Column: Let Lent be a time to grow in your sensitivity to others

Deacon Tony Zimmerman is the lead archdiocesan consultant for the office of marriage and family life.
Deacon Tony Zimmerman is the lead archdiocesan consultant for the office of marriage and family life.

by Deacon Tony Zimmerman

It will soon be one year since my father-in-law John passed away.

My wife’s parents moved back to Pennsylvania early in our marriage. During the months preceding his passing, Barbara and I had the blessing of being able to spend time with her parents and help as we could, as his health declined.

Barbara’s parents have always been great models of lives of faith and prayer for the family. However, one time of prayer with them during one of those visits still inspires me. Mealtime always began with the prayer, “Bless us, O Lord.” This time, after finishing the usual prayer, John continued by lifting up certain family members in prayer, asking God for the help or healing that they most needed. This addition to the pre-meal grace, seeking God’s grace and assistance for others, was a part of every meal blessing during that visit, and I am sure continued after we departed.

What touched me the most was that John’s own health was not great. He received kidney dialysis three times a week, which left him weak and tired after the treatments. Yet, I don’t recall prayer that focused on him or his physical trials, just on the needs of others.

His example of prayer, and focus on the needs of others, inspired me as a husband, father, grandfather and deacon. I, perhaps like you, get caught up in the fast pace of life. When I am on this treadmill of busyness, I am often blind to the needs of others and I miss the chance to lift up others in so simple but powerful a way.

This holy season of Lent that we are about to begin gives us the chance to reexamine our prayer lives. Consider a time of daily family prayer (before meals, before leaving for school, work or at bedtime) where we are sure to specifically lift up in prayer those we know — family or friends who need God’s graces or healing.

This very simple act will help sensitize us to being aware of the needs of others we love or come into contact with each day. From there, God’s grace will open our eyes to simple acts of love that are there for the doing that we might have missed.

More importantly, as parents or grandparents (or favorite aunt or uncle), we may inspire our children, young and old, to a deeper life of prayer and concern for the needs of others. Our homes will then begin to experience that great peace that comes from trusting our lives and needs to our loving Father.

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