I am asked very often how to outgrow the struggle which is ours so often when we try to read the prayers which the saints have coined, which were born in their experience of life.
There was a time when I read with great faithfulness all the prayers which the Church offers us in the morning, in the evening and on other occasions. But I could not always identify with them. They were prayers which were strange to me. I had not grown to that measure of faith or to that measure of love for my neighbour. There were passages in the prayers which I could say sincerely; but there were passages which I could not say; partly because they went against my experience, my feeling, partly because I had not grown to that measure of faith and spiritual experience.
My spiritual father gave me advice on that. He said to me: ‘For a year I forbid you to use any of the prayers of the books of prayer. Before you go to bed, make the sign of the Cross and then lie down and say, “Lord, at the prayers of those who love me, save me,” and begin to ask yourself who are those who love you — who love you so much, so deeply, so truly, that you don’t need even to pray, because their prayers are your shield and your way?’
I tried it. One name after the other came. And every time a name floated up, I stopped one moment and said, ‘How wonderful! He loves me, she loves me! Oh God, bless him, bless her, for the love she can give me as a present.’ And then another name came, and another name, and so many came to my mind: people whom I had forgotten and whose love supported me, carried me. It was so wonderful to be loved. First I thought of the nearest, the dearest: my father, my mother, my grandmother, my friends. And then names came which I did not expect: people whom I had met a long time before, and forgotten, and who had been faithful friends.
And then I remembered my angel guardian. I remembered Christ, who had loved me in such a way that He gave His life for me. I remembered the Mother of God. I remembered our Father who is in Heaven. And all the world became so wonderful because it was a world, a sea of love, that carried me like a little ship.
I learnt something from this; and I wish you could try and learn. But there is another side to it. It was not I alone who needed the love and prayers of others. Others need them; and I began to ask myself, is there anyone whom I love who could say the same words as I have said: at the prayers of those who love me, save me? And then names came, faces came, people first whom I loved, people for whom I had affection; then people to whom I was indifferent, about whom I could not care. And I thought, how terrible! They may need the love of one person and I am not that person. And I turned to God and said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to love this person. But you have given your life for him, for her, as You have given it for me. Lord, bless, save, guide, be the way, be the door that opens into eternity for this person.’
And then the world became so vast, so deep, so beautiful. It became a world in which we all are saved by one another’s love and by the love of God.
Think of that. And may the blessing of the Lord be upon you, by His grace and love towards mankind, always, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.