I attended my first prayer meeting thirty-six years ago, when I was nineteen years old. Until that time, I was your typical "good Catholic boy."
I went to Mass at least once a week. I was an altar boy. I didn’t get into much trouble. I knew that obeying the commandments was the right thing to do—and I certainly didn’t want to go to hell.
I went to that prayer meeting just to see an old friend of mine who had fallen into drugs but had now experienced conversion and turned his life around. That night, as I was sitting in the very back of the room, Jesus changed my life. For the first time in my life, I felt his presence in a powerful way. I knew that he was a real person, because I felt the Lord’s love for me. It was a moment of conversion, as I was moved that night to give my life to Jesus.
Now let’s flash back to my birth. When I was a baby, I was given six months to live because I had developed water on the brain. Doctors drilled into my skull a couple of times to relieve the pressure, but without success. When the doctors gave up hope, my mother turned to Mary. And to the amazement of the doctor, I was healed.
Brought to Life through Prayer. What does all this have to do with this month’s issue of The Word Among Us? This issue is about prayer, and the two stories I told above center on prayer. I believe I am physically alive today because Mary went to her son on my behalf. I also believe I am spiritually alive today because Jesus reached out to me at a prayer meeting, when I wasn’t even seeking him!
To this day, I can still imagine Mary saying to Jesus, "Heal this child." I can still feel the way she must have suffered over my sickness, just as she suffers over everyone who is hurting. And her example still inspires me to meditate on everything that I sense Jesus wants to say to me (Luke 2:19). It urges me to put my confidence in Jesus, just as she did during the wedding party at Cana. It tells me never to be afraid to intercede for people, asking Jesus for healing, comfort, compassion, and even miracles.
If Mary’s example is an inspiration, Jesus’ life and teaching inspire me all the more. What attracts me most about Jesus’ way of prayer is his disposition. He wanted only to do his Father’s will. As a man like us in all things but sin, he knew that the only way to maintain his obedience was through prayer. He prayed early in the morning and late into the night. He prayed when he was hungry and when he was tired. He prayed in the face of intense temptation, and that’s how he found the strength to remain faithful.
Jesus reached out to me in May of 1971—just as he reaches out to all of us. I saw what he did for me on the cross, and it changed my life. Now I want to be like him. I want to be like his mother, too—living the life of prayer and obedience that they both lived so beautifully. May we all embrace that goal.