doubt, but hopefully at some point when God makes His will known to us we will respond with "Yes."  

St. Ignatius calls this form of prayer a "Colloquy" which literally means "speaking together."  

He always suggested beginning with Mary because she is our Mother.  There is nothing like a mother's love.  There is no problem too big or too small to take to your mother.  She delights in sharing whatever is going on in your life.  Mary will always take you to her Son.  She is a great way into the life of the Trinity.  

Praying with the Trinity

This brings us then to Trinity Sunday.  Ultimately God desires to be with us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we by our Baptism can pray to, speak to, and relate to God very personally.  

Which Person of the Trinity do you find yourself praying to most often?  Do you find yourself being comforted by the Father?  Do you find it easiest to talk to and relate to the Son?  Are you most comfortable praying with the Holy Spirit?  I find that often we have one that we relate to and feel comfortable with, but  we are called to experience God as Father, Son, AND Holy Spirit.  And so it would be very beneficial for us to Pray to the Three-Persons of God.    

Let me give you an example of how this might look.  

Our High School Graduates were at mass this morning and I asked them to begin by acknowledging their feelings.  Some were excited, others were anxious, one was overwhelmed, one was nervous... probably they all had a lot of mixed emotions.  Instead of handling all of this on their own, it is all great material for prayer. 

So Pray like a Pirate.  

Go first to Mary.  
-Acknowledge: Realize and admit to yourself that you are having mixed feelings.  Maybe you are excited, worried, stressed, whatever it is just be honest.  
-Relate: Try and Imagine Being with Mary, picture her, speak to her: "Mary, I'm feeling overwhelmed right now, I'm excited, but I'm also anxious and nervous."  
-Receive: Take a moment, after getting it all out to Mary to receive.  Maybe she listens to it all and simply says.  "Go to my Son, listen to Him."  
-Reply:  You may tell Mary you want her to say something or maybe you simply smile and say "OK thank you Mary."  

Go then to Jesus: 
-Acknowledge: How are you feeling now?  Maybe a little less overwhelmed because you realize you don't have to do it on your own.  Maybe you are still feeling anxious and worried.  Maybe you are feeling brushed aside by Mary.  Maybe you feel very reverenced by Mary and are excited to talk to Jesus.  
-Relate: Imagine Jesus, picture the Good Shepherd with you, open up the Scriptures, pray with Psalm 23 or John 10.  Tell him what you are thinking and feeling.  Maybe it is "Jesus, Mary told me to come to you but I'm not sure what else to say."  Maybe you need to say it all again to him.  Maybe you've honed in more on what you are feeling anxious about.  "Jesus I'm worried about leaving my friends and family."  Or, "Jesus, I'm not sure if I'm going into the right field."  Or, "Jesus, I'm not sure even how to pray like this, can you help me out?"  
-Receive:  Once you've said what you needed to say or asked what you needed to ask let Jesus take the next action.  Listen, be silent, let your mind wander.  He may say something to you... "I am the Good Shepherd" and it brings you peace.  Or he may hold you like a sheep or invite you to hold his staff and feel the power and protection of it.  
-Respond:  Freely respond.  "Wow, Jesus you are really with me."  "Thank you Jesus for comforting me."  "Jesus I'm not sure what you are telling me."  

Go then to the Father:
-Acknowledge what you are feeling.  Now you may be feeling more peaceful.  But there is still some worry anxiety or tension.  
-Relate: "Father, Jesus really comforted me and assured me, but I still feel like there is some of it that I cannot manage.  I feel like I am at peace for a moment but then I lose it.  I'm wondering if I can really trust that you are going to take care of everything."  "Father, can you comfort me?  Can you hold me?  Can you Protect me?  Can you assure me if this is really you?"
-Receive: Allow God to move and speak.  Maybe it is subtle and you feel like you are being held, maybe you remember a moment from your childhood when your father or grandfather helped you fix a part on your car.  Maybe the Father will simply move in you and calm you.  Maybe the Father will invite you to come closer and hold you to His chest and whispers in your ears "You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased."  
-Respond:  Respond honestly.  "Thank you Father for loving me."  "Father I'm having trouble being close to you because I've was abandoned by my father or hurt by my father on earth."  "Father, just assure me."  "Father do you really love me this much?"  "Father I am so grateful for your love and support."

Go then to the Holy Spirit.  
-Acknowledge:  Maybe by now you are feeling very much at peace, held by God consoled and comforted by the Words of Jesus and Mary.  Your desire may be to stay there always or take that wherever you go.
-Relate:  This may be breathing in the Spirit or Imagining as we hear in proverbs the Spirit "playing before him all the while,playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the human race."  You may desire this sense of lightness or playfulness.  You may feel at peace and are trusting now as you prepare to go to college.  "Holy Spirit can you be with me always?"
Receive:  There may be silence, you may here a train in the distance or feel a breeze blow across your arms, there may be a bird chirping or just a feeling of joy.  The Holy Spirit may speak into the depths of your heart "I am with You Always."
Respond:  It may be gratitude  "Thank you Holy Spirit for this wonderful time of prayer."  Or it may be a request.  "Holy Spirit be with me always."  Whatever your response is just allow it to be authentic, let it be real, let it be you.  

Notice how by simply this process of Acknowledge, Relate, Respond and Receive you are being consoled.  You will have a clearer sense of direction and a felt experience of God.  

Do this daily, maybe even throughout the day... may you always be in conversation with Mary and with the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  As St. Teresa once said, “For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.”

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