Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Prayer and Loathing on Art Hill

 

Today, my lovely wife and I went to Art Hill, a historic place in St. Louis. Our art museum, one of the many gems in St. Louis, is adorned with a statue of our city’s namesake, King Louis the IX, monarch of France and canonized a saint by the church of Rome.

The statue of King Louis has become controversial of late, as have many monuments to figures meaningful to Western Civilization. While I think it is wise and fruitful to revisit various monuments and consider if they are worth their place, I think the current fever is ridiculous, and not borne of a desire for civic hygiene, but just a means to focus anger in furtherance of political goals.

Faithful Catholics have been gathering there to pray the Rosary. I have friends who are attending and joining their Catholic brothers and sisters. My wife and I joined them at the appointed time Monday evening. Our Catholic friends got right to it.

After a few minutes of reflection, being a protestant I am not familiar with praying the Rosary and out of respect I would not even try. I did see a few men off in the corner standing respectfully, not kneeling, and not holding a set of beads.

We approached them and quietly asked if they were protestant, and if so would they join with us. Lacking a tradition as old and rich as the Rosary, we fell back into the evangelical mnemonic of ACTS. We each prayed, offering an adoration of God, a confession of sin, a prayer of thanksgiving, and a supplication. My brothers and my wife each spoke in turn, a bit more freeform than the Rosary, but I think fairly disciplined for evangelicals.

All of us gathered in the gloaming, in the shadow of St. Louis, praying for peace, for unity, for hope…I really have no idea what the mind of a person praying the Rosary does, as I have not ever done it. I do know I was moved. I felt the Spirit of the True and Living God among us.

We protestants sang, quietly, “Bind us Together” as we closed up about the time our friends finished “Ave Maria” on their second round of three. We then quietly parted, and my wife and I continued to pray quietly.

Our current troubles are troubles of the human heart and all its capacity for darkness. I think politically motivated persons are using a legitimate issue to pursue illegitimate ends. While politics is an important field, and the faithful should participate, I think our best battleground is the few square feet we occupy when we humble ourselves before our God and ask for his intervention.

Tonight I learned the value of a statue of a flawed historical figure. To the purely rational mind, it may seem silly to risk conflict over a statue. Nevertheless, consider the witness of the previous Saturday. A friend describes some very obnoxious conduct – heckling and profanity – from a vocal crowd there to jeer at the supplicants. Undeterred and unprovoked, our Catholic neighbors in attendance piously kneeled and began to pray, led by a priest who had come from our sister town of Kansas City. As the priest-led laity cycled through their obligation, the heckling crowd became quiet, then silent. For 90 minutes (I believe) they prayed.

In the end, a substantial number of hecklers stayed, relieved of their animus, and a meaningful conversation broke out among the opposed groups. Those of us who believe in this sort of thing know that the Spirit of the Living God will bring peace, and I believe this happened. If even one of these taunting people finds peace with God from the experience, then the world will be a better place for the piety of the men and women who, in the quest to save a statue discovered lost sheep along the journey, and gained a story of the presence of the Divine.

I am chagrined that so few of us protestants could be bothered to join, though the effort is fairly new. I have no shortage of Evangelicals expressing their outrage over Trump posing with a bible, but nothing of a call to prayer from pastors in my area – perhaps I am missing them.

Alas, I have no great insight to wrap up this note, other than I can see how people can pray, together, and make a difference. I know this in my mind, but it is yet far from my heart, that prayer is powerful and effective.

We conservatives, we Christian conservatives have been trying to avert the Communist catastrophes that befell other Christian nations like Germany, Russia, and Italy in the 20th century by being involved in the marketplace of ideas and by putting our shoulders to the political wheel. Now that it’s all in peril of falling apart, I plan to return to the statue of King Louis and pray some more. I will at least find peace for myself, and maybe have the privilege of showing someone else what I did to get it. Who knows, there may yet be a revival. Our God is mighty. If he can change me, he can change anyone.

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  1. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    “May the Lord help us in our time of need

    May his Spirit guide us within and without

    May angels remind us of changes for the better

    When things look darkest in stormy weather.”

    I was taught that prayer as a child by a French friend of my Aunt Iris. The woman had spent two years in a German concentration camp, for being a dissident suspected of sheltering Jews.

