Monday, March 9, 2020

Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers That Even I Can Offer by Leah Libresco

When I'm lucky, I live like the disciples in the boat in the storm—prone to fear and doubt but held safely. Frequently, though, I wind up like Peter, overextended and floundering. Once he is stuck, Peter doesn't try to take charge and undo his mistake; he keeps flailing his way toward Christ. My prayer life often feels like this kind of thrashing in Christ's general direction, waiting and trusting that he'll reach across the gap I can't close on my own.
Leah Libresco was a public atheist, blogging on Patheos. And then she converted to Catholicism. This book, though, isn't really the story of her conversion to faith, although that is briefly included.

It is a different sort of conversion story. It's the story of someone learning to live her faith, of Libresco's "what next" after taking that big step of belief.

And that involves prayer, seven types of prayer, to be specific. Ranging from Confession to the Divine Office to the Mass and beyond, we get a good look at the prayer type and her own struggles with it. I often found really helpful reminders that my responsibility is to show up and pray, not to provide the fireworks (which are up to God, Libresco tells us).
Picking up the beads and following the structure of the prayer puts me in the presence of Mary and Christ. And, really, that is the extent of my responsibility when I'm praying. It's not for me to compel their intercession or force myself to achieve an insight into their lives. I just have to keep the rhythm so that I can follow without stumbling if anyone takes my hand.
Part of the delight of this book — yes I liked it that much, it is a delight — is the way Libresco's mind connects all sorts of things that would never occur to me. Shakespeare (a lot of it), folk ballads like Tam Lin, mathematics and science, Javert from Les Mis - all are wound together to help her (and us) make sense of the way God calls us to him through prayer.

This came out in 2015 so I am coming to it late, but don't miss it. It is wonderful Lenten reading and would be good for any time of the liturgical year.

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