Mary, our model of prayer, didn’t talk very much in the Gospels.
Beside her “fiat” to the Angel Gabriel, the most poignant thing that is said about Mary in the Gospels is that she kept all of these things and pondered themselves in the quiet of her heart.
But this Marian vocation of “living as contemplatives in action” can be very hard in this modern world.
In the book When Women Pray, Kathleen Beckman, L.H.S. collected the personal stories and reflections on Church teaching of eleven Catholic women. Each of these women proclaim the joy of prayer and the wealth of grace found there.
Here are excerpts from each woman’s reflection:
1. Kathleen Beckman: The Marian Heart Prays
“As the Pope was leaving after his homily, the popemobile rolled to a stop near where I was stand-in, and I was able to look into the Holy Father’s eyes. In his warm, piercing gaze, I saw incarnate love; he radiated Christ.
I thought, ‘My goodness, holiness is attractive!’ as I fervently prayed, ‘Lord, make me a saint like him!’ This prayer rose from my ardent desire to magnify Christ’s joyful love.
I repeated the prayer Veni Creator Spiritus. Opening myself entirely to the Holy Spirit, I was profoundly changed, never to become lukewarm since.
With the breath of the Spirit, prayer becomes like breathing.”
2. Johnnette Benkovic: The Transforming Power of Prayer
“Our Lord’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well provides us with a metaphor for prayer. It reminds us that this dialogue is like no other: it informs us, reforms us, and transforms us. It heals and soothes, convicts and forgives, unbinds and sets free. It brings light to our understanding and illumination to our soul. It can do all this and more because this dialogue is a conversation with God.”
3. Ronda Chervin, PhD: The Sigh of the Heart
“My first prayer was suggested to me by my godfather-to-be, a professor at Fordham University. I was studying Catholic philosophy in a frantic attempt to find some truth that would keep me from despair.
‘Why don’t you kneel and say the skeptic’s prayer?’ Dr. Balduin Schwarz suggested to me one day.
‘Huh? What’s that?’
‘God, if there is a God, save my soul, if I have a soul!’
This ‘skeptic’s prayer’ came to me during a tour of Europe. On the stop at Lourdes, France, the first answer to my prayer came without my realizing it. Many began to intercede for me– first, by showing me the beauty of the candlelight procession of the pilgrims at the miraculous shrine of Lourdes.
Shortly afterward, a picture of Jesus came alive with His eyes looking right at me!”
4. Doctor Pia de Solenni: Prayer with Sisters in Christ
“My friends’ response gave me a retrospect through which to understand my spiritual life. While I’m blessed to have male friends, both priests and laymen who are generous with their prayers, I realized that it is through my shared prayer life with many women friends that I’ve come to have a sense of what it is to have a sister and to be a sister to a woman.
And while every soul has an essentially feminine response to God, my experience suggests that there’s something uniquely feminine, even maternal, about the way in which women pray.”
5. Mary Healy, S.T.D.: God’s Overflowing Grace
“Our natural tendency is to praise God only when things are going well. But Scripture tells us, ‘Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
I once experienced the potency of this injunction when I was at a low point. A combination of troubles in relationships and in ministry had really discouraged me, and everywhere I turned, there seemed to be insoluble problems. One particularly difficult day, as I was trying to pray, I felt like the psalmist who said, ‘The waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold’ (Psalm 69:1-2).
I knew the Lord was calling me to praise Him right then and there, but there was nothing I wanted to do less. It felt as it it would be completely forced.
But as an act of faith, I began to thank God aloud– not in spite of my circumstances but for my circumstances. it was a way of acknowledging that He is utterly trustworthy and that He was caring for every detail of my life in His infinite goodness and wisdom. I smiled at the Lord and sang songs of praise.
And as I did, it was as though clouds of darkness lifted and my whole disposition gradually changed. I knew I could trust the Lord…”
6. Lisa M. Hendy: Praying with the Saints
“The first saint I ever met lived in the curio cabinet on Treebark Circle. That wooden abode was a place in our small suburban home that held the special treasures that we could look at but never touch.
I would often approach her, whispering my special intentions on tippy toes as I peered through the glass that held her in a tiny circular golden box. More often than not, she answered my prayers. So I believed, despite. my childlike ignorance, in her power as an intercessory friend.
And when I coupled those prayers directed to the Little Flower, whose relic my parents reverenced faithfully, with a decade or two on my over-sized, glow-in-the-dark rosary for the really big intentions, I more often than not saw results.”
7. Joan Lewis: A Heart-to-Heart with the Lord
“One thing I always do is thank God after I pray. Not just with the phrase ‘Thank God’ that so easily trips off the tongue. But a true, heartfelt ‘Thank You, Lord.’
Even before He answers my prayers, I thank Him. I find myself saying, ‘Thank You, Lord’ dozens of times during the day.
I thank God in the morning for giving me another day, for the sun that comes out after a tremendous storm, for the leaves that turn magical colors in the autumn, for being able to share a meal or coffee with friends and colleagues, for finding a seat on a crowded bus….The more I do it, the easier and more natural it becomes, just like praying a Hail Mary at a bus stop in Rome!”
8. Kathryn Jean Lopez: Pope Benedict XVI and Women Who Pray in Love
“In December of 2012, I was back at the Vatican. This time, Pope Benedict was addressing a group of Catholic leaders from the Americas.
Anyone who was jet-lagged woke up when he urgently warned: If you’re doing any kind of evangelization and are not encountering Jesus in prayer daily, your plans aren’t going to be worth all that much. Encounter, encounter, encounter, he emphasized, just months before Pope Francis would come on the scene and use the word repeatedly.”
9. Marilyn Quirk: A Relationship with the Living God
“Prayer for me is having a personal relationship with the living God. I was blessed to have two holy grandmothers whose prayers and examples led me to have a personal relationship with my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus, from an early age. It was an undeserved grace.
In that personal relationship, prayer was like breathing, and I became aware that I was never alone. Jesus was my best friend and confidant, always accompanying me in joy and sorrow. I learned the power of prayer at an early age. I prayed for my parents, whose marriage was very turbulent. I often wept over the suffering of others. I also learned the practice of offering up small sacrifices to God for various intentions.”
10. Vicki Thorn: My Ear to His Heart
“After I was enlightened about being the strong-willed sheep, I found an image of the Good Shepherd that spoke to my heart. His eyes look at us tenderly. He is carrying a black and white sheep on his shoulders, and the sheep’s head rests against the Shepherd’s face.
I noted that the sheep cannot see the shepherd in that position, but he is no longer in danger and is tenderly cared for. The sheep’s worldview is that of the Good Shepherd. I was changed by that realization.
Suffering people often speak despairingly of not being able to see God in their pain.
Now I understood why we don’t see God in those moments; we are held closely in His tender care.”
11. Kelly Wahlquist: Just Pray
“My prayer that night was simple. It was straightforward. It was heartfelt. And as I curled up on the couch, and rested in the comfort of the Spirit, it was answered.
That’s how I think prayer should be: simple, from the heart, and a place where we find rest. When life ceases to make sense, when circumstances overwhelm and anxieties arise, remember that God has given us another source of unfailing comfort in the arms of the Blessed Mother, and in the gift of the Rosary.
As we turn our minds from the uncertainties of our lives, and ponder the joyful mysteries of the salvation story, the familiar cadence of the prayers, like the soft lullaby of a mother in the ears of a fretful child, can calm and soothe our troubled hearts.”
For the full reflections on what happens when women pray, pick up a copy of Kathleen Beckman’s book When Women Pray at your local Catholic bookstore or online through Sophia Institute Press.