    • #1
    • June 29, 2020, at 9:19 PM PDT
    • 15 likes
  2. JennaStocker Member

    Thank you for showing courage in your faith and for being a good steward of humility before God, love, and patience that is so often overlooked in favor of the caricature we’re often portrayed: naive, closed-minded, and bigoted. This is a wonderful post and model of what I wish was more readily reported in the press. I’ll be praying for you and your city.

    • #2
    • June 29, 2020, at 9:47 PM PDT
    • 16 likes
  3. ShaunaHunt Coolidge

    God bless you and your goodness! We have far more in common than not. I felt the Spirit as I read your post. Thank you!

    • #3
    • June 29, 2020, at 10:37 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  4. KentForrester Moderator

    Tim, you’ve written an inspiring and edifying post. Thank you. 

    • #4
    • June 30, 2020, at 2:58 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. J Climacus Member

    Thank you for this inspiring post! You provide an example of how to win back our culture. It all must be based in prayer, and St. Louis is our example.

    From Catholic Answers on St. Louis:

    There was perhaps no greater king in the history of France. He governed his realm peacefully and justly for forty-four years, following three principles: devotion to God, self-discipline, and affection for his people. Even in an age of faith, the king’s personal piety and sanctity stood out. He wore simple clothing, especially after his return from the Crusade, and kept a regimented prayer life. He awoke each night at midnight to participate with his royal chaplains in the Liturgy of the Hours, and said fifty Hail Marys each evening, kneeling and standing for each prayer. Louis’s prayer life was augmented by penitential practices, including fasting, the wearing of a hair shirt, weekly confession, and the special personal mortification of not laughing on Fridays. He was concerned for his own salvation, but even more so for the salvation of his subjects, which he considered “his highest duty.”

    • #5
    • June 30, 2020, at 4:38 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  6. Tim McNabb Member
    Tim McNabb Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thank you all for your kind comments. I confess that the Rosary, among other Catholic practices are a bit…odd…to me. Nevertheless, all I know about God is from the Holy Bible, which is the product of a massive undertaking by faithful men and women long before. I am grateful for the church of Rome even though I am not specifically part of its communion.

    • #6
    • June 30, 2020, at 4:58 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  7. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tim McNabb (View Comment):

    Thank you all for your kind comments. I confess that the Rosary, among other Catholic practices are a bit…odd…to me. Nevertheless, all I know about God is from the Holy Bible, which is the product of a massive undertaking by faithful men and women long before. I am grateful for the church of Rome even though I am not specifically part of its communion.

    There is an Orthodox prayer practice that is similar to the rosary. We have prayer ropes (rosaries are less common, but not at all unheard of – a Syrian friend of mine prays the rosary, for instance), and recite the Jesus prayer: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The ropes, like the rosary, are a tool for assisting in concentration and rhythm. If at a loss for any other prayer, the Jesus Prayer is simple, and pan-denominational.

    • #7
    • June 30, 2020, at 7:54 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    Tim McNabb (View Comment):

    Thank you all for your kind comments. I confess that the Rosary, among other Catholic practices are a bit…odd…to me. Nevertheless, all I know about God is from the Holy Bible, which is the product of a massive undertaking by faithful men and women long before. I am grateful for the church of Rome even though I am not specifically part of its communion.

    Quick tutorial. The rosary is a meditative prayer, mainly with the repetition of the Hail Mary (a very Biblically-sound prayer: Luke 1:28 and Luke 1:42) and Our Father while thinking about various aspects of the life of Jesus.

    I really found it heartening that a young priest was out there at the statue of St. Louis. Things might have been very different if the rector of St. John’s in Washington had been standing out in front of the church before the mob set the basement on fire or graffitied the pillars in front.

    • #8
    • June 30, 2020, at 8:03 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  9. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Lovely post. Thank you. And better news than I’d heard previously about Catholics praying the Rosary adjacent to the statue of Saint (King) Louis.

    I’ve been meaning to write a post demystifying the Rosary for Protestants. Maybe it’s time. 9th gave a nice summation, but there’s so much more, and very little most Protestants would find theologically objectionable, I would think. I even know former Catholics who’ve fallen away from faith and lead almost exclusively secular lives, but still pray the Rosary.

    It’s a beautiful, communal prayer (which is very important to Catholics and other liturgical forms, obviously), and taught and sustained the faith when many Christians were illiterate or were unable to access the Bible. Any Christian can pray the Rosary in faith, as long as you don’t get hung up on the two Glorious Mysteries involving Mary of the twenty total, whose soul magnifies the Lord, in any case. Be not afraid!

