Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Hearts longing for God: praying outside the chapel 

By WILLIAM FREIDANK, Special to the Bulletin  | Published June 10, 2022

Have you ever had your heart broken? The sentiments from a broken relationship are too often seen superficially, in novels or over the airwaves. Others dismiss them as an inevitable “syndrome” in need of healing. All miss the significance behind the reality—to be heartbroken is not a tragedy of nature, nor a thing to be romanticized. Rather, in it we find a lesson which reveals man’s heart and purpose to himself.  

William Freidank

The natural desire of man and woman for each other has been instilled in our hearts from the beginning, before sin even entered creation, because for a man and a woman to give fully unto each other is an immense gift, one that incarnates a profound mystery. As a man longs for his future spouse, thinking earnestly of her day and night, so does our Lord pursue the souls of his children, longing deeply for our friendship.  

Every love story is a living testimony of his great exclamation from the cross, “I thirst!” Every broken heart preaches his pierced heart, pouring out divine love, even upon the ignorant and unfaithful. Every couple kneeling before the altar of God imitates the only perfect gift of self that was ever made, that between the Virgin Mother and her creator, between Christ and his beloved church. 

Receiving such profound insight into the depths of God’s love for us, how can we not but desire to sit often at our Lord’s feet and gaze upon him? Martha’s words to her sister echo in our heart: “The Master is here and is calling for you” (Jn 11:28). But even for us, to whom our Lord has gifted such awareness, and to which we respond even with hours of prayer, how shall we prolong our conversation with God so that the good portion “not be taken” from us? 

Consider the central dispositions that make a prayer beautiful in the sight of God: gratitude, humility, repentance, confidence and love. In our desire to converse with God always, we must make them more than passing sensations. For people of prayer, they define character.  

We should thank our Lord frequently, for being free to receive his sacraments in a world opposed to them, to have work, health, to have community, to recognize beauty and to have insight into his hand in our concrete life. We should ask for his assistance each morning, for ourselves and those we know personally. We should ask for his gentle correction so that we may know ourselves. Fear of the future or the past are a distrust of his providence; we must live the present fully. We cannot dwell on the failings or blessings of others in a lack of humility, but rather admire virtue where we find it and open our hearts to the Father’s grace.  

In imitation of his generous love, we may forego some comfort that another may enjoy it instead. For example, inconspicuously take the least comfortable chair or unexpectedly bring something to share at a gathering with others. Remain open and sensitive to these dispositions is to persist in the presence of God—to walk with Christ. 

 We are considering here more than practical advice on the Christian life. Recall how, at our baptism, we were anointed with oil blessed by our bishop to signify our indelible sharing in Christ’s priesthood. What does this mean? We have become “living stones” to be “built into a spiritual house, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pt 2:5). We belong “no longer to ourselves but to Him,” belonging no less than to his same sacerdotal vocation.  

A man who prays always makes of his day an altar for God, and he is an altar server in the midst of the world. To be men and women of conversation with God is both a privilege and a responsibility to our royal priesthood. May we renew our commitment in memory of this Pentecost, when Christ speaks to us, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” 

How can we gauge our progress in this great venture, even challenge, to be people of unending prayer? At the sunset of our day, we will come to proclaim with greater spontaneity the same words of Simeon: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples.” (Lk 2:29-31)  

Lord, I have seen you in my work and study, I have encountered you in my brothers and sisters, I have conversed with you in the Eucharist, and I have received you in my soul. Truly, God is with me!