Pope on prayer: God is "the caress that keeps us alive"
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Teaching children to make the sign of the cross; reading the Gospel in the family; praying in the morning, evening and before meals; saying the rosary together; these are some of the tips offered by Pope Francis at today’s general audience, centered on prayer in family life. The weekly gathering was attended by about 30 thousand pilgrims from many parts of the world, including China and Dubai.
Before the end and final greeting, the pontiff recalled that September 1 next is the first World Day of Prayer for the care of creation, which he instituted in unity with Bartholomew I and the Orthodox Churches. The Pope invited "all the Romans, all the pilgrims and all those who desire" to participate in a liturgy of the word to be held in St Peter's Basilica at 17. The liturgy aims to offer "on our contribution to overcoming the ecological crisis that humanity is experiencing", by encouraging everyone to pursue “a more sober and consistent lifestyle", as underlined in his recent encyclical "Laudato Sì ".
The first part of the audience was held on the theme of prayer in family life, after dealing with the themes of rest and celebration (August 12) and work (19 August).
Francis started from the "regret" that many express of having the desire to pray, but "no time to pray". He said that the root of the prayer is "to cultivate in our hearts a ‘warm’ love for God, an affectionate love": "the spirit of prayer lives here first. And if he lives here, he will stay there and never leave ."
God is not only "the great Being, the Almighty, who created all things, the judge who controls our every action": He is "like the caress that keeps us alive, before which there is nothing ... A caress from which nothing, not even death, can separate us. "
"If love for God fails to lights a fire, then the spirit of prayer will not warm our time… We can also multiply our words, 'like the Gentiles', as Jesus said; or even put our rituals on show, 'like the Pharisees' (cf. Mt 6,5.7). A heart inhabited by love for God makes prayer a thought without words, or an invocation in front of a sacred image, or a kiss sent to the church. "
Hence "the beauty" of "when mothers teach their young children to send a kiss to Jesus or the Virgin Mary"; teaching them to call God "Abba, Father" with "with the same spontaneity with which you learn to say 'Daddy' and 'mother'."
"Family time - he added - is a complicated and crowded, busy and preoccupied time. It’s always too little, never enough. There are always many things to do. Those who have a family soon learn to solve an equation that not even the great mathematicians know how to solve: doing twice the amount in twenty-four hours! It is true! There are mothers and fathers who could win the Nobel Prize for this! Making 48 out of 24 hours ... ".
"The spirit of prayer restores time to God, from the obsession of a life in which there is never enough time, finding the peace of the necessary things, and discovering the joy of unexpected gifts. The two sisters Martha and Mary, mentioned in the Gospel we have just heard, are good guides for this. They learned from God the harmony of family rhythms: the beauty of celebration, the serenity of the work, the spirit of prayer (cf. Lk 10,38-42). Jesus’ visits, which they loved, was their celebration. One day, however, Marta learned that the work of hospitality, while important, is not everything, but listening to the Lord, as Mary did, was the essential thing, the "best part" of her time".
"Prayer - he explained - flows from listening to Jesus, in the Gospel - do not forget: read a passage of the Gospel daily – familiarity with the Word of God. Do we have this familiarity in our family? Do we have the Gospel at home? Do we open it to read it together sometimes? Do we meditate and pray the rosary? The Gospel read and pondered in the family is like a good bread that nourishes everyone’s heart. And in the morning and evening, and when we are at table, we learn to say a prayer together, very simply: it is Jesus who is among us, as he was with the family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. "
"In family prayer - he concluded - in good times and in difficult times, we are entrusted to each other, because everyone in the family is guarded by God's love."