St. Anne de Beaupre: a pilgrimage & a prayer

Today was one of those lightly, happy days when the sun never quite shines and the smile is not quite full,  It was a day of writing, reflecting and mostly appreciating the very experience of life.  I did not leave the house.  Yesterday I shopped and did the chores necessary to be able to just stay home.  The furthest I got was the wood pile and then it was only one or two short trips.  I create this kind of day when ever I can.  The emptying of responsibilities short of what is needed to write or draw, creates a space between me and my breath.  That space is what i have been calling God.

It goes by so fast, a day, a week, a year and first you know it has been nearly a life time.  Regrets intermingle with joys and memories cavort with anticipations and every now and again there is that quieting glimpse of the eternal now, the one that so easily escapes us.  There is a feeling of living forever when that singular moment comes by and taps us on the back and says, “hey, look here, look it is here, right now–this is it. This is your life.

I close my eyes to the eternal stillness and I nod a reverent nod of respect as if I were tipping my hat to the pastor or the gentleman judge.  The streets could be those of a dusty western town a century ago, or it could be a place that does not yet exist, maybe not even on this planet.  Although, it is hard to admit that this may not be the center of the universe, there could be a star out there that supports something like what we have here on earth.  But I meander, my point is to acknowledge that within the experience of the moment, I find a kind of god that looks out for me.

I don’t think of it as a creature, or a king, or even as a man, but whatever it is, it contains something like hope and faith and it makes charity possible and even desirable.

I am looking for God.  I have heard that this super, higher power acts on things that i can not act on.  I have heard that he may have been looking out for me when I was a more reckless aspect of myself than i am now.  I don’t know!  I hate to feel trapped in a search that resembles anything like the search that I made for him as a child.  But when I am honest with myself, I think I am looking for the same thing.  Someone to pray to.  Something to petition when I feel desperate and lonely or scared.

Who is it that has taught me to pray?  It was not my father–though I do have a vague memory of him kneeling on the side of his bed reciting Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s in such a rapid fashion that the words were more like chants than they were prayer.  It may have been my mother.  Again, I am not sure.  Someplace along this line of human growth, I learned how to recite by rote prayers that still today I will conjure up from the depth when I am in need of a special strength to get through a particularly stressful moment.

Years ago, I remember thinking while sitting in a dentists chair, “what on earth do people do sitting in this chair if they do not know how to pray?”

I was brought up on the Baltimore Catechism.  I can still see the two-tone green paper bound book that I would study in the church.  “Who made me?”  “God made me.”  And eventually the commandments, all ten rules that applied to everyone to not suffer the pains of hell.  The glowing white hot walls of fire that squeezed  with molten lead the bodies of the sinners, but here is the rub–you never got to die.  The walls of fire only burned and tortured you in a forever way.  There was no death to save you from the pains of hell.  It was the forever fires of damnation.  “And who for us will intercede when even saints shall comfort need?”

Who would not learn to pray under those conditions.  They still scare me today.  I was not taught to be good because it was the right thing to do for my neighbor, i was taught it was the only option because anything less would bring down the wrath of the angry god onto my head and I would have millstones tied to the bottoms of my feet and I would be dropped into the deepest ocean.

Hail Holy Queen Mother of Mercy, Our Life our sweetness and our Hope.  To thee we cry poor banished children of Eve, to thee we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley, of tears.  Turn then most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us; and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus; O clement, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary.  Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.

Now, that was a prayer.  The cadence, the lyrics, the imagery, the promise, the glory of it all–that was the Catholic answer to the fires of hell.  Beg to be given the will to see the light.

Well, I guess it has changed somewhat today.  I mean, I still approach prayer with the same desperate hope for a kind of salvation, but more recently the salvation is not about another life, it is about the conditions right here, right now in our world.  Dear God, Have mercy–these politicians do not have a clue about hell.  Someone should scare the pants off of them.  You know, light a fire under them to wake them up a bit.  Perhaps if they were more threatened by some walls of white molten lead they might pass the health care bill.

I still pray and I still hope there is a God like the one I knew as a child–but chances are slimmer by the day that that will happen.  More than likely, I will find some quiet space someplace inside my head, along side my ego that swims around up there as well, and I will call this spot of stillness–God.

Why not call it God?  It may not be choirs of angles, but there is a solitude that returns hope and faith to my desperate heart when I need it.   There does not need to be a God in order for prayer to work.

PRAYER CHANGES THINGS;  Ask What Ye will, And It Will Be Done.

I still have the plaque that held that saying up in my mother’s kitchen.  It is above my sink in my kitchen, and I am not sure if it reminds me of my mother, or if it reminds me to pray.

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5 comments on “St. Anne de Beaupre: a pilgrimage & a prayer

  1. Collette Williams says:

    Like you, I love getting close to the Maker in solitude – precious moments BEing away from chaos, distractions and the reponsbilities of life. … LOVE your photo of St. Anne de Beaupre! … I still have a religious medal and a blessed marble shaped and sized piece of bread that I got there on vacation 45 years ago! How prayers change over time … when I was a small child I remember praying on my knees – REALLY PRAYING – for a red scooter. Then I got mad at God when I didn’t get one. Now I pray for God’s will and protection from harm for myself and my fellows. I mostly pray for the 7 “H’s” … health, healing, happiness, humor, humility, harmony, and hope. And I pray to have enough to live with enough surplus to travel and see natural wonders, etal. … It’s profound to me that I just heard the 1st morning dove of the season outside my window – 6:00 this Sunday, Feb. 28th! The dove – a symbol of God – reminds me that spring IS coming … a time of rebirth, renewal and return of crocus, peepers, willows and many of my coveted feathered friends. I don’t call God by name even though He/She has many. I simply think that God is one, all, indivisible, and love Most High. Happy next writes Al/Dr.D./writer- soul-artist friend! {Been making 10 bead rosaries for practicing Catholic friends. Now I see there are 12 bead recovery beads pictured on line! Didn’t know there was such a thing! Cool – time for coffee and beading on a FREE Sunday – after an awesome birthday week.

  2. ted says:

    Sometimes I thought you were writing about me.

    • aldussault says:

      sometimes, i was, my dear friend–sometimes I was…i can not tell you how grateful i am that I found you before you died…I looked for so long…we had just a few short months of reconnecting, but we relived the joys of being 17 and our first cars and our walks home….i will miss you….rest in peace dear friend

  3. conraddj says:

    Al — so far as searching for God… isn’t it just a matter of starting a conversation, like the one you and I started years ago? At the beginning you have no idea who it really is you’re talking to… that comes out as you go along.

    And so far as hell and damnation are concerned — I can’t think of a more effective way to prevent someone from learning to talk to God. Compared to that, not being sure whether God is “real” is a minor obstacle, surely. I think Meister Eckhart said somewhere — Thank you, God, for not showing up and proving to me that you’re a Fact, that would overwhelm my life with your tremendous Reality… Thank you for just being there quietly and invisibly as someone I can talk to.

    Your friend — Conrad

  4. Phebs says:

    Al,
    Are those angles right or 45 degrees?
    My angels do not have wings
    but amongst them is Dr. Martin Luther King,
    my step 3x gran, Phoebe Tallman, Saints Frances, Bridget, Brendan, Augustine.

    Keria eleison. (sp?)

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