There are moments of prayer when you feel nothing. It’s not just dry, it’s chapped. Painful and seemingly futile, you try to press on.
And then there are moments of prayer that are exactly the opposite. An overwhelming response of love and being loved. Oodles of spiritual consolation. Tonight was one of those nights.
A dark church, Jesus in the monstrance, and Franciscan Friars of the Renewal leading praise.
There was a time in my life, not so long ago, when I was turned off by praise and worship. I saw the dangers of a relationship with God based only on emotions and feeling. My experiences of praise and worship had been the “touchy-feelie-happy-clappie” music that tried to be relevant, often hand-in-hand with liturgical abuses, and inevitably resulted in emotional highs that ended in nothing but wilted wheat. (See Matthew 13:20-21 and the seed that has no root.)
Then I met a group of girls who opened my eyes to what I had been missing. They probably didn’t even they were doing it; they were simply praying with me, praying for me, and showing me how “praise and worship” could be a genuine companion to my liturgically correct, intellectually-grounded relationship with God.
Your relationship doesn’t have to be pure emotion. It also doesn’t have to be purely intellectual. In fact, it should be both.
If our prayer life depends on emotional highs, it’s not going to last long. But there’s also nothing wrong with praising God through song … and maybe even with our hands. (don’t tell anyone I said that.)
I still don’t pray that way often – partly because it’s not my go-to manner of prayer, and partly because I’m pretty picky and it has to be done right for me to be able to pray with it. If it’s too showy, if it’s not liturgically correct, if it’s trying too hard, if it’s too loud, if it’s just bad… well, give me some silence and a rosary instead, thanks.
But tonight was a sublime night of prayer. My parish had been hosting a “Catholic Underground” once a month (a night of prayer, adoration, and music and fellowship) and had taken a break. Tonight was the first one since the summer, and three Franciscan Friars of the Renewal flew down to join us. They led the holy hour and they emceed the music afterwards.
The Holy Hour was incredible. Several musicians accompanied Brother’s beautiful voice as he led both Evening Prayer and praise and worship in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament. Three priests were hearing confession. The hour flew by.
This was a reoccurring song during praise… It has to be one of the best songs for praise and worship during Adoration, and not just because hearing it brings back beautifully moving WYD images.
After Adoration, we all headed downstairs for the concert. In true Nashville form, it featured singer-songwriters- all of them local. Maggie Padgett (formerly of Judd & Maggie), Roman Candle, Mike Lahey, and Audrey Assad all graced the stage. I’m sure Matt Maher would have joined in if he would have been home.
And then the Friars took the stage, too!
We ended with Compline, the Night Prayer of the Church.
And if you think the night couldn’t be better… oh, it was. Shortly after the concert started, I headed back up the church to see if Father was still hearing confessions. He was heading downstairs as I was heading up, but he gladly returned to the confessional, assuring me, “I like killing sins.” So now I am shriven, too.
I’m pretty sure we need the Franciscan Friars to come every month. I could get used to this praise and worship stuff.