The Sound of One Hand Praying?

549px-Heemskerck_Ecce_Homo_06This June marks the fourth annual global rosary relay.

What’s that, you ask?

Founded in 2010 in an effort to mobilize the prayers of Catholics worldwide, this relay is an effort to bring awareness, along with many hundreds of prayers, to the topic of the sanctification of priests. Catholic priests, to be exact. Remarkably, given the overwhelming scope of this event, I’m surprised this is the first time I am hearing about it.

The premise is simple. Start the rosary at one end of the planet and circle the globe through 60 countries for this World Priest Day until as many people as possible have said prayers supporting priests. Prayers are set to begin in Australia, followed by India and Asia, then on to Africa and Europe, and the Americas, each country having a designated shrine or shrines at which the event stops long enough to collect prayers before moving on. By the end of World Priest  Day, the rosary will have been said in over 60 designated locations and by anyone else swept up in the event.

But why a day of prayers for priests, as opposed to something or someone else? Given what many of us suspect, and most of us know now about some priests, it is hard not to want to give the best of them our prayers.  Imagine how difficult life has become for the good priests, the hard-working, tireless flock leaders, the real shepherds, the ones who counsel the sick, attend to the dying, and are role models to their congregations. These men must operate each day under a cloud of suspicion. So do we pray that all of the criminal priests be brought out in the open or do we pray that the decent ones persevere in their calling? And how did this day’s creators determine this day-long prayer would be about priests and not world hunger, childhood illness, or clean water?

But is this kind of effort not just the sound of one hand praying?

Does a global prayer effort make a difference in the life of even one priest? Are the prayers of many worth more than the fervent prayer of just one. Many of us pray or bargain for many things — not to be killed by storms, not to be lost, to recover from an illness, or to know our children are safe. Do we pray because we think it’s the prayer that will work when other avenues have not, or are we simply shining a very bright light on a topic that doesn’t get much attention other than when a priest is sued?

For example, let’s assume for the moment that it was all those rosaries we said when we were kids that eventually toppled Communism in Russia. That’s what I was told. Say the rosary many times over and Communism will be defeated. Or was it that Communism was about to fall under the weight of its own misunderstanding of human nature and we now attribute that fall to our many prayers? Will new prayers at this synchronized level be earnest enough to make a difference? Or will the fate of priests just improve on its own because of the current state of awareness and vigilance on the part of dioceses who are charged with their oversight in ways that did not exist before?

I want to believe in the power of a single prayer. I want to know that Someone is listening. And I try not to use up my prayers on silly things like winning the lottery or catching a bus. So, on a fundamental level, I want to believe that hundreds of sympathetic prayers will impact priests in wonderful ways. I have been fortunate to know a good number of outstanding priests over my life and I would like nothing more than to send them my prayers.

But that’s the thing about prayers. You say them with the best of intentions never knowing if they hit their mark, like darts in a smoky bar when you’ve had more than one drink or sending a letter without requesting a notice that it was received. But I suppose it can’t hurt if we all jump in with our beads. Maybe that kind of jumping in is enough and maybe that world-wide show of support does mean something even if the prayers themselves can’t be tracked. That’s what I want to believe.

I choose to pray with my fellow New Yorkers on June 7, 2013 (GMT 23.00) local (19.00).

Contributor Anne Born has been an editor and writer all her life.  She writes poems, short stories, and personal essays on family history and her view of living in a big city after growing up in a small one.  She likes an audience or she would keep her writing in her personal notebook.  This embarrasses her children.  She lives in the South Bronx and writes on and about the MTA – the New York City system of buses and subways. You also find her at Open Salon and Red Room, and you can follow her on Twitter at @nilesite.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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