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The Catholic Moment: A pastor’s contemplatives

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

By Father Rob Waller

A monk and a girl in a pink sweater helped me remember. Father Joseph was visiting from his monastery in Beirut. Bridget came to morning Mass to pray for her father. They reminded me that any bishop likes having a contemplative community in his diocese, and that, as a parish pastor, I have two contemplative communities, even though there are no nuns or monks living within my parish boundaries.

A bishop wants a contemplative community in his diocese so that there will be someone constantly praying for the needs of the diocese, while others are busy working and ministering in the diocese. A pastor needs the same within the parish for the same reason.

I am reminded of turning the corner onto a steep street on a frigid night when everything was iced over, and saying to my mom, who was in the passenger’s seat, “You pray, and I’ll drive.”

There are two praying communities in my parish, as there are in every parish, one more active and one more cloistered. A pastor’s version of monks and nuns are the parishioners living in nursing facilities, confined to their homes, or lying in their deathbeds.

Our more active contemplatives are those who walk into church for daily Mass or weekly eucharistic adoration, like those who live in monasteries and return to chapel at designated hours from their farms, bakeries, cheese factories, sewing rooms or print shops.

Those who pray outside the parish church are often alerted by a phone call or an email about people for whom to pray and reasons for which to offer prayers.

At other times, much like Father Joseph, they simply continue with their routine, fingering the beads of their rosaries, wearing thin the pages of their prayer book held together by a rubber band, or watching Mass on television. Those who come to the parish church look into the book of prayer intentions left by parishioners and visitors, or just take as their own prayer the reason why that girl in the pink sweater, not usually at Mass, is with them that morning.

It is said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” If you want to have a person pray for you, ask a praying person. They will do it. You can bet your life on it.

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