Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Experiment #2: The Act of Love

For various reasons, many I've written of here, as a child, I never learned many of the prayers Catholic children do. So recently, as part of my morning prayers, I've been memorizing some of them from a little booklet, My Catholic Prayer Book, which I got in the bookshop at the National Cathedral in DC. Learning them is slow, painstaking & actually physically painful so I go phrase by phrase for weeks at a time & eventually another prayer is learned. Part of the difficulty is because I find it hard to remain focused. I am easily distracted & can't stop my mind wondering off in all sorts of places. Once memorized, my mind still wanders but the distractions have come together & it seems that all the wandering while memorizing the Acts of Faith, Hope & Love was about the same thing.

Along w/ not learning most of the prayers other Catholic children did, I also didn't learn to pray as they did. I'm not sure I learned to pray as anyone learns because no human being taught me any prayers except the Our Father; I did learn a few prayers from the catechism I kept under my bed but I did that on my own. The prayers I had learned never seemed to be enough & the extemporaneous prayers my foster-father & other ministers prayed just seemed odd. So I just learned to converse w/ God or, sometimes, just to think of nothing & lie back in my Friend's arms & hang out. That basic mode of praying has never changed & my mind automatically wanders to it much of the time & especially when I am learning new prayers. So I thought I'd try to put some of those wanderings into intelligible form & share them with you.

O my God, I love You above all things, and with my whole heart and soul, because You are all good and worthy of all my love. I love my neighbour as myself for love of You. I forgive all who have injured me, and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured. Amen.

I've learned the Acts of Faith, Hope & Love. My mind wanders during all of them but it is the Act of Love I would almost totally rewrite. The 1st place my mind wanders off is because You are all good and worthy of all my love. I find myself telling God, that the truth is I love Him because He loves me 1st & how can I not love Him when He has loved me so much & so well. Then I usually find myself thinking about those who ought to have loved me & how badly they failed, of how badly I have failed to love & that makes me realize all the more how much God loves me & that I am only loving Him in response. I can remain for a long time just thinking of God's love for me even though I don't deserve it but I try to move on; usually I do.

The 2nd place of wandering is I love my neighbour as myself for love of You. Here I admit that I do not love my neighbour as myself (and usually remember to thank God for that) for love of Him. Instead, I tell God that I try to love my neighbour as Christ has loved me because He has commanded me to do so & I want to do His will. The emphasis is on try. I fail, a lot, & can only keep trying because He loves me so much & I want to love Him any way I can. Sometimes I think how much more I would fail if I was trying to love as I love myself. There is brokenness within me that makes loving myself, even for love of God, very difficult indeed: my self love is not a template for loving others. But God is brilliant. He has given even me the opportunity to learn to love my neighbours, & learn to love myself in the process, if I seek to love as He loves me. And the glorious bonus is that because I know He loved me 1st & my love for Him is in response to His love, my love for my neighbours is also because of His love for me & them. How can I not love what my Beloved loves?

Finally, my mind wanders at I forgive all who have injured me, and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured. That sentence becomes: I try to forgive all who have injured me because You have told me to do so & I try to ask pardon of all whom I have injured because I know that's what You want. I think the Act of Love ends on a wimpy note because it doesn't end w/ acknowledging God's love but this is actually a perfect place to address that omission: I can only forgive because He works forgiveness within me. That's something I learned a while back, when I felt called to forgive those who killed my family but couldn't even express the words. Finally, after several days struggling & crying, the realization lit up my heart, the ability to forgive is as much a gift as anything else & if that's what God wanted of me, He could make it happen. So I asked Him to work forgiveness within me & was granted peace & found myself praying for people I had hated just a few minutes earlier. God continues to make it possible for me to forgive even if I must, at times, wait to express forgiveness. And the same is true about asking pardon. I put all my occasions of forgiving & being forgiven in God's hands & He handles it. Ultimately, I realize I must move onto something else so I end the Act of Love by telling God I am so grateful He makes it possible for me to love Him & His creation.

And now it's time for me to move onto something else. The Act of Love has been around for a long time & I'm glad I've learned it. I do think it might be more dynamic & when I am praying it alone, I amend it to my heart's content. But when I'm praying it w/ others, I keep to the original because that's part of what love does, gives way to others over those things that are not essential. After all, anyone making an Act of Love is doing so because he loves God & that's the essential thing.