Provincial Prayer Ministry
A Life Dedicated to Prayer
By Fr. Charles Polifka, O.F.M.Cap.
Provincial Porter, a newsletter of the Capuchin Province of Mid-America
Spring 2013, Issue 154
When Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement, he also announced his intention to spend retirement in intense prayer. In his last public praying of the Angelus, he said to the crowds in St. Peter's Square, tying his thoughts to the Transfiguration Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent: "The Lord is calling me to go on top of the hill, to dedicate myself once more to prayer and meditation," he said. "But this does not mean to abandon the church."
I have no doubt that Benedict's prayer will have a profound effect on the Catholic Church in the years to come. I can only imagine what that prayer will be, but I am sure that through Benedict the Church will have a closer tie to God. The beauty of this prayer is that it happens now, in his retirement, and will continue into his eternal life after his death.
Retirement is an arbitrary stage in the life of the Capuchin Friar Minor. Arbitrary means that a Capuchin never retires from living according to the Rule of St. Francis and the Constitutions of the Capuchin Friars Minor. His ministry, however, focuses on the fraternity and on the interior life and also very intentionally on the needs of his brothers, his family, his friends, and those who request prayer. Requests for prayer abound, and the men.
Benedict's prayer will be special for the Church, even though the Church is at prayer everywhere in the world. The same is true for the Capuchin Province of Mid-America; prayer is a daily and steadfast practice in all our friaries. We rely especially on the prayers of those friars who cannot actively embrace full schedules of ministries to embrace those persons who depend on us for prayer. I have found it edifying to see memorial cards of people who have died, lying on the chair next to one of these “prayer warriors.” They pray daily for the deceased and rotate a stack of memorial cards to remember someone new each day. Others have the Provincial Prayergram at their chairs, listing the special petitions to be prayed for each month. Still others have notes with names and petitions written on them tucked into their breviaries. And in the provincial friary of St. Francis of Assisi, a basket rests near our chapel altar. It contains hundreds of prayer petitions sent to the province. All the friars across the province and in our missions in Papua New Guinea, remember these requests in prayer, at daily Mass, and in our daily sacrifices.
The Capuchins are bound to pray the Divine Office daily together with the community of friars where we live. We are also bound to two substantial periods of meditation, each at least a half hour, daily. Provincial Prayer Ministers are able to spend much more time in prayer, both petitioning God for requests and contemplating God's presence and grandeur. As one friar who is assigned to this ministry told me during our visitation in February, "My life now is a life of prayer."
Prayer is what drives the lives of our friars, as well as our ministries. Without it, we lack the lifeline to God which keeps us connected and grounded. But we would also lack the lifeline from God which makes us energetic and generous doers of the Word. Those friars assigned to Provincial Prayer Ministry, by their dedication and their commitment to prayer, give us that extra power we need to do what we do. God bless them.