Published 6:56 pm Wednesday, January 17, 2024

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By Maximilian Watner
Guest Columnist

Early in 1811 a young Frenchman, Jean Vianney, left his convalescent hospital bed to report to the recruiting office of the Napoleonic Army in Grenoble.  Though poor of health, he had been drafted.  He arrived in the town with an hour to spare and so he stopped in at the local church to pray before reporting to the office.  He became lost in prayer and by the time that he came to himself, the office had closed.

Reporting next morning, he was given a pack and sent away on foot after his regiment.  But, weak as he was, he was not able to catch up. Labeled as a deserter and sure the authorities would not understand, he spent two years in hiding.  But this was all part of a Providential plan: had this young man been cannon-fodder on the battlefields of Spain, he would never have become the world-famous, canonized saint, known to history as the “Curé of Ars”.

It has been said that we so easily get lost in thought because it is such unfamiliar territory, but who of us has ever been lost in prayer?  For most of us, THAT is even more unfamiliar territory!  Have we ever been in such deep conversation with God that we have truly lost track of time like young Jean?  

The classic definition of prayer is “the raising of the mind and heart to God”.  It is a conscious act, a choice to enter into communication with the Almighty Creator.  That means deliberately leaving to one side all that distracts us from Him: our phone, the TV, the dog, our work, etc..  It means a turning of our thoughts (mind) and affections (heart) towards the Source of all Good in ACTS of Adoration, Contrition (sorrow for sin), Thanksgiving, and Supplication (more on all that in the next installment). 

Studies abound which show the link between prayer and happiness.  Man has a psychological need to pray. But we must be careful to pray because God is who He is, and not because it makes us happy or helps us get what we think we need. The true Christian prays every day, whether he feels like it or not. God is not at our service, though He wants nothing more than for us to be truly happy.

True prayer takes effort and is difficult for many reasons, but we must never let that discourage us. Nothing is more important and there is nothing that can be more productive.  Since the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind finds it far easier to understand the things of earth than the things of Heaven.  This is an effect of their Original Sin in us: it must not keep us from communicating with our Heavenly Father.  Be encouraged.  Prayer, just like exercise of the body, becomes easier and even pleasurable with faithful practice.  The main thing is that we must practice it faithfully.

BROTHER MAXIMILIAN WATNER is on the staff at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Buckingham County. He can be reached at