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Column: I hope you accidentally pray this Lent

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. he has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. he has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

There weren’t cellphones back then but, if there were, I’d have had 911 programmed into speed dial.

The “back then” I’m referring to was when The Leaven was located in the old chancery building at 2220 Central in Kansas City, Kansas. In those days, we had a wonderful writer who was always willing to help out in any way possible. One deadline day, we were literally cutting and pasting the news copy onto special poster boards, which were then taken to the printer for processing. All of a sudden, this writer asked me, “Uh, do you think I need to go to the doctor?”

I looked up to see him holding his hand in the air, with a red Band-Aid around one of his fingers. Upon closer inspection, I discovered it wasn’t a Band-Aid at all, but what was once a white paper towel, now changing into a bright red color. The writer had cut his finger with an Xacto blade instead of the news copy! (He lived.) This should have been my first clue that the guy was an accident waiting to happen.

On another occasion, said writer was heading out to a weekend assignment. As he said goodbye to Anita and me, he casually flipped a camera over his shoulder. Immediately, the strap broke and the camera slammed into the linoleum floor, shattering into hundreds of pieces. “Oops!” was something we heard not only that day, but many more times after.

I thought about that writer after reading a great image from Philip Yancey a few months ago. He tells the story of a rabbi teaching his students about prayer.

“Experiences of God cannot be planned or achieved,” said the rabbi. “They are spontaneous moments of grace, almost accidental.”

One of his students asked, “If experiencing God is just accidental, why do we work so hard doing all these spiritual practices?”

“To be as accident-prone as possible,” said the rabbi with a smile. (Adapted from “1001 Illustrations That Connect,” by Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, general editors.)

Lent arrives this Wednesday. Please spend some time reading this week’s center spread on pages 8-9, which features an interview with Vince Eimer, the director of Christ’s Peace House of Prayer near Easton. He tackles something that we hear about often — “having a personal relationship with Jesus” — and explains how to pursue that.

Lent is an ideal time to stretch ourselves with regard to our prayer. Vince suggests several ways to
do that, among them the practice of lectio divina (praying with Scripture) and what’s often called centering prayer (calming your mind and body to better listen to the Lord’s gentle voice). Throughout the Lenten season, he’ll offer simple, practical ways to delve deeper into prayer.

A word of caution, though: When exploring a new style of prayer, be patient — with yourself and with the prayer. The Catholic spiritual writer Mary DeTurris Poust has a wonde ful suggestion for “newbies”: Ask God for the grace to be a beginner! She rightly notes that many of us, when trying something new, expect to be experts from Day 1. She writes in “Everyday Divine”: “I need the willingness to be a beginner in prayer, to sit there and be open to whatever might unfold, to come back day after day even when it feels like I’m not progressing and just practice my ‘craft,’ the craft of praying.”

That’s an excellent idea as we hit Ash Wednesday. Let’s pray for the grace to be spiritually adventurous beginners. And, with Vince’s advice and God’s grace over these next 40 days, may
we be as accident-prone as possible!

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Fr. Mark Goldasich

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