Then there is more singing. Up and down the notes go whizzing between Soprano, Second Soprano, Contralto. It is too high for my range and I find it hard to get enough breath in my lungs between lines. I keep trying. One of the volunteers has a gorgeous soprano and I think she must be careful to keep within the rhythm of the group so as not to break the unity of expression, which in some ways, is the goal.
Then there is the Litany of Prayers, which I think is my favorite part. One of the Sisters calls for God to hear the prayers for the world we have to offer. Anyone may chime in and does. Prayers are offered by Sisters, by Oblates, by retreatants, by lay employees of the monastery who come to pray with them. In my week here I have heard every prayer imaginable. The one thing they all have in common is that they are all delivered with loving kindness:
“May there be peace in the Middle East and may our Muslim brothers and sisters be able to worship in their faith without fear of danger.”
“We offer prayers for our Congress people that they may make decisions for the good of the people and not for political gain.”
“God, please watch over those who suffer from disease, especially those suffering from the ravages of cancer and AIDS. May they find comfort and peace on their journey.”
“Lord, for the Jewish people. That we may always have a true and lasting respect and understanding for each other.”
“For all those who are unemployed or underemployed, especially those in danger of losing their homes, we ask you God, to provide them with meaningful work and a means to sustain themselves in these difficult times.”
“We ask for prayers for all the children of the world who suffer from cold, from hunger, from abuse and neglect. That they may find loving adult caregivers and the resources to sustain their growing bodies.”
The there are the personal prayers delivered in a murmur from the mouths of all those in the room. I close my eyes and hear the names of all the people being prayed for wash over me. Barely audible, they are whispered and mumbled throughout the room…Thomas, David, Jim, Catherine, Julia, Greg…the names keep coming for a good few minutes. I add my own in my head, still too unsure to say any names out loud. . . .
And I wonder if these people know they are being prayed for? Because even if there is no God…which there very well might not be a God…these people are loved. That much is true. They are being watched over and someone is hoping for them. For something good to happen to them, for them to enjoy life, find peace, find love, find happiness, for them to get well, to find a partner, to not die, to find a job, to find themselves. In Jesus name we pray. Even if you don’t believe in Jesus, it is still beautiful. This coming together to hope for each other, for the ones we know, the ones we don’t. The ones we can help, the ones we wish we could help.
. . .
The Prayer of Jesus is said at the end of the Litany. Basically it’s the “Our Father” without the “Father” part. And they add a little tweaking to make it more accessible and inclusive:
The Prayer of Jesus
Holy One, our only Home, blessed be your name, may your day dawn, your will be done, here, as in heaven. Feed us today and forgive us, as we forgive each other. Do not forsake as us at the test, but deliver us from evil. For the glory, the power, and the mercy are yours, now and forever. Amen.
We exchange the Sign of Peace. Some people hug, others shake hands, some give half-hugs, some nod. Whatev. The Sisters are fine with you expressing Peace whichever way you’re most comfy. And then it’s over. That’s the Liturgy of the Hours. It’s pretty painless, just under an hour time-wise. And its free. And I feel amazing when its over. Like I’ve just had 12 hours of sleep and could climb a mountain. I’d have to pay 15 bucks for that feeling at my yoga studio.
. . .
For additional excerpts from Sarah’s on-going blog, click on this link: A Confirmed City Girl looks for God in a Monastery