    • #9
    • June 30, 2020, at 1:41 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  10. Tim McNabb Member
    Tim McNabb Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    I’ve been meaning to write a post demystifying the Rosary for Protestants. Maybe it’s time.

    I am probably the kind of Christian who is so hung up on using my reason that I cannot get past the repetition. At the risk of being uncharitable, praying the Rosary strikes me as exactly what is discussed in Matthew 6:5-15 where the Savior describes effective prayer. I make no accusation, just saying that as an evangelical and a student, it is lodged in my mind that repetitive prayer is something our Master said is…ah…sub-optimal. That said, I can see how a couple laps around the Rosary may be more helpful than trying and failing to focus on anything.

    Even though I have been a Christian since the mid-70s, prayer has been my absolutely weakest aspect of faith. Of late, I have begun to write my prayers out longhand as if I were writing my Father from a foreign land (which I literally am). I do this twice a week. It takes me some time to do it, but the process of writing seems to keep me focused enough to make my thoughts coherent.

    I immediately destroy the letters – the letters are just between me and God, and nobody could read my handwriting anyway.

    • #10
    • June 30, 2020, at 3:44 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tim McNabb (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    I’ve been meaning to write a post demystifying the Rosary for Protestants. Maybe it’s time.

    I am probably the kind of Christian who is so hung up on using my reason that I cannot get past the repetition. At the risk of being uncharitable, praying the Rosary strikes me as exactly what is discussed in Matthew 6:5-15 where the Savior describes effective prayer. I make no accusation, just saying that as an evangelical and a student, it is lodged in my mind that repetitive prayer is something our Master said is…ah…sub-optimal. That said, I can see how a couple laps around the Rosary may be more helpful than trying and failing to focus on anything.

    Even though I have been a Christian since the mid-70s, prayer has been my absolutely weakest aspect of faith. Of late, I have begun to write my prayers out longhand as if I were writing my Father from a foreign land (which I literally am). I do this twice a week. It takes me some time to do it, but the process of writing seems to keep me focused enough to make my thoughts coherent.

    I immediately destroy the letters – the letters are just between me and God, and nobody could read my handwriting anyway.

    Even many Catholics make the mistake of focusing on the Hail Marys rather than the Mysteries. There’s a handy aid I use, Praying the Rosary without distractions that I’ll give as an example of how to correctly pray the Rosary.

    Say you’re praying the Sorrowful Mysteries (my favorite). On the second mystery, the Scourging at the Pillar, the aid gives you these meditations with each Hail Mary:

    1. Jesus is taken before the High Priest where He is falsely accused, buffeted and insulted,
    2. The Jewish leaders ask Pilate to execute Jesus,
    3. The robber, Barabbas, is preferred to Jesus,
    4. Pilate can “find no cause in Him,” yet to appease the Jews, he orders Jesus to be scourged,
    5. The scourge is made of leather thongs to which are attached small sharp bones,
    6. Jesus is bound to a pillar and cruelly scourged until His whole body is covered with deep wounds,
    7. The Lamb of God offers His suffering for the sins of mankind,
    8. Jesus suffers so much in His sacred flesh to satisfy, especially, for sins of the flesh,
    9. The prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled: “He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins,
    10. Father, by the merits of Jesus in this painful scourging, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

    The “repetitive” part of the Rosary is like a metronome, cuing you when to switch to the next aspect of the Mystery on which you’re meditating. In the meantime, you are following along in the life of Christ and praying for the graces offered therein.

    • #11
    • June 30, 2020, at 4:49 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tim McNabb (View Comment):
    I am probably the kind of Christian who is so hung up on using my reason that I cannot get past the repetition. At the risk of being uncharitable, praying the Rosary strikes me as exactly what is discussed in Matthew 6:5-15 where the Savior describes effective prayer. I make no accusation, just saying that as an evangelical and a student, it is lodged in my mind that repetitive prayer is something our Master said is…ah…sub-optimal. That said, I can see how a couple laps around the Rosary may be more helpful than trying and failing to focus on anything.

