So often in day-to-day ministry someone asks for prayers. In the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS), there is even a card that people can use to send in their intentions for prayer. It is moving to read about the life situations that people experience.
We keep an intention book in the main chapel of the Edwin Cardinal O’Brien Pastoral Center in Washington, D.C., for those requests and others that people might write in the book. Generically, those intentions are mentioned in the prayer of the faithful at the daily Mass in the pastoral center. Equally moving are the requests made as I move about the world ministering to the men and women in uniform and their families, as well as to our veterans. Recently, a young man who had been chosen for a special assignment asked for a blessing, because he wanted to do well. I was happy to offer a prayer for his success and to bless him.
On another occasion, right before Mass, a woman came into the sacristy with a request for the remembrance of a seriously ill child. I took that intention with me to the altar.
In Afghanistan, a Protestant chaplain asked me to bless the personnel of the area under his responsibility. I was happy to pray for those people in harm’s way, but I was amazed when the commander of that same area came up to me in the dining facility to thank me for doing so. He was not there, and so the chaplain must have told him about the blessing.
I have a habit of keeping a sheet of paper in the front of my breviary simply with a list of names of people who have been recommended to me for prayers. Every morning when I pray lauds, I entrust those names to the Lord. That makes it easy to fulfill my promise, even if I am on an airplane or far from Washington, which so often is the case.
Speaking of planes, shortly after assuming responsibility for the AMS I was on a plane that ran into difficulty in flight. An unscheduled, emergency landing was to take place. We were told to get into the brace position. Bent over in the seat, I first began to think of several tasks unaccomplished. Quickly, I dismissed that as a foolish thought and began to make a perfect act of contrition and to entrust everything to the benevolent hands of the Lord.
I was amazed at how calm I became. He was in charge, and I was in his hands. Obviously, the plane landed safely, but I will never forget that experience of peace. The airline’s attempt to compensate with rescheduling, bonus miles and hastily concocted snacks did not compare to his gift.
In 1982, I remember seeing in the sacristy of a church in Fresno, California, the intention mandated by the diocesan bishop, the Most Reverend José Madera, who was later an auxiliary bishop of the AMS. It mandated prayers for rain. Years later, I have established the mandated intention of the AMS: to pray for vocations. After all, the Lord Jesus told us to beg the Master of the harvest to provide workers for the harvest (see Mt 9:38). Certainly, this archdiocese desperately needs an abundance of priests to minister across the globe.
My most vivid memories of Pope St. John Paul II, who ordained me an archbishop, were of him at prayer. In his private chapel before Mass and at various moments during his pastoral visit to Paraguay, where I was the secretary of the nunciature, I witnessed him deeply in prayer. He always made time for it.
Once, waiting in the papal apartment to transfer a call from a U.S. president to Pope John Paul II, I realized that the latter was preparing for his conversation by spending time in prayer in the chapel. I presume that he had read the briefs prepared for the conversation, but the immediate preparation was that conversation with almighty God. Clearly this was the practice and the attitude of a saint.
I keep trying to imitate his example, and I invite others to do the same.
ARCHBISHOP TIMOTHY P. BROGLIO is archbishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.