"Put Out Into Deep Water..."

I'm not in "deep water" but in Leipsic, Ohio, at St. Mary's Parish, for a mission that began with my preaching at the weekend Masses. The title of this mission is "Pray Always?" The bulletin description of the theme goes like this: "St. Paul said to 'pray always' but how can we do that? Isn't that impossible?" The three evening talks are: "Put out into the Deep," "Entering into the Heart of Jesus," and "Living a Eucharistic Life."

Last night I began my talk with a passage from St. Luke, Chapter 5: 1-6. In this story Jesus asks Peter to allow Him to use his boat as a platform from which He could address the crowd that had assembled by the shore of the lake. Peter agrees and afterwards Jesus tells him, "Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch." You can just imagine Simon Peter thinking, "what can this carpenter's son tell me about fishing?" Yet he follows Jesus' instructions. Why? He trusted Jesus; but where did this trust come from? He had spent time with Jesus and became His friend. Out of this friendship and trust came obedience. And how that obedience was rewarded! The story says that Peter caught so many fish the nets began to tear and he had to call over his partners in another boat. Even then, both boats were close to being swamped. Trusting Jesus and following His directions give what we need.

Pope John Paul II used those words of Jesus to put out into the deep, or "Duc in Altum," in his Apostolic Letter as we began the new millennium, "Novo Millennio Ineunte." He wrote that the Church didn't need new programs; rather, each individual Christian needed to go deeper in his or her spiritual life. He wrote: "our Christian communities must become genuine 'schools' of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly 'falls in love'" (#33). Notice, besides prayers of petition, Pope John Paul mentions six other ways of praying that have more to do with giving and receiving than asking.

Peter didn't ask Jesus for anything. He listened, received the word of Jesus, responded to it, and then received. Of course asking or prayers of intercession are important, but they should not be the only prayers we make.

But how do we "pray always" as St. Paul directs? I don't think anyone has answered that question better than Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J. in his book "He Leadeth Me," the story of how he not only survived the Soviet Gulag but also grew in his faith there. He writes:

"...in my opinion, the Morning Offering is still one of the best practices of prayer--no matter how old-fashioned some may think it. For in it, at the beginning of each day, we accept from God and offer back to him all the prayers, works, and sufferings of the day, and so serve to remind ourselves once again of his providence and his kingdom. If we could only remember to spend the day in his presence, in doing his will, what a difference it would make in our own lives and the lives of those around us! We cannot pray always, in the sense of those contemplatives who have dedicated their whole lives to prayer and penance. Nor can we go around abstracted all day, thinking only of God and ignoring our duties to those around us, to family and friends and to those for whom we are responsible. But we can pray always by making each action and work and suffering of the day a prayer insofar as it has been offered and promised to God."