Friday, June 3, 2016

On praying to the apostles and the power of stories

Editor's Note: Today we bring you a piece from Erin Daly! We humbly suggest you follow her on Twitter @ErinD90 and check out her blog at https://erinmdaly.wordpress.com.


Praying to figures in the bible is a strange thing for me. We know very little about many of them, besides the assumptions we can make based on their historical, social, and cultural contexts. Sure, we have a pretty good idea of the lives of some New Testament figures, but those are just cold hard facts that don’t tell us much about what they were really like. There’s a sort of loftiness and mystery about them that makes them seem inaccessible and impersonal.

But every so often I find myself praying to one of those figures, for whatever reason. It most recently happened in late May, when I was finishing a two-year stint as a youth ministry missionary at a retreat center in West Virginia. As the weeks and days til my departure counted down, I began to feel more and more sad about leaving. The friends I had made, the personal, professional, and spiritual growth I experienced, the beautiful mountain valley that had become my home...West Virginia had left a deep impression on my character and my memory. I didn’t want to imagine leaving the place.

The Thursday or Friday before I left, I was praying in one of the facility’s Eucharistic chapels when I felt a gentle nudge to pray to the apostles. It was a strange thought at first. I had never prayed to them before, or even considered praying to them. I had no reason to. 

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my situation probably wasn’t too dissimilar to what the apostles went through as Jesus prepared to leave them at his ascension. The gospels don’t say much about it, but I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to imagine that the apostles were sad about Jesus leaving them. He had become their friend and brother. He taught them hard, wonderful things about discipleship and the Kingdom of God. They loved him and he loved them. And they already feared that they had lost him when he was crucified; surely some of them felt that sense of fear and loss again, as he told them he had to go back to the Father. But Jesus couldn’t let them hold onto him. He had to go. And his apostles had work to do. But he promised them that he would remain with them. And they knew they would see him again, not in this life, but the next.

And there I was, preparing to leave a place and people that I had grown to love, that had shaped me and taught me so much about myself and my God. I didn’t want to go. But I knew I had to. I knew I was being sent forth to continue living and proclaiming all I had learned in West Virginia. And I knew that the goodbyes that I would say a few days later weren’t final. That’s always been what has drawn me to the saints I like, I suppose, finding similarities between my story and theirs. Whether it’s the sadness I felt as I was getting ready to leave West Virginia that sent me to the apostles, or the humbling reality of my littleness and imperfections that led me to cling to St. Therese of Lisieux, it’s such moments that make those people more real, even those mysterious, distant, obscure (I can’t write for a blog called the Catholic Hipster without dropping that word, can I?) biblical figures. They’re not sterile storybook characters anymore; they’re real people who dealt with real human things. The more real they become, the more our stories intersect, the more I want to turn to them for their help and prayers.

So that’s what I did, as I sat in that chapel, in tears over my coming departure from West Virginia. I asked the apostles to pray for me. I asked them for the courage to move forward with the conviction that I was being sent on a new mission, and for the ability to keep before my eyes not sadness, but the blessed assurance that my goodbye was more of a “see you later.” Just like what they faced as Jesus ascended into heaven. In that moment of prayer, the apostles were the most real that they’ve ever been to me, and it was beautiful. I think I’ll be praying to them more often. 




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