Where Do You Pray?

by Melannie Svoboda SND on April 27, 2020

In his book, Wrestling with God, Ronald Rolheiser says, “God has given us two churches:” Physical holy places/ holy buildings and the holy place within each of us.

The first church consists of actual churches, cathedrals, temples, synagogues, mosques, shrines and such. The second church is where Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well where she could pray: that holy place within her. Many of us worship regularly in an actual church–perhaps our local parish. On occasion we might even go to a shrine or Cathedral. But many of you reading this, also pray in that holy-place-of-who-you-are. You can do this alone at your kitchen table, while strolling in a park, or even when lying alone in a hospital bed.

But I would like to suggest two other “churches”: creation itself and our daily life. I suspect more people pray in the “Cathedral of Creation” than anywhere else. When they stand atop a mountain, gaze at a beautiful lake, or inspect the tiny green shoots coming up through the mud, they spontaneously express their wonder or gratitude to the God-Force-Power-Author responsible for such goodness. That is great prayer.

St. Augustine wrote, “If one has an eye for it, creation is a sacrament.” A sacrament! That means that God’s grace can come pouring into us through a mountain, a daisy, a tree, a bee. Pope Francis would agree. He wrote, “Soil, water, mountains: Everything is a caress from God.” Often the beauty and mystery of creation leads us to connect spontaneously with the Author of All.

Our daily life, to me, is another church in which we can pray. This means we pay attention to what is happening in our lives and we ponder those people, happenings, and situations. These can be major things–like this pandemic we are experiencing right now, a troubled relationship, our personal health issues, a special family celebration, the fidelity of a loved one, worry about the future. Or these things can be smaller everyday things like sipping our morning coffee, folding clean laundry, filling our gas tank, working in the yard, doing a crossword puzzle, talking to a friend, reading a good book, going to bed. As Barbara Brown Taylor says, God speaks to us “in the language of our lives.”

(All photos from Pexels)

And so, let us pray: Creating God, thank you for all the places you have given us to nourish our prayer. The churches, chapels, and shrines that lift our minds and hearts to you with their vastness or coziness, their ornateness or simplicity, their silence or song. Thank you for that holy-place-of-who-we-are where we meet you dwelling within our very selves. Thank you for your marvelous creation–for its beauty and mystery, its power and fragility, its immensity and teeny-weeniness, its diversity and interconnectedness. And finally, thank you for the gift of daily life, those times of routine and interruptions, ambiguity and clarity, choosings and surrenderings, teachings and learnings, the expected and the surprising. And please, Beloved Author of All, give us the grace to find you present in the whole of our lives. Amen.

Where do you pray?

Have you ever been in a particular building (church, chapel, cathedral, synagogue, mosque, shrine) and the place itself moved you to prayer?

Are there particular aspects of nature that nourish your prayer?

Which of the four “churches” listed here (actual buildings, your inner-being, nature, your daily life) nourishes your prayer the most?

Can you give examples or evidence that Jesus prayed in these four “churches”?

PS: The popular spiritual writer, Sister Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB, passed away last week. Her good friend, Sister Joyce Rupp, was able to be with her during her final days. Macrina’s death is a great loss to all of us who were nourished by her words. Let us pray for her, her family, and her Benedictine community at St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (I devoted my Nov. 18, 2019 blog to Macrina’s newest book, The Flowing Grace of Now. If you’d like to read it just go to the search box on the right and type in her name or The Flowing Grace of Now it should come up.)

PPS: On another level, with the help of my good writer-friend, Sister Kathleen Glavich, SND, I have re-published two of my books that were out of print: When the Rain Speaks and Traits of a Healthy Spirituality (my “best-seller”). Both books are now available on Amazon.com. Look for the 2019 and 2020 editions.

During this time of staying at home and social distancing, I offer you two music videos: Matt Maher’s beautiful song “Love Will Hold Us Together” and the orchestra from Rotterdam, Netherlands playing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”—all the members playing from their homes.

A virtual orchestra playing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”:

I invite you to respond below to anything in this blog–the words, pictures, or music. We all love hearing from you!

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas DeFreitas April 27, 2020 at 4:35 am

Such a beautiful reflection, Sister! It seems almost impertinent to add anything. But being incorrigibly impertinent (ha!), add I will!

I pray in my recliner. The twenty- to thirty-minute sessions of “chair prayer” (something like meditation) have become an essential part of my day (usually evenings at seven, but I’m trying these days to add a morning session).

I pray with YouTube. The gift and grace of music has been so important to me these days. From Scarlatti to Sedaka and everything in between. Many “odes to joy”!

I pray with the forsythia and the grape hyacinths and the other flowerlife and leaflife currently burgeoning in this part of the world.

I miss praying in the “official” holy places, of course. But thanks to technology, I can participate in prayer from places as farflung as Waubun, Minnesota and Canterbury, England. Part of the history both of Roman Catholics and of Anglicans, Canterbury is becoming dear to me. The Dean of Canterbury is such an amiable sort, often appearing on YouTube with his “spiritual companion,” Leo the cat!

And I pray with gratitude lists. Current gratitudes at half past four on a Monday morning: coffee, birdsong, Sunflower Seeds (not an exhaustive list!).

Peace and light to all, and health, and hope.

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John E Hopkins April 27, 2020 at 5:26 am

Good morning, Sr. Melannie…
Good morning, all…

This may be blasphemy, but at the moment I’m not missing the inside of a church. I don’t know why. Since the pandemic, I have only once or twice tried to view Mass on television or Youtube.

My prayer life, however, has not waned. My favorite time to prayer is right now, early morning. Like Tom, my coffee is close by. Currently, the wind is howling, the rain gusting. A delicious silence! I have read the morning prayers from Give Us This Day. And now I’m here.

I take my walks unplugged. At some point during the stroll, I’ll quietly say, O Lord, you are my portion and my cup in this land of the living. Lord, hear my prayer…..

Lately, I’ve been sending via the United States Postal Service (support them!) hand-written notes to friends and loved ones. I find this to be a form of prayer. Lately, I’ve been standing in line a lot, especially at supermarkets (a new communion line?), and during this time I use my fingers to say the rosary. Lately, to echo Lynn Ungar, I’ve been “centering down.”

“That means that God’s grace can come pouring into us through a mountain, a daisy, a tree, a bee. Pope Francis would agree.” Such lovely sentences. Sister!

The birds are starting to sing. Amen, my friends. Amen!

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Kathleen Magiera April 27, 2020 at 6:36 am

Good Morning Sr. Melannie and friends,

What a glorious reflection! The Ode to Joy brought tears to my eyes. Enough said. I shared on FB.

God bless.

Kathleen

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Ed Johnson April 27, 2020 at 6:39 am

Such a beautiful reflection, Sister. I love the Benedictine principle of “Ora et Labora,” prayer and work. While I have my prayer spot in our home, in recent years I’ve tried to make everything I do a prayer. Many call this mindfulness; of the moment, of the place, of the person, of God in all things in my life. So sorry to hear of Sister Macrina’s passing….a wonderful spiritual guide. “Ode to Joy” video….simply awesome and inspirational. Peace, Blessings, and Safety to all.
Ed J

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Agatha April 27, 2020 at 7:43 am

So sorry to hear of Sr. Macrina’s death. Loved her “Mining the Now”. And how appropriate her “Prayer for Divine Wisdom” in The latest Livung Faith.

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Cathy Baier April 27, 2020 at 8:27 am

Yes, being in nature does inspire prayers of thankfulness to God. I’ve been joining Mass on YouTube. I have to say I search for an inspiring homily. I need something extra these days. Reading Sr Melannie’s When the Blue Heron Flies again. Lovely prayer-poems.

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Mary M Nausadis April 27, 2020 at 8:48 am

Good morning Sister and all,
It’s a delightful morning hear near the shores of Lake Michigan and I have been out for my prayful walk already today. I find God in the outdoors especially in the early hours, when it is still peaceful except for the birdsong and the branches crackling under the running feet of the bunnies.

I am especially consumed by the vastness and beauty of bodies of water and the sky, both of which fill me to full in forever a state of awe at what our God has gifted us with.

I also have not watched mass on tv or youtube….I find my time spent in my own “ark of the covenant” is so much more nourishing, leading me to knowing God in a fuller way and loving my neighbors in a more inclusive way. I do miss my church community, though.

Both of the videos were uplifting and shared them both with my siblings.

I pray for you all that you will remain healthy in mind and body.

God’s peace and love to you all,
Mary

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Jan Ellen Honeycutt April 27, 2020 at 9:24 am

Hello,
I am so moved by this post this morning. I LOVE what you have conveyed to us in your post.
I will Greatly Miss…. Sister Macrina. Wow I did not know…We will hold her in our heart/holy place…

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Linda April 27, 2020 at 9:27 am

Good morning, sorry to hear of Sr. Macrina’s death. I am still going to mass every morning, thanks to Word on Fire on the internet. My morning prayers are said before this mass begins. Looking forward to the sunny day in Ohio and the good news our governor will be sharing this afternoon.

Love to all

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Sandy April 27, 2020 at 9:41 am

Good morning sister Melanie. I loved your blog today. I struggle to see the blessed in me in my every day life. In my ordinary life. But I know I carry God’s grace in my heart so that would be my church. I’m so sorry to hear of Sister Macrina‘s death. I loved her writings.Macrina was the name of my first grade teacher over 70 years ago. God rest her soul. God bless you sister for all the good and joy and smiles and insight you bring to the world. Sandy S

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Sr. Kate Hine April 27, 2020 at 9:42 am

Good Morning, Melannie!

I was excited to read your post! Just before I opened it, I was looking out the window and noticed the primary colors that appeared in our yard: a cardinal, a blue jay and a goldfinch. How could I not offer a prayer of awe and praise!

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Elaine Snyder April 27, 2020 at 9:58 am

As always, I so appreciate your thoughts and reflections every Monday morning. I am currently reading the book of your friend, Sister Macrina, And have been moved by her words and thoughts. I know she is with the communion of saints is a heavenly banquet! God bless you and all that you have given your faithful readers!

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Pete April 27, 2020 at 10:39 am

Good morning,
I pray wherever I am, if so moved. Definitely in the morning to start my day. Monday mornings are a highlight to my week, thanks to Sr. Melanie and Sunflower Seeds, a prayer unto itself.

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Suzanne April 27, 2020 at 11:04 am

Loved today’s reflection and music from the Netherlands. This time last year I was there to see all of nature in its magnificence! I pray in the chapel of my heart wherever I go and find God along the way.

Blessings all and stay well and safe.

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Jane Wynne April 27, 2020 at 11:13 am

Dear Sister- Today’s Reflections and music were the best in the year I have been reading your blog!!!! Thank you. I miss my church- go to the daily chapel about twice a week when out for groceries or other necessities and pray the rosary and am comforted. At the same time, I love praying in nature. Heading out next to walk along the Niagara River and say a rosary!

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Valorie Shue April 27, 2020 at 12:32 pm

I’m especially thankful for my land in the Arkansas Ozarks during this pandemic. I have enjoyed watching Spring unfold with the redbuds and the dogwoods. Yesterday when I took my golden retrievers, Sunny and Oliver, I noticed lots of yellow meadow flowers. I looked at the puffy white clouds and spotted an angel.

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Rita Rings April 27, 2020 at 1:34 pm

After a tragic death in our family, I was on a city train in Rome to our rented room near St. Peters. Looking out the window, I saw a magnificent field of poppies and sensed God’s love for me in a very personal way. I was surprised that my cathedral would be in a small worn seat not a pew. Indeed our first trip to Rome included many, many churches and the art inside those churches is also in my memory. But the poppies, the poppies…

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Tom April 27, 2020 at 1:45 pm

I am fascinated by orchestra members who are able to blend the sounds of their respective instruments when they are each alone in their own home, virtually drawn together as if gathered on one stage.

To me, this gives a whole new appreciation of our mystery of the Communion of Saints, holy people of every time and place, gathered around God’s throne and around the altar of the Lamb.

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joan metzger April 27, 2020 at 2:07 pm

I do miss participating at Mass at my parish, but do find watching it on my computer from various parts of the country, including viewing Pope Francis celebrate Mass, has given me a greater appreciation of the liturgy. Prayer comes any time of the day, and any place I happen to be, now more than ever. Both songs were beautiful, but seeing the faces of the musicians as they played the Ode to Joy, was very moving. Their music is also a prayer. Thank you so much Sister Melanie for brightening our Mondays!

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Mary Frances Taymans April 27, 2020 at 4:21 pm

Thank you for taking us to the many chapels in our lives. Walking through spring unfolding is mine right now.
Thanks for the re-connect with Ode to Joy.
Mary Fran

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Peggy April 27, 2020 at 6:50 pm

Thank you for sharing information on Sister Macrina’s book The Flowing Grace of Now which I ordered and have used faithfully each day in prayer. She is with the Saints. Your music choices were great in my meditation warm-up, Matt Maher & the virtual orchestra. Perhaps Sister Macrina, the angels & saints were tapping and swaying when each of us listened.

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Rita Cusack April 28, 2020 at 1:05 am

Well done. I just loved Ode to Joy… three cheers for bringing Beethoven alive once again…
Stay safe ….stay home…. take good care…
Blessings Rita

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Nancy Dobney April 28, 2020 at 2:40 pm

I loved the reflection and love nature. Last weekend I spent so much time weeding flower beds, etc. and I offered up my work for my sins and those of who have hurt me. I thought a lot about Mary as I was missing my mom. I used to hate to weed the garden and I told her that so many times. Yet, here I was calling my weeding and being outside “therapy” and I realized my mother was such a smart woman and I asked for her forgiveness. With those thoughts I started singing the Hail Mary over and over somewhat like saying the rosary. Eventually my two dogs were sound asleep beside me and my weeding became a joy. I am so thankful for such a beautiful world and where I live. God is good to me!

PS. I am so very sorry for the loss of your friend. I’m sure she is experiencing great joy in heaven…..I can only imagine!

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Catherine D. Murray April 29, 2020 at 5:24 pm

Dear Sr. Melanie:

What a beautiful blog! A special thanks for news about the recent death of Macrina Wiekerkehr and the support of her friend, Joyce Rupp. During the years I facilitated women’s retreats on spirituality at various Catholic retreat centers (as a lay woman), I used materials from both women which were favorites of the retreatants. A true loss will be felt in the world of authentic spirituality …

I’m grateful to be introduced to your holistic spirituality; and, would appreciate being on your blog list.

Thanks for sharing your giftedness,
Catherine

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Jean Canatsey May 1, 2020 at 12:42 pm

Thank you, Sr, Melannie, for this beautiful blog!
My husband and I start every morning praying on our back porch as we gaze at our Don Juan roses blooming on the back fence, listening to the birds singing and our fountain bubbling and watching the squirrel scampering along our fence as he teases our dogs. We are really enjoying the silence being afforded us at this time. There are hardly any planes flying overhead. It’s as if the world has stopped and said, “Take a long, deep breath.”
You asked about churches that lead us to prayer. For me that would be the Mother of God Chapel at San Pedro Retreat Center in Winter Park, FL and the Adoration Chapel in the Cathedral at St. Augustine, FL.
As for nature, I would have to say that watching a caterpillar spin it’s chrysalis and then emerge as a beautiful monarch butterfly would have to be at the top of my nature list. I also love simply gazing at the ocean. It always leads me to quiet prayer.
We are loving the Sunday masses from “Our Lady of Lourdes” in Daytona Beach, FL. Fr. Phil always begins by opening the church doors and inviting you in. I love the way he “tells us the scripture” and his homilies are always inspiring and practical.
We have listened a couple of times to the music. It’s always inspiring.
Please! Never quit writing your blogs!

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Carol May 3, 2020 at 8:27 pm

I just want to share with you that during this pandemic and when I found out that we can’t go to Mass except through social media, I asked myself, where do I go to pray. Not that I only pray at church, because I would often pray anytime and anyplace when something was troubling me. But I told myself, that I needed a specific place to go, in our house, as a place to kneel and pray anytime I wanted to. So, I created a place in our guest room, with a crucifix, a statue of St. Joseph and of Mother Mary. I put the lectionary, holy water and a candle on a table in front of these. So, now this is where I can go to sit and read the daily scripture or knell to say the rosary. I have found it a place of silence and refuge on a daily basis during this pandemic while I’m staying at home. Thanks Sr. Melanie for reminding us that our daily life is also a place where we can go to pray. I pray that all who are touched with this virus, and all who are helping to stop its spreading, are blessed by God. We will get through this and again, be together in our churches soon. Until then, pray wherever you may be and any time and any place. God Bless all!

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Dolores May 17, 2020 at 8:11 am

I find God in my walks in the beauty I see. I found God pushing me on the other day to see an awe inspiring couple two Canada geese in a small pond. I thanked the Lord to see these two love birds in the peace and tranquility of the day. Later in the evening I saw the beauty of the sun setting again thank you Lord.
Prayer is more peaceful and meaningful in this time. Without the distraction of people in the church. I love being with people but in the silence prayer is more meaningful to me. In church I close my eyes to all the distractions and better hear the word.
First time joining your blog. Thank you.

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Millie May 31, 2020 at 7:33 am

I would like to revive your emails please as I enjoyed your readings very much .
Thank you,
Millie

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