What I Have Seen and Heard
Published: May 19, 2005
One of my carefully selected questions to ask our youngsters at Confirmation is, “Do you have a favorite prayer and who taught it to you?” I think that it’s very important for parents to teach their children how to pray. It’s much like helping them to learn how to walk, how to talk or how to find their way home.
I am amazed to listen to the answers that our candidates provide. Usually kids will say that they learned a favorite prayer from a parent or a grandparent. Sometimes they remember a prayer that a teacher or catechist taught them.
Whoever teaches our kids to pray, it’s even more important that we pass on this tradition of Faith to the next generation of Catholics. The prayers that we teach children do not have to be profound or exalted—as a matter of fact, the more simple prayers that youngsters learn are usually the ones that they remember and recite.
I recently had a wonderful visit with a thoughtful lady who told me the story of how she taught her seriously disabled son to pray the Rosary. His illness eventually claimed his young life at the age of 11, but not before his mother used a computer and a lot of tenderness to teach him how to pray this repetitive prayer of Faith. She was able to capitalize upon the youngster’s restricted ability to perform simple repetitive activities. With infinite patience, she taught him how to pray this ancient Marian prayer. He never spoke the words but used a computer program to speak to the Mother of God in rhythmic fashion—like we all do when we pray the Rosary.
As this mother described her adventure, it was clear that it brought great comfort to her heart to know that she had imparted this treasure to a youngster who was so severely limited that accomplishing this task was perhaps among his greatest feats. Her program was intended for the very limited capabilities of children like her son. I sent the project description to our Office for Persons with Disabilities, but I took away a profound respect for this lady, who had fulfilled her parental responsibilities with extraordinary diligence. I am certain that her son prayed for her in whatever silent ways that he could.
One of the reasons that I ask our Confirmation candidates that question about prayer is to remind them that we all need to work on our conversations with God. Prayer is that activity that allows us to speak to the Father who is always listening. I also ask the question to remind parents of their responsibility to help their youngsters become acquainted with our rich Catholic legacy of prayer.
Several weeks ago, a wonderful man, whom I first met as a deacon in Mary, Seat of Wisdom Parish in the Archdiocese of Chicago, died. He was a prominent surgeon and a man with great life experience. As a husband, father, grandfather, doctor and professional, his lifetime achievements were impressive.
After a series of unfortunate recent physical accidents, he lay dying in a hospital room, probably a room just like the ones that he had visited thousands of times as he cared for his patients. In the last hours of his life, he spoke to a priest friend of ours and asked him to pray the Our Father with him. It was a prayer that Jack had learned many years before as a child, a prayer that he had no doubt taught to his own sons. And it was the last prayer that he offered in his long and distinguished life. I am sure that it was answered when he met the Father face to face.
In the same way as the youngster who learned how to say the Rosary through the diligent efforts of his mother, I am certain that the Mother of God received that young man tenderly into life eternal and that she has a special love for his earthly mother who introduced her son to the Mother of us all.