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Bishop Banks'

 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinFebruary 14, 2003 Issue 

Time to give to God - your prayers

Stewards give more than money; they spend time with their God

By Bishop Robert Banks

Bishop Robert J. Banks
Bishop Robert J. Banks

This column is about a new idea, a really good idea, so don't stop reading when you see that the first few paragraphs are about the old familiar subjects of Lent and Stewardship. However, it is time to get ready for Lent. And we have agreed, after a good deal of consultation, that our Church of Green Bay would devote the next year or so to the subject of Stewardship.

Perhaps you also remember that we are trying to expand our understanding of Stewardship so that it does not automatically bring up the subject of money and collections. By Stewardship, we mean a change of heart and a way of life that makes each of us a better disciple and our Church of Green Bay a better church. All of which is, of course, the work of God's grace.

So, for a year or more, we shall try to work on three essential areas of the Christian life: prayer, service and sharing. The time for focusing particularly on prayer will be Lent.

Now how shall we do that? Each person and parish can come up with their own ways, but the Diocese is encouraging parishes and individuals to try using the"Little Black Book," written by Bp. Kenneth Untener and produced by the Diocese of Saginaw. I heartily endorse it. This is the new and really good idea.

Why am I so enthusiastic about the "Little Black Book"? Principally, because each day it has a passage from the Gospel of St. John with a brief, very practical commentary by Bp. Untener. I think familiarity with the Scriptures and reflection on them is one of the healthiest things we can do as Christians. This booklet makes it easy. The Gospel passage is short; the commentary is easy to read; and six minutes are all the time needed each day.

The "Little Black Book" is small, so you can put it in your pocket or purse. It has a plain black cover with no printing, so you could leave it on your desk and no one would know it is a prayer book. Besides the Gospel passage for each day, there is also a page containing tidbits of information that you might find interesting. Finally, the cost is only 50 cents.

A number of our parishes are ordering copies for their members, but you can also write directly to the Diocese of Saginaw for a copy. The address is Diocese of Saginaw, 5800 Weiss, Saginaw, MI 48603, or call (989)797-6653.

Whether or not you choose to use the "Little Black Book", the Church and our Diocesan Stewardship effort encourage us to use Lent as a time for prayer -- more prayer. And prayer is the way in which we grow in the Christian life. I think Mother Teresa once said, when asked the secret of her way of life, that all you need to do is pray and start loving one another.

"If you are searching for God and do not know where to begin, learn to pray and take the trouble to pray every day. You can pray anytime, anywhere. You do not have to be in a chapel or church. You can pray at work -- work doesn't have to stop prayer and prayer doesn't have to stop work."

Many people have trouble finding the time for prayer. Mother Teresa doesn't accept excuses.

"There are some people who, in order not to pray, use as an excuse the fact that life is so hectic that it prevents them from praying. This cannot be. It is not necessary to always be meditating, not to consciously experience the sensation that we are talking to God, no matter how nice that would be. What matters is being with him, living in him, in his will."

But Mother Teresa also emphasized the importance of silence as a way to prayer.

"I always begin my prayer in silence, for it is in the silence of the heart that God speaks. God is the friend of silence."

Despite Mother Teresa's very good advice and all her experience, I still think we ordinary folk need also deliberately to set aside time for prayer. Two necessary ingredients for prayer are the desire to pray and the time.

If you feel the desire to pray and especially to pray more or better, thank God. That desire is God speaking to you and giving you the grace of that desire. Then try to find some way, maybe the easiest way, to respond to the desire. As one person said, the best way to learn to pray is simply to pray.

Next you need the time. Granted Mother Teresa says we should not use the lack of time as an excuse, but she also said that she usually began her prayer with silence. That means some time had to be set aside for the silence.

Maybe we can compromise. For some kinds of prayer, you need to set aside time in which you do nothing else. The "Little Black Book" requires that you set aside six minutes in which to read and reflect on the brief Gospel passage. Going to Mass requires that you set aside time. Grace before meals and bedtime prayers require time be set aside.

But for other kinds of prayer, what is required is simply that you give God attention for a period of time while you are doing something else. That can be praying while you are driving the car, or lifting your mind to God for help while you are dealing with a very difficult situation. Or it could be those magic moments when God speaks to you in the beauty of a sunset or the face of a newborn child or a person you love.

In any case, Lent is certainly a time for prayer.

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