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Words with friends

Kate Barrett | Tuesday, February 28, 2012

We are exactly one week into the season of Lent this year, and you may be feeling worn out already. The initial charms of striving to challenge yourself with your fasting and prayer perhaps even now feel tedious, and you face heading into midterms next week without caffeine or desserts or alcohol; or you are realizing that with two papers and a project due, it’s just not as easy as you thought to close your computer and get to Mass or to Stations of the Cross.

So this might be the perfect time to pray a prayer I found recently. It’s fairly short, especially printed here in tiny newspaper font, so you could even cut it out and carry it with you.

Beloved, you know my impatience

You know how quickly I tire of all resolutions;

how impatient I am about lack of progress;

how tired I become the moment the work I have started begins to run smoothly;

how distant green grass looks to me!

O Jesus, help me to be patient,

to plod and not always be snatching at stars.

Teach me to plod daily through small irritations, discouragements,

knowing it is for you. Amen.

Catherine de Hueck Doherty (1896-1985) wrote this prayer. Doherty was a fascinating woman who, though not as well-known as Dorothy Day, shared many of her passions about serving the poor through creating communities of Christian love, meeting not only their material needs but their spiritual needs as well. When you read about her tremendously eventful life, you can hardly imagine that Catherine Doherty ever felt she “plodded” through even a single day, but her prayer reveals otherwise. Her cause for sainthood is underway, and yet this very holy, active and determined woman regularly felt — as we all do at times — impatient, tired, irritated and discouraged.

It’s worth considering the value of staying the course, of hanging in there, of fighting the fatigue that can sometimes come with Lent, with midterms or with life during a South Bend winter, no matter how mild. This Sunday’s gospel, as happens on the second Sunday of Lent each year, leads us up the mountain with Jesus and his three dearest apostles to a decidedly spectacular experience. Peter, James and John see Jesus transfigured, his clothes “dazzling white;” they see Moses and the great prophet Elijah standing with Jesus; they hear the Lord tell them to listen to his beloved son. Peter immediately reacts the way any of us might: he starts making plans to stay, to make this triumphant, glorious moment last as long as possible. No plodding impatience here; no tiresome irritations on the mountaintop in the presence of the glory of God!

Probably much to the apostles’ dismay, however, they left the wonder of the Transfiguration and came down the mountain, where their ordinary daily routine continued. They had to get back to the “plodding” of everyday life; they had thrown their lot in with this Jesus, who attracted ever more controversy and conflict even as he performed miracles and transformed the hearts of many who had known nothing but rejection and scorn all their lives.

As Christians, we have thrown our lot in with Jesus too, for those times when we experience the “high” of an exhilarating faith experience as well as for the ordinary days of Lent when we fight against the inertia that calls out to us to be slackers, to loosen our determination and discipline, to allow the bar we’ve set to drop to a level that doesn’t require much of us.

The author and speaker Matthew Kelly offers an excellent antidote to the days when we feel we’re “plodding.” It’s extremely portable — even more so than the prayer above — which makes it a handy option for Spring Break. Pray some words with friends — the people who spoke to Jesus Christ during his years of ministry. If you feel the heaviness of just trying to get through the day, picture Jesus walking alongside you and pray, “I will be your follower wherever you go,” as one of Jesus’ disciples said to him while they walked to Jerusalem (Luke 9:57). If you find yourself troubled by doubts, pray the words the father of the possessed boy cried out to Jesus: “I do believe! Help my lack of trust” (Mark 9:24). Some days our faith will bring us such fullness of heart that we can cry out, like Peter, “Lord, you know that I love you!” (John 21:17) Simple prayers like these, prayed throughout the day, keep us connected to God and can bring solace, wisdom and guidance to our hearts.

Whether weighed down or lighthearted, may we keep striving this Lent and always to pray to Jesus, as Peter did, “You are the Messiah.”

Kate Barrett is the director of the Emmaus Program in Campus Ministry. She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.