COLUMN: But where are the other three?

Published 8:56 pm Sunday, April 7, 2024

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By Maximilian Watner
Guest Columnist

While the famous ten lepers of John, chapter 17, were still on the way to show themselves to the priests, Jesus, with the ease and magnificence which only the Divine Giver can exhibit, worked their complete cure. Imagine what such a gift meant to them! It was completely life-changing, yet only one of them returned to give thanks. Jesus lets escape from His Divine Lips that gentle complaint, rebuking the ingratitude of men: “But where are the nine?”

Most probably the bulk of our prayer consists in asking God for what we want. But the Church teaches there are four purposes of prayer, and asking is the least important. You can remember these four purposes with the acronym ACTS: Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving and Supplication. We beseech God all the time, but where are the other three?

Adoration is the most important purpose of prayer. “What sustains humanity is not governments or geniuses or men of action. It is the adorers. The world is a fortress of ice which does not want to love, and God lays siege to it. He looks for breaches: these are the adorers,” says Fr. Molinié in his excellent book The Courage to be Afraid.

Contrition is also an important part of prayer: to express sorrow for our sins which have offended so good a Father. Our relationship with Our Father is much like other, merely human relationships. We must make up after an offense. This includes expressions of sorrow, a change of action, assurance of future fidelity and quality time spent with the one offended.

Giving thanks is humbling. We must ensure that it is radical. We must expose all our carefully hidden helplessness and recognize that, although God gives us everything, He owes us nothing. Are there not some gifts for which we, subconsciously of course, do not give thanks because of an unwitting “fear” that by recognizing the free gifts of God we may somehow remind Him that He does not owe them to us?

What should we ask for? St. Padre Pio said, “You ought to ask Our Lord for just one thing, to love Him. All the rest should be thanksgiving.” How often do we ask God for things that we want, but that are not actually for our happiness, and then complain that God does not answer us! One of the surest ways to go to Hell is to try to be the sole architect of our own happiness. We must have the humility to ask God for what is good for us. Even better, our constant prayer should be for those gifts that He wants to give us and for those virtues and graces that He sees we most need to be able to give Him the greatest glory.

When we pause to ask God for a favor next time, let us not act so as to hear from Him the gentle complaint, “But where are the other three?”

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