Archbishop reveals ways to grow in prayer

Nissa LaPoint

The best way for faithful to speak to God is to open their hearts to him, sharing their desires and seeking graces, Archbishop Samuel Aquila said.

“It’s entering into that union and a conversation like we have with one another,” the archbishop said about prayer. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that prayer is really the lifting up of our hearts to God. And it’s, in the words of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a gaze at God or a movement within our hearts to speak heart-to-heart with the Lord.”

Archbishop Aquila spoke about prayer in a series of podcasts released this month shared by a new local ministry called Ask a Bishop. Anand Bheemarasetti and his wife, Lindsey, of St. Catherine of Siena Parish, launched what they describe as a “digital school of life and faith,” designed to share bishops’ answers to faith queries through multimedia.

In one podcast the archbishop said faithful can learn about prayer from the Gospels.

“We are told in the Gospel that Jesus would often go to a quiet place to pray and to truly be in communion with the Father,” the archbishop said in the podcast titled “Should You Pray to Jesus or God the Father?”

He continued that Christ shows that the will of God was his deepest desire in prayer.

“So, too, are we called in prayer to conform our will to the Father,” he said. “And in teaching us to pray, Jesus reminded us to go into the quiet of our rooms and also taught us the great prayer of Our Father. That immediately teaches us that as his disciples, as we pray, our prayer is to be directed to the Father.”

And there’s more than one way to grow in prayer, he said, such as having gratitude for the beauty of creation.

“I remember when I was in college often times I’d be at the top of a mountain and it’d be a crisp clear day and I’d be getting ready to ski down the mountain,” Archbishop Aquila shared. “And I was just captured by the beauty of creation itself, and I would lift up my heart in gratitude to God for the gift of creation. … Beauty often times puts us in touch with the Lord.”

Reading Scripture and prayerfully considering how God is speaking to a person’s life and heart is key to growing in prayer.

“It’s important prior to that time to pray to the Holy Spirit and really ask the Holy Spirit, ‘Open my heart, help me to listen, grant me a heart that is receptive to your word,” the archbishop explained. “And by doing that and then prayerfully reading the Scripture, we’re more receptive and open to really hear the Lord speaking to us.”

Faithful can also learn to pray by reading the dialogue between Christ and characters in the Gospel.

“Often times we can learn to pray by looking at some of the dialogues of Jesus with others in Gospel. For example, with the apostles, with Peter, with the Samaritan woman,” he said. “It’s a very lengthy dialogue and a very beautiful dialogue and one that gradually leads her to faith. And prayer should always be leading us into a deeper faith, trust and confidence in God.”

 

 

Anand Bheemarasetti and his wife, Lindsey, pictured with their children, started the nonprofit Ask a Bishop that features videos, podcasts and social media posts about the faith. Photo provided

 

 

      Ask a Bishop
      Website: www.askabishop.com

 

COMING UP: A caveat on the great Tom Wolfe

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When the great Tom Wolfe died on May 14 — he of the white suits, the spats, and the prose style as exuberant as his wardrobe — I, like millions of others, remembered the many moments of pleasure I had gotten from his work.

My Wolfe-addiction began on a cross-country flight in 1979, shortly after The Right Stuff was published. Always an airplane and space nut, I was fascinated by Wolfe’s re-creation of the culture of America’s test pilots and astronauts at the height of the Cold War. And there was that extraordinarily vivid writing. At one point I burst out laughing, scaring the daylights of the elderly lady sitting next to me but not daring to show her the passage — it must have involved Pancho Barnes’ Happy Bottom Riding Club, a saloon outside Edwards Air Force Base — that set me off.

After The Right Stuff got me going on Tom Wolfe, it was impossible to stop. The first half of Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers — Wolfe’s scathing account of a reception thrown for the Black Panthers by Leonard and Felicia Bernstein — remains the quintessential smack-down of political correctness among the 1% cultural elites. From Bauhaus to Our House explains why anyone with an aesthetic sense thinks something is seriously wrong with modernist architecture, and does so in a way that makes you laugh rather than cry.

Then there was Wolfe’s first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities. One of its chapters, “The Masque of the Red Death,” takes its title from Edgar Allan Poe and with mordant humor dissects the vacuity of Manhattanites consumed (and in some cases destroyed) by their grotesque, over-the-top consumerism. I recently re-read that stunning set-piece and the thought occurred, as it had before, that it was a far more effective polemic against materialism than anything ever issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Bonfire was also brilliant in skewering the destructiveness of New York’s race hustlers, the obtuseness of a values-free media, and the fecklessness of too many politicians.

Asked once by monks who run a prestigious prep school what they might do to disabuse parents of the notion that their sons were doomed if they didn’t get into Harvard, Duke, Stanford, and the like, I suggested giving a copy of I Am Charlotte Simmons to the parents of every incoming senior. Wolfe’s fictional tale of life on elite American university campuses in the 21st century is a sometimes-jarring exercise in the social realism practiced (a bit less brutally) by Dickens and Balzac. But Charlotte Simmons, like Wolfe’s other fiction, has a serious moral core and an important cultural message. The young innocent, the brightest girl in town who makes it to an elite university, gets corrupted by stages: and her moral corruption is preceded by intellectual corruption — the class in which she’s taught that there’s really nothing properly called “the truth.”

I do have one post-mortem caveat to register about Tom Wolfe’s oeuvre, which takes me back to The Right Stuff (and while we’re on that subject again, forget the inane movie). The central figure in Wolfe’s tale of aeronautical daring-do is Chuck Yeager, the man who first broke the “sound barrier” in the Bell X-1, and did so with a couple of broken ribs, which he managed in flight with the aid of a sawed-off broom handle. Yeager was an extraordinary figure who never became a national celebrity because of the (absurd) news blackout surrounding the X-1 project, and Wolfe clearly wanted to pay tribute to him as an unsung American hero.

To do so, however, Tom Wolfe seemed to think he needed a foil, and he cast astronaut Gus Grissom in that role: “L’il Gus,” the Hoosier grit lampooned as a bumbler to make Yeager look even better. And that was a grave disservice to the memory of Virgil I. Grissom, who did not mess up the second Mercury space flight (Wolfe’s account notwithstanding), and who gave his life for his country in the launch pad fire that consumed Apollo 1 — which Grissom knew to be a deeply flawed spacecraft and had urged NASA to improve.

So now that Tom Wolfe and Gus Grissom have both crossed what Wolfe once called the Halusian Gulp, I hope these two American patriots are reconciled. Both had the right stuff.