    It helps to remember the chiding is specifically for those who pray volubly so they can be seen by others, and / or those who keep yakking away as though more words are more effective (there was a pastor I remember well whose “prayers” were really more like homilies, so long did he go on). And that passage concludes with the Lord’s Prayer itself, which many many churches recite frequently. There is no chiding for repetitive prayer on its own (even if the handy old King James does use the phrase “vain repetitions”), else why does Jesus give us the Lord’s Prayer itself? The psalms too are written prayers, preserved and repeated throughout the centuries. And I would argue that in group settings in particular, rote liturgical prayers definitely have a place (the Thrice-Holy prayers are common for the Orthodox).

    But I definitely take your point – whether praying the rosary, or the Jesus Prayer, one can easily be doing it just to be seen by others doing it, or as a weapon against others (I was in an abortion clinic picket line a couple of times with a guy who would practically shout it at the clinic – I’m not sure the effect he was having in his obvious anger), or idly while our mind is flitting off into never-never land, thinking about the grocery list, or ruminating over some argument we had online earlier in the day. But I wouldn’t say that the old prayer patterns are sub-optimal at all, and in fact are a helpful guide for how we should be praying – you might say they can serve something as guardrails.

    • #12
    • June 30, 2020, at 6:37 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Podkayne of Israel Member

    In traditional Judaism we also use repetitive meditative prayer sometimes. When it “works”, it can be a transcendental experience. Sometimes my own spontaneous words seem like so much bla-bla-bla that I get in my own way. The Psalms and other meditative prayer aids can be wonderfully associative and uplifting at such times.

    A balanced prayer diet should include various different types of prayer: spontaneous, time-bound, communal, solitary. One thing opens the doors to another.

    • #13
    • July 1, 2020, at 6:49 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Podkayne of Israel (View Comment):
    Sometimes my own spontaneous words seem like so much bla-bla-bla that I get in my own way.

    I agree. I learn nothing from my own bla-bla-bla about who God is or what He’s trying to tell me. 

    • #14
    • July 1, 2020, at 7:35 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Joshua Bissey Coolidge

    Tim McNabb: I am chagrined that so few of us protestants could be bothered to join, though the effort is fairly new. I have no shortage of Evangelicals expressing their outrage over Trump posing with a bible, but nothing of a call to prayer from pastors in my area – perhaps I am missing them.

    I’m an Evangelical in the StL area, and I wasn’t aware anyone was gathering to pray at the statue. How can I get involved?

    What most bothers me about people taking down statues is that, when it’s done directly by mob action, it’s a lynching in effigy; or if the authorities do it themselves, it’s so often done for fear of the mob. Mob rule is far worse than having a statue of a racist (or anyone else) in the public square.

    • #15
    • July 1, 2020, at 1:16 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. Anamcara Member

    Tim,

    This was a joyful post in the midst of so much sadness. Thank you. When I was six years old I was taught to pray the ACTS after receiving Communion and I still do it. I am Catholic and we said the family rosary kneeling in the living room. My mother kept a bowl of extra rosaries. If my older brothers friends arrived while we were praying my mother motioned them to their knees and they joined in.

    I watched the Rose Garden prayer service on the national day of prayer. The President and First Lady took part along with about nine others representing Christians, Jews, Hindus and a Black Gospel choir sang. It was a concrete experience of our religious freedom and plurality and it has sustained me through these awful days. The President’s walk to St. John’s after the fire occurred only a couple weeks later. Most of the prayer service prayers came right from the Bible so I found Trump’s simple gesture just holding up the Bible very moving. He didn’t pretend to be a preacher; he just held up the book as a plea for prayer. It flowed naturally from the previous prayer service. It was no photo op.

    • #16
    • July 1, 2020, at 2:42 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. Tim McNabb Member
    Tim McNabb Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Joshua Bissey (View Comment):
    I’m an Evangelical in the StL area, and I wasn’t aware anyone was gathering to pray at the statue. How can I get involved?

    I plan to go tomorrow (Thursday July 2) at 630pm. See you there?

    • #17
    • July 1, 2020, at 7:01 PM PDT
    • Like
  18. Joshua Bissey Coolidge

    Tim McNabb (View Comment):

    Joshua Bissey (View Comment):
    I’m an Evangelical in the StL area, and I wasn’t aware anyone was gathering to pray at the statue. How can I get involved?

    I plan to go tomorrow (Thursday July 2) at 630pm. See you there?

    I can’t today, but is 6.30 the usual time for people to show up?

    • #18
    • July 2, 2020, at 2:38 PM PDT
    • Like
    • This comment has been edited.