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Somehow, the ‘whole me’ will be included in that name, and it won’t be complete until my life is complete. My current name is like a symbol of this fully-known and fully-uttered ‘me,’ who has being within Him. At the moment during Mass when we pray, “only say the word, and my soul shall be healed,” I sense Him speaking this one word: my name. I ‘hear,’ “Charlotte,” but my heart hears that whole name, spoken from outside time into the moment of two small syllables. Each time, I hear my Self spoken back into being, healed, renewed, called forth to be me. What could better prepare me to receive Him than this Love, whose voice continuously upholds my being?? I love this moment! Sometimes, when I need that love to renew the face of my being, I just ask, “Lord, will you just say my name, please,” and He does.
Two paths of mine converged recently: I’ve been working on the 50 Million Names project to see to it that aborted babies are given names and honored by prayer and gestures of love, and I recently prepared for a talk about helping women heal from interior ‘dis-integration’. Into this mix, in God’s timely fashion, came the book Healing the Family Tree, by Dr. Kenneth McAll, a devout Anglican psychiatrist who writes about hundreds of cases in which an emotional or physical illness was cured through the release of spiritual bondage.
His awareness developed as he looked for the roots of illness that baffled all physical and psychological approaches and, finally, began to look backward from the patient into the family history for clues to seemingly incurable problems. In many cases, an instance of abortion, miscarriage, or other ‘loss’ of an unnamed child was found to be at the root of the symptoms. In others, some unquiet spirit within the patient’s blood line cried out for healing prayer. In fewer, outright oppression by evil spirits was involved.
In every case, the patient and the bondage was taken before Jesus Christ in prayer, and the Eucharist received with the intention of release for both patient and relative. I did some research and discovered that McAll’s work had influenced many, many people, including Catholics, to take more seriously the work of consciously praying for the dead, and for the living affected by generational sin, or bondage to dead relatives in unresolved need of acknowledgement, forgiveness, and other release.
McAll quotes Scripture, St. John Chrysostum, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Augustine, Church fathers, the Eastern Orthodox tradition in support of praying not to, but for the dead. He refers to the many Anglicans who are nowadays convinced “that there exists – and that there is an absolute need for – an intermediate stage of purification between death and resurrection” from which the dead may appeal to the living for prayer. Of course, Catholics have already acknowledged Purgatory’s existence (which Anglican author C.S. Lewis termed a ‘hopeful doctrine’) and are already instructed to pray for the souls there. I’m sure I don’t pray enough for them!
What struck me about McAll’s work is that I had never much thought about my own family history. Though I had done some praying for near relations, I began to pray about whether there were any souls in our tree, or any needs within my living family , for which such prayer should be offered. Using a prayer from Catholic priest Father John Hampsch, I headed for Our Lord in the Eucharist and began to pray. I was surprised as a number of ‘needs’ surfaced very clearly.
For example, I had once used birth control pills, and realized that there are probably children I’ve ‘lost’ without even realizing conception had occurred. My husband’s grandmother died during an abortion, and that child was never named or mourned. I have two adult sons living non-Christian lives, who may have fathered children now ‘lost’ to us. A father I know of died without reconciliation with his children, and without Sacramental burial.
A number of other souls came to mind as I prayed, and I believe that, through the prayer united to the Eucharist, release and healing was poured out on our family and friends in ways that I may not ever be fully aware of in this life. I’ve given names at 50MillionNames.org for several babies in honor of these persons for whom I prayed. I offer Fr. Hampsch’s prayer, here, as a gift to anyone else who may feel led to discern her own family’s need for healing in this way. God bless you!
P.S. Here is some more help from Fr. Hampsch, a Claretian priest, on such healing prayer.
Just as the mental cathedrals of medieval memory champions became ‘places’ that held specific material for easy retrieval, the regular old ‘furniture’ of our daily life and environment can become full of reminders to pray.
When I hear a siren, for example, it triggers my ‘prayer reflex’. Every prayer request email triggers an immediate Miraculous Medal prayer (Holy Mary, conceived without sin, pray for those who have recourse to thee.) Meal times trigger prayers of gratitude and blessing. Passing a Catholic church triggers a prayer of thanks to Christ for His unceasing presence. Infant wailing in a store triggers prayer that a tired mama will be able to stay patient and make it home for nap without regrets. Wailing on a plane triggers a prayer for baby’s ears….and mama’s equanimity.
It’s not that we should become automatons, but that we can learn what C.S. Lewis calls ‘stock responses’ and thus actually offer up prayer in a more-nearly unceasing way. Just as we learn to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ we can learn to offer specific prayers when goosed by a trigger object, or event. We can choose to layer-in more prayer during the day by associating ‘real life’ with the call to prayer.
I like to pray the Rosary at the beginning of every long trip. Most often I forget to pray the prayer for drivers that should be triggered by the Sacred Heart Auto League clip on my visor. I’m not sure how to deal with the problem of becoming inured to a visual trigger – so used to seeing it that it disappears. For me, that’s a real weakness of visual reminders. There are too many icons, holy pictures, sacramental objects and other stuff in my visual field for anything to stand out as a reminder. Event triggers work better for me.
When I’m running behind schedule, I sing a little reminder I learned in my evangelical days: “The steps of the righteous are ordered by the Lord….” When I simply cannot (…type another word…listen to another dream story…bear the presence of that person…whatever), but must, I cling to the Scriptural promise that “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” My own interior event, linked to words of life, triggers the utterance of those words as prayers.
Waking up is my trigger for Morning Prayer, from the Liturgy of the Hours. I am currently trying (not hard enough, apparently) to stop, per St. Ignatius of Loyola, 3 times a day (he said 5) for a review of the day-so-far and a brief examination of conscience. My favorite wake-up call is the middle of the night invitation to join in the Divine Mercy chaplet. Especially if I’ve waked at the Hour of Mercy (3-a.m.-ish), I feel very blessed to be participating in that movement over the whole world in prayer.
Thomas Howard, in Hallowed Be This House, recommended we take every trip to the bathroom as an opportunity to pray for cleansing and release of toxins. G.K. Chesterton suggested that St. Francis’ praise for water in the Canticle of Creation (Be praised for Sister Water: humble, helpful, precious, pure; she cleanses us…) be inscribed over sinks.
We can get creative with this! Doorbell rings: “Bless whoever this is, and our conversation.” Phone rings: “Holy Mary, help me to be truly present through this technology.” At a stoplight, “Jesus, help me to be still and wait on you.” In the checkout at the grocery store: “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!” Washing windows: “Lord, help me to be translucent and radiate your light.”
If praying is something that we have to find big chunks of time for, we’re much less likely to do it. If it is as natural as breathing, seeing, noticing the world we’re in, responding to whatever reality we actually encounter, then the days can be suffused with prayer time.
There’s a link between praying continuously and seeing poetically. What is real becomes a window to what is even more real. It’s because Sabbath-keeping helps develop in us this ‘poetic’ seeing that I think it does permeate the rest of the week with a lightness of being that is delightful and surprising….so, as you know, I highly recommend it!
Thanks to Jill Stanek, pro-life activist, for publishing this Guest Post about the 50 Million Names Project!
50,000,000! When we reached that abortion toll, I woke up, in a way, to the horror of this ongoing holocaust. I wished then, before Internet, email, and computers in every home, there was a way to give names for all those babies. No way!
This is the post that led to the talk, Women on the Way to Healing: She had a strong faith, a good Catholic husband, ten children, a beautiful home, good looks, a bright and well-educated mind, a healthy lifestyle, and a depression that just wouldn’t quit. She was my friend, and she’s dead. [Read